In the Bible, oil is referred to more than 200 times. Oils of many kinds played a significant role in the lives of the Hebrews and had a variety of uses in worship and spiritual practices. Olive oil, in particular, was used in foods and bread, given in offerings to the Lord, applied as a moisturizer for skin and hair, used as medicine, stored as a commodity and traded as currency. Oil was the fuel for lamps, including the lamps that burned in the tabernacle.
Today, many denominations still use oil in worship services when baptizing, confirming spiritual vocation or calling, and for healing.
Oil and Empowering for Vocation
When God called Aaron to be the first priest of Israel, he was anointed with oil as a symbol of being consecrated to God for this holy work. In Exodus 30:30-32, a special oil was mixed that God said should be used to anoint Aaron and his sons and remain set aside only for this purpose.
“Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on anyone else’s body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred.’”
Oil was also used when Samuel anointed David to be the first king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 16:13, it says:
“So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David.”
From David forward, the kings of Israel were always anointed with oil to show that God had set them apart as His choice to be the ruler of His people. Today, many churches still anoint people with oil when they are called into ministry for the first time, as well as when they are being sent out to start new ministries, plant churches, or go on missions.
Prophets of God were also anointed with oil, and they were the ones chosen to anoint the kings. When we see Jesus referred to as the Anointed One, it brings together His status as our High Priest, Prophet, and King.
The Holy Spirit and Oil
When David was anointed with oil, the scripture passage above says the Holy Spirit empowered him. Oil represents this presence and power of the Spirit of God throughout the Bible. Jesus was often referred to as the Anointed One, using oil as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit being present and acting in Christ.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor …”
In Acts 10:38 the first Christians recounted,“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power …”
When anointing is referred to in the Bible, it talks about the Spirit coming upon or influencing the individual, even Jesus. It signifies either the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit or is a plea for action by Him to empower or strengthen the anointed. The anointing with oil symbolizes that the individual is filled with the Spirit of God.
Oil for Healing, Offering, and Unity
Scriptures also make mention of oil as associated with healing, offerings to God, and unity. When Jesus sent the disciples out in healing ministry, Mark 6:12-13 says they anointed people with oil.
“They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
Oil was used as an offering to God, in part because oil was required to keep the lamp continuously burning inside the temple. The continuously burning lamp inside the tabernacle represented the Spirit of God continuously dwelling among His people.
Oil also is spoken of as a uniting element in Psalm 133:1-2, which says:
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!”
When Christians act unified, they represent how the Holy Spirit can bring an eclectic, unique, diverse group of people together as one in Christ.
From olive oil to essential oils to CBD oil, oils play an important role in the Bible, and represent the Holy Spirit within us. What roles are oils playing in your life today? Do you use oil for light? Do you use it in spiritual practices for anointing? Feel free to comment below.
Written by: Natalie Gillespie