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Psalm 23
The Lord is my Shepherd
God Annoints My Head With Oil, My Cup Overflows

Psalm 23 

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God Annoints My Head With Oil, My Cup Overflows

Read : Psalm 23 (NLT), Ephesians 1: 3 - 14 (NIV) 

In Psalm 23 we see many of God's promises to us. He promises to provide for us and protects us from harm. He gives us rest and renews our strength as we put our trust in Him. He gives us comfort and correction, guiding and guarding us on life's journey. Psalm 23 speaks of a generous and gracious God who gives us much more than we deserve, a loving shepherd who gives of Himself, promising His constant presence and everlasting peace.  

In the second part of verse 5, we see His promise of anointing and abundance, as it says, 'You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.' 

In ancient Israel, shepherds used oil for 3 purposes: to repel insects and so protect the sheep, to prevent conflicts and to heal wounds. Many insects can bug people and if any of you have been to the west coast of Scotland during the summer months, you will no doubt have experienced the swarms of midges that can bug us and bite us.  

Summertime for sheep can be a torturous time and they are especially troubled by nose flies buzzing around their heads trying to deposit eggs on the mucous membrane of the sheep's nose. If the flies successfully deposit their eggs, they will hatch and become wormlike larvae which drive the sheep insane. For relief from this agonising annoyance sheep will deliberately beat their heads against trees and rocks thrashing their heads around and often seriously injuring themselves in the process.  

When nose flies start to hover around the flock, sheep panic, they can't sleep, they forget to eat, they frantically run around trying to hide from their tormentors, sometimes running so much that they drop from sheer exhaustion. Only the loving care and attention of a good shepherd can prevent the sheep from facing these difficulties.  

At the first sign of flies amongst the flock, a good shepherd anoints the sheep, covering their heads with oil and as the oil is applied, there is a change in the flock's behaviour. Gone is the aggravation, frenzy, irritability and restlessness, and instead the sheep will start to quietly feed again and then lie down in peaceful contentment.  

The anointing brings protection and peace. But in order for a sheep to be anointed they must stand still, lower their heads, put their trust in the shepherd and so allow the shepherd to do his work. The sheep don't understand why the oil repels the flies or how the oil heals its wounds. All they know is that something happens in the presence of the shepherd and in that presence they feel at peace and are safe from harm.  

In our lives, we can also experience many irritations and frustrations, things that buzz around our heads and may drive us to distraction. So often it is the small, petty annoyances that ruin our repose. It is the niggling day to day swarm of frustrations, mishaps and heartaches that can wear us down and become burning issues and because of these we don't sleep or eat well and we may even feel like we are banging our heads against a wall or against a person.  

We all get wounded as we face loss, illness, betrayal, injustice but Jesus, the Good Shepherd promises to care for and tend his sheep. But, will we allow him to tenderly care for us and heal our wounds? So often, like stubborn sheep, we may rebel and may allow eggs to be laid in our minds - eggs of bitterness, anger, depression, doubt, fear, guilt, low self-esteem or insecurity. So often we can allow things to bug us and get under our skin, we can become infected with negativity, and so, like the sheep, we need the shepherd's anointing. We also need to go to Him, to bow before Him, to trust Him and so allow the shepherd to do his work.  

But one application of oil is not enough - sheep need continuous and renewed application of oil to prevent the 'flies in life' and so, we too, need continuous anointing of God's gracious spirit to counteract the many daily frustrations that we face. We need to spend time with God, to be still in His presence, to feel His touch and allow Him to anoint us, and allow that anointing to transform us, so we too can rest in peaceful contentment, knowing that we are safe in the Shepherd's care.  

When we think of God's touch in our lives we become more aware of the abundance of blessings we have from God. Out of the anointing comes the abundance. As our verse says, 'You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.' The overflowing cup is a powerful symbol of God's overwhelming gracious love and mercy which He pours upon us.  

In ancient times the overflowing cup was seen as a sign of welcome. The guest would know he was welcome as long as the host kept filling the cup, but when the cup sat empty, the host was hinting the hour was late. On those occasions, however, when the host really enjoyed the company of the person he filled the cup to overflowing, he didn't stop when the wine reached the rim but kept pouring until liquid ran over the edge of the cup and onto the table.  

There are no half measures with God as He welcomes us and wants to fill our cups to overflowing. He gives us bountiful blessings, blessing us even in the presence of our enemies and in the midst of all our frustrations.  


Yet how often do we truly recognise how blessed we are? Instead of an overflowing cup sometimes, we may feel more like it is half empty, as we get caught up in worldly issues, and may think we are low on cash and clout. We may feel that our cup is low and that our mistakes are too great for God's grace, but God is not a miser, as He wants to lavish His blessings upon us, and He wants us to live an abundant life, filled to overflowing with His love, His joy and His peace.  

In the passage from Ephesians, we see that God blesses us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Not just some, but every blessing - that truly is an abundant love.  

In the original Greek, this passage is one long sentence, an outburst of adoration for a giving, generous God. Paul doesn't stop to punctuate, let alone pause for breath, his passion for the gospel flowing from him like a great waterfall of cascading truth. Throughout the passage, we can sense Paul's excitement and enthusiasm, as he writes of the abundance of God, and his amazing grace, freely given to us out of love. It has the energy of a child bursting to tell you some great news - barely stopping to take breath.  

This passage shows that Paul knows that his cup is overflowing with God's blessings, and he is desperate to share this with others - but what about us? Do we overflow with that same excitement, or have we become so familiar with the gospel that we begin to take it for granted, and so not be blown away with the awesomeness of God's love for us?  

Jesus said,'I came that you may have life, and have it in abundance, until it overflows'. In Christ, God promises us abundant blessings, and He also promises to anoint us through His Holy Spirit.  

God promises us anointing and abundance, if only we would be open to fully receive what He offers us.  

For the cup to be filled to overflowing, it first has to be turned the right way up. In most good restaurants, coffee cups are placed upside down on a saucer, and if you desire some coffee, you have to turn the cup the right way up.  

It may be that many people are trying to live an abundant life with upside down cups, so not being open to receive the fullness of God's blessings.  

We need to be open to receive God's anointing and abundance, and we need to keep the anointing flowing so it doesn't run dry, so continuing to be open to receive, open to refilling, open to renewal and open to refreshment.  

May we truly know God's anointing and abundance in our lives, so we can then overflow with love for others and truly be able to say, 'Lord, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows'.  


Loving Lord, we thank you that in Christ you have given us life in all its fullness. We thank you for your overflowing and gracious love which you continue to lavish upon us despite our many failings.  

Lord, you give us so much more than we deserve, providing for our every need, protecting us in times of danger, anointing us with your Spirit, giving us peace and contentment as you promise to be with us always.  

Lord, help us to never take your love for granted and help us to come humbly before you, to bow down and trust our shepherd who cares for his flock. May our hearts always be open to receive your love and your bounteous blessings, and may your anointing truly make a difference in our lives, making us more like you.  

Lord, come renew, refresh and refill us with your love till our cup overflows, and may we in turn overflow with love for others, so allowing your Spirit to work in our lives.  

Lord fill us with your abundance and make us wholly yours. In Jesus name we pray. .  


Iona Pringle, 2014


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