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Emblems of the Holy Spirit

Frederick Edward Marsh

Adapted from: ‘Emblems of the Holy Spirit’.

God often speaks to us by symbols, types, emblems. He uses the seal when telling us of our security in Christ (Eph. 1:13.14). When God would reveal to us the healing, comforting, illuminating, and consecrating influences of the Sprit, He directs our minds to the oil, which shadows forth these characteristics.

We find in Leviticus 2 in connection with the meal offering that the oil was mingled with the fine flour: here we see Jesus born of the Holy Spirit. The oil was also poured upon it; here we see the Lord Jesus anointed with the Holy Spirit as we see him at his baptism.

Again, the altar of burnt offering was anointed with oil (Ex. 40:10). Here we see Jesus as the Son of God set apart for the work of redemption, and ‘who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God’ (Heb. 9:14).

Again, at the consecration of Aaron as High Priest he is anointed with oil (Ex. 40:13). Here we see the work of the Spirit in connection with the work of our High Priest. The Spirit prays in us down here (Rom. 8:26). Our High Priest intercedes for, and represents us in the presence of God (Heb. 9:24).

Again, the prophets were anointed with oil (1 Ki.19:15). Christ, as the Prophet (Luke 4:18), was anointed with the Spirit – as we learn the very first time we read of Him preaching in the synagogue. He opens the Scripture about Himself (Isa. 61:1): ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor’ and then He told them that that Scripture was fulfilled that very day. What abundant testimony we have in Scripture that the Christ was the Prophet (see Luke 24:19; John 3:2; 4:19; 6:14; 9:17; 7:40; Acts 2:22; 3:22). Now, a prophet was known by two things – what he said, and what he did. Never man spake like Christ. He spoke as one who had authority; His word was always with power. Never man did such miracles as He did.

Again, the kings were anointed with oil (1 Sam.16:12). God hath anointed[1] Christ above his fellows (Ps. 45:7). He is King of kings, and Lord of lords, not manifestly in this world yet, but He shall reign, whose right it is to reign till He hath put His enemies beneath his feet.

Thus briefly we have traced the Spirit’s work (as seen in the oil) in connection with the work of Christ. Now we want to look at his work in connection with the Christian. Christ is the anointed One, therefore, Christians are anointed ones.

In 1 Kings 17, verse 12, we get ‘oil in a cruse’.  Here we see the Spirit of God abiding with us forever (John 14:16).  In verses 14-16, we find that, although the woman gave of the oil to Elijah, it did not fail. Here we have testimony and blessing others in the power of the Spirit, and yet not lacking Him as the One who comforts our own spirits.

In 2 Kings 4, verse 2, we read of a woman who had a pot of oil. Here we get vessels being filled with the Spirit; we read also she poured it out (v.2-5). Here we see the Spirit flowing out, bearing out what Christ said on the great day of the feast ‘He that believeth on me… out of his heart shall flow rivers of living waters: this spake he of the Spirit’ (John 7:38.39).

In Exodus 40, verse 14, oil was used at the consecration of Aaron’s sons. Aaron is a type of Christ; his sons are a type of believers. Through the anointing oil they were set apart to worship God and to His service. We are also anointed with the Holy Spirit as priests to worship God and to minister for Him.

We are ‘an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (1. Pet. 2:5). We are to offer up the sacrifice of praise continually (Heb. 13:15). We are not to forget to do good to others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Heb. 13:16; Phil. 4:18). And all is to be done in the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit. Again, we are a royal priesthood ‘that we should show forth the praises or virtues of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Pet. 2:9). Here we see our individual responsibility to glorify God in our walk and testimony in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

And how can we do it but by the power of the Holy Spirit? Let us remember we are set apart as God’s priests to worship Him, and to minister to other for Him, and to glorify Him by letting the Spirit shine forth in and through us, and thus manifest Christ and bring glory to our heavenly Father.

Again, we are anointed as kings to rule. What does the Word of God say we are to rule? ‘He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city’ (Prov. 16:32). We cannot do this in our own strength, but we have the Spirit of God in us to subdue everything that is contrary to the mind of God. How often is dishonour brought upon God and His people by the flesh and its works being manifested in the life of Christians instead of the fruit of the Spirit?  Look at Moses: God told him to speak to the rock (Num. 20:8); instead of doing so he strikes it twice, and because he disobeyed God he was shut out of the Promised Land.

The vessels of the tabernacle were anointed with oil (Ex. 40:9). A vessel shows how we need to be passive in the hands of God. A vessel has to be used by another, it cannot use itself. So we need to be passive in the hands of God –we must be guided by His Spirit through His word. His word our guide, his Spirit our power, his glory our end, his love our motive; thus shall we indeed be ‘vessels sanctified and meet for the master’s use’ (2 Tim. 2:21).

Further, we read of the oil being put upon the blood of the trespass offering, which was put upon the right ear, hand and big toe of the right foot of the leper (Lev. 14:17). First the blood, then the oil: we are redeemed with precious blood and are set apart from the world to the Lord. The right ear that was once charmed by the world is now charmed by the voice of our Beloved. The hand that was once obedient to the god of this world is now to serve Him who served us even unto death. The feet that ran with the multitude, and walked after the course of this world, are now walking in Christ, in love, in wisdom, by faith; yea, we should walk as Christ walked, and our power for this is the Holy Spirit, as typified by the oil being put upon the various members of the leper who was cleansed.

In Luke 10, verse 34, we read of the good Samaritan pouring the oil in the wounds of the man who went down from Jerusalem (the place of blessing) to Jericho (the cursed place), and fell among thieves, who robbed him and left him half dead – an illustration of what sin and Satan has done for us. The priest and the Levite passed by on the other side, showing us there is no help or salvation by the law; but the good Samaritan came to where the poor man was, and poured oil and wine into his wounds, and set him upon his beast, and took care of him: this is a sweet illustration of what God through Christ has done for us. The good Samaritan came to where he was: here we see Christ stooping down from heaven, from the worship of angels to the scoffing of men, from the glories of heaven to the death of the cross, and how He has lifted us to be with Himself, as portrayed in the good Samaritan putting the man in his own place on his own beast. He poured into the wounds of the man oil and wine, telling us that it is by the Spirit that the righteousness of the law if fulfilled (Rom. 8:4). This is the divine answer to the activity of the flesh: bad tempter, backbiting, envying, malice, and everything contrary to the mind and Spirit of God – to bring forth within us the opposite of these, the fruit of the Spirit which is love, peace, etc. Oh, let us see to it that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit, but let us ever remember that He is in us, and if we feel the risings of the flesh let us go to our Divine Physician and by the power of the Spirit overcome the inclinations of our evil nature.

Then we read of ‘oil to make the face to shine’ (Ps. 104:15). If we are filled with the Spirit our faces will shine, and the poor perishing world, deluded by the shame and hypocrisies around them, will see beauty and power in us who profess to know the grace of God: and not only that, but we shall show forth His glory as ‘with unveiled face’ – nothing between our souls and God – being ‘transformed according to the same image from glory to glory even as from the Lord the Spirit’ (2 Cor. 3:18). Now, Christ is the person looking in us, and we are the mirrors to reflect Christ, but if the mirror is covered over it cannot reflect the person looking in, neither can we – only as we abide in Christ and the Spirit fills us. May we indeed be like Moses, whose face shone though he whist it not (Ex. 34:29); like Stephen (Acts 6:15), and the early disciples for they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus, and learnt of Him.

In Psalm 45, verse 7, we read of ‘the oil of gladness’; Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, and we, too, have the anointing oil of joy poured upon us. If we know the joy of the Lord as our strength we ought to rejoice evermore. The father and the prodigal began to be merry, but you never read that they left off. Look at the epistle of Christian experience (Philippians) and you find the words ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ occur 18 times. Christians ought to be – and faithful Christians will be – a joyful people. Let us continually, by the power of the Spirit, abide in Christ then our joy will be full.

In Psalm 89, verse 20, we read of ‘holy oil’, and the Spirit is called the Holy Spirit. Remember He indwells us to make us holy, and that He might bring out in us the likeness of Christ.

In Psalm 92, verse 10, we read of ‘fresh oil’. Now, there are many believers who are like the church at Ephesus, who had left their first love. Now, this ought never to be. How dishonouring to Christ, how it must grieve His heart. Instead of going back we should ever be going onward, upward, heavenward, looking unto Jesus. It is said that by the work of Christ we are brought to heaven, but the Spirit brings heaven to us now, and that is just the secret; being filled with the Spirit, abiding in Christ, we shall delight to do his will, and by the power of the Spirit run in the way of his commandments.

In Psalm 23:5, we have the Psalmist exclaiming ‘Thou anointest my head with oil’. The head is associated with the mind; we are to set our mind on things above, and how can we do this but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, again, we need to be taught, ‘but the anointing which we have received from Him abideth in us, and we need not that any man teach us, but as the same anointing teacheth us all things’ (1. John 2:27). Our divine teacher is the Spirit, as the Saviour Himself promised that He would teach us all things; but remember He speaks to us in the Word, not apart from it. In the East, this anointing the head was a very high mark of the very highest honour, and usually reserved for the most distinguished guests, and performed by the host himself. The oil is mingled with the most costly perfumes, so that the house is filled with the sweet odour. Oh, what an honour that the King of kings and Lord of lords should condescend to anoint us with his Spirit – that the Spirit should condescend to dwell in us! Oh that the fragrance of his presence may indeed be seen and felt wherever we go and in whatever we do!

Thus briefly we have referred to a few of the instances in Scripture where oil occurs, and take it as an emblem of the Spirit. May He whom we have been musing upon fill us to the full with Himself that Christ may be seen in our life and our Father glorified.

F E Marsh



[1] See also Psalm 2, verse 6. Eds.