Reading: Exodus 30:22-33.
We have been led at this time to give attention to the matter of the Holy Spirit, particularly as the Spirit of anointing. Now we are going to look at one particular aspect of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, that is, the holy anointing oil, the symbols of which we have in Exodus 33.
The book of Exodus, as you know, is divided into two main sections, first of which, according to its title, has to do with the exodus itself, the bringing of the people out from Egypt. And that section ends with their arrival at Sinai. The second section begins at Sinai, and has to do with the constituting of the people as God's holy nation, constituted firstly by the law, and secondly by the tabernacle. The tabernacle overshadowed everything, and when the tabernacle came into view, the anointing was brought in. This anointing, or this Holy Spirit coming in as the Spirit of the anointing, had three aspects: firstly, the sacredness of everything; secondly, the unity of everything; and thirdly, the vocation and function of everything. How much of that we shall be able to consider now we must wait to see, but we want to look at this holy, or sacred oil.
The oil is the chief and primary factor; indeed, it is the all-inclusive and fundamental factor of everything in this large section of the book. From what we have read alone, we are surely impressed with the fact that the oil is something very sacred, and it makes everything that it touches very sacred. It makes everything holy unto God. It speaks of God's very presence where it is, and it speaks of God's rights in everything, and by everything that it touches. The anointing is something which always moves God to jealousy. You will call to mind familiar words in Psalm 105: "He rebuked kings for their sake, saying, 'Touch not Mine anointed'." It is interesting to notice that in the Psalm, in the first place at least, it is related to Abraham, and the story there is very impressive. Abimelech nearly lost his life by unwittingly touching the anointing, and was rebuked of God: "Touch not Mine anointed". It is interesting in that connection to see that Abraham, although we have no record of his ever officially being anointed, is called "the anointed" by God. But, the point is that it is the anointing that stirs God to jealousy. Wherever it is, there is that which moves God to His depths.
The sanctuary is here with all its vessels, and from the time they were anointed with this sacred oil, the penalty of unlawfully touching every one of them, was death. It was what we call "sacrilege". For an unanointed person to touch anointed things, it meant they would come immediately into touch with the jealousy of God. And that, for the person, was a terrible thing. The Lord held these things in such high esteem because of the anointing. This is not new light, but there is something here that you and I need to be able to discern. And so we do lay very great emphasis upon the sacredness of the anointing; the sacredness of anything and everything that comes under the anointing.
Now, of course, we do not live in Old Testament times when the literal oil was used. But we know as one of the elementary lessons of our Christian knowledge, that that all pointed to the dispensation in which we live. It was all a type and figure, a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the day when He would come. Now that He has come, every one who is really born of the Spirit of God, and is joined to the Lord Jesus, one Spirit, comes into the anointing. In the New Testament, it is God's thought and God's act, that when people believe, the Spirit comes upon them. There is the Day of Pentecost; there is the house of Cornelius - "as Peter spoke unto them, the Holy Spirit came upon them." We have many instances of this spontaneous action of God in response to faith in the Lord Jesus. And the great declaration on the Day of Pentecost was: "Believe... repent... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." So, if we are really true believers, in the sense that through faith we have been joined to the Lord one Spirit, we constitute the sanctuary: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit dwelleth in you?" Or again, "groweth into a holy temple in the Lord". We are that - the sanctuary; we take the place of the tabernacle of old, the greatest reality of which is: "God is there!" And God was there in this: that the anointing oil was upon everything. It was the anointing in type; God the Holy Spirit had associated Himself with that whole system and its personnel so that every part of it, by the anointing, was sacred to God.
Now, I repeat, that we have something to recover in this matter. Even today in religion, in the systems of religion, it is like that. They have their symbolic representations: some, a crucifix; some, a Madonna; and many other symbols like that in their system and in their places. And if anybody were to go in and smash, or even scratch or injure one of those representations, however small, it would raise an outcry - "a sacrilege!" There is that in the world, there is that in the systems, a strong reaction to anything like that; even the State takes action to guard against such things. All that is in another realm. In our age and dispensation, it is not less than it was in the Old Testament. The spiritual reality is not a lesser thing than the symbolic representation. We can injure, scratch, hurt and damage the "vessels of the anointing", the children of God, one another, without being aware that we are committing sacrilege in the House of God. In a word, God is jealous about the least part of the Body of Christ that is under the anointing. God will, sooner or later, if He waits in patience, show His jealousy in some form of judgment. If people in this world, in their religious sense, are sensitive about these symbolic representations, and are stirred to anger and heat at what they call 'sacrilege', ought there not to be among us something that corresponds to that? I am not making up something; this is the true exposition of Scripture. You and I, if we are the Lord's, have the Holy Spirit in us, and the presence of the Holy Spirit makes us sacred to God, and we ought to recognise that. And we should not damage a child of God just as we would not go into some religious building and smash its representations. No, we should shrink from it!
And I do truly believe that if you and I walk in the Spirit, in true correspondence to the anointing, the Holy Spirit will touch us when we touch that which is anointed. This is a tremendous thing for God! It may be that the absence of the power, operation and manifestation of the Holy Spirit is because He is injured in this way. The Holy Spirit has to look upon Christianity today, and see in it all the rivalries, jealousies and factions - one section against another, and one man against another. Christianity is like that, and the Holy Spirit has to stand back. Christianity is suffering today because the Holy Spirit is not committing Himself. It is all very well to pray and appeal for "revival" while the Holy Spirit says: "Put your relationships right, and I will come in". What is true in general may be true in particular, that the Spirit is limited and arrested; indeed, is offended and has to stand back because there is not this recognition of the sacredness of one another to the Lord if we have the Spirit, and sacredness of everything that is of the Lord. The anointing may be grieved because the things and the people of God are too cheap. And if the anointing says one thing, it means "preciousness" wherever it is - the "preciousness of this ointment"; it is precious ointment. It makes everything precious to God, and we are inclined not to recognise the preciousness of everything and everyone that is of God. Rather, as I have said, to regard the "vessels of the sanctuary" too cheaply. That is you, that is me, the Lord's people, very precious to Him.
It matters to the Holy Spirit how we regard all that comprises His dwelling-place. It matters to Him what sacredness we put upon the things of the Lord, and the people of the Lord. It so matters to Him, that He will, or will not, commit Himself on that matter alone. Many a life is tied up, and is only released into Life when it gets right with another child of God with whom it has been out of fellowship. Pray and struggle as you will, the remedy lies just there with that person, in that matter of fellowship. What is true of that is true of many things. We have got to recover or have a new sense of the sacredness of the "vessels of the sanctuary".
There are specific ministries particularly anointed for special purposes, to whom the Lord may point and say, "Mine anointed", in some particular way, as He did with Abraham and Moses. It was because of the anointing that the Lord so fiercely came out against Aaron and Miriam on one occasion, just because of the anointing. It was a bad day for those two, and Miriam in particular, when they touched the "anointed of the Lord". On another occasion a great number met the fire of God, and were swallowed up when the earth opened its mouth, just for touching the anointing. All this is in the Bible, not to say that this will happen to you, that you will literally become a leper like Miriam, or the earth will open its mouth and swallow you up. But it is all there to say: the anointing in God's eyes is a very, very holy thing. You must be very careful when you are in the presence of the anointing. We do need a new sense of the awe and sacredness of what has come under the touch of the Spirit of God. There are many things we could mention, such as the Word of God, the table of the Lord and the assembly of God.
The Word of God. We shall know the committing of Himself through the Holy Spirit in power and in life just insofar as we recognise the sacredness of the Word of God. You cannot play with the Word of God and you cannot be superior to the Word of God. The Word of God is a holy thing with God. May it not be that the Word of God, the Scriptures, have become too cheap in Christianity? Men just play with the Bible with their own minds and very often discredit it. It sometimes seems that they will give to it as little honour as they can. Well, that is not true of us, nevertheless, let us remember that the Word of God is Spirit-inbreathed, therefore it is sacred; it is anointed.
The table of the Lord. How sacred this is, because the Spirit is in it.
The assembly of God. How sacred is this matter of the assembly of God - our comings and goings in fellowship. You cannot come in without reverence, without godly fear; we must learn how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God for the Spirit is there! Oh, that we were alive to this, that when we come together, the chief reality about our coming together is that the Holy Spirit is there. There is something very sacred about the assembly of God, about fellowship.
And it is true about any ministry that may be under the anointing. It is not something for us to criticize, tear to pieces, and regard lightly. If the Holy Spirit is in that ministry, it is something very sacred, and sooner or later God will bring us to account for that ministry. Suffer the solemnity of it, but you see we do need this sense that we are in something that is not formal or theoretical, but is something very real, when we come to the anointing.
I want to close with a word about another aspect. There is so much more here, of course, but notice the aroma of the sacred oil - "sweet savour", or "sweet smell". Where the anointing is, there is the "aroma" of Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit would make things beautiful. Being masculine, I am always a little hesitant to use that word "sweet" or "sweetness" about people. I don't mean by that: sentimental, sloppy, or that sort of thing. But, suffer the word; where the Holy Spirit is, something of the "sweetness" of Christ should be present; a "sweet savour", a "sweet smell" - something that is of the beauty of the Lord. When this anointing oil was put upon everything, and upon the persons concerned, the atmosphere was delightful; you did not want to leave. That atmosphere was refreshing. But how much of our Christian life is unlike that; it is cold, almost repulsive. There is a lot about Christianity and the way Christians go on that is repugnant, unattractive. The anointing is not like that - there is the aroma of the "ivory palaces". "Thy garments smell of myrrh, cassia and aloes". The presence of the Holy Spirit in you and in me and in the church ought to make it a lovely place; it ought to make us refreshing, people coming in ought to feel refreshed, there ought to be something that they can delight in. As we say of natural things, of flowers, and perfumes - what a beautiful scent! In a spiritual sense that should be true of the people of God, if the Spirit is present.
There are other aspects I can only hint at as I close: myrrh, as well as cassia and calamus. The presence of the Holy Spirit always brings in the spirit of selfless sacrifice: unselfishness, selflessness. Myrrh speaks of the sufferings of Christ; but what were they for? The sufferings of this world were taken on by Him. Yes, He took on our sufferings as well as our sins. And where the Holy Spirit is, there is always a true sympathy with suffering, a real heart sensitiveness to sorrow. It should be like that, that we carry upon our hearts the afflictions and the trials of the Lord's people everywhere, and enter into them. Myrrh is a part of the anointing. "It is given", said the apostle, "in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:29). And so large a part of our suffering for His sake is our entering into the suffering of others. Sacred oil! May we be anointed ones!