July 2, 2020by Reverend Dan on July 2, 2020
“You anoint my head with oil. My cup runneth over.”
The final acts of comfort we see in Psalm 23 are better understood in the framework of the culture and time in which they were written. (Think about it . . . today if someone puts oil on your head you’d be pretty ticked off, and if they fill your cup too full, you’ve got a mess to clean up!)
“You anoint my head with oil” is rich in meaning. In ancient Israel, shepherds used oil for three purposes. The first was to repel insects. Sheep were bothered by bugs because flies like to deposit their eggs into the tender membrane of the sheep’s noses. When the eggs hatch, the maggots which appeared would drive the sheep mad, causing them to beat their heads against rocks and trees. The shepherd knows what flies can do so he covers their heads with an oil-like repellant to keep the flies away. (Sorry, that was probably a little TMI.)
The next thing shepherds used oil for was to prevent injuries. Rams are known to butt their heads in battle to win the affection of the ewes. So, whenever the shepherd would hear two rams say to the same female, “I want ewe” [Get it, ewe? Crack myself up]. Anyway, whenever they were “getting ready to rumble”, he’d quickly smear oil on their heads so their horns would glide off each other rather than splitting their craniums open.
Finally, oil was used to heal wounds. Oil was used as an ointment because the sheep would get a lot of scrapes and cuts from living in that region of the world. They would get pierced by prickly thorns and they would get cuts from the rocks. Oil would prevent infection, keep the bugs away, and speed up the healing process.
What a beautiful picture of what the Shepherd does for us. At some point, we are all wounded sheep in need of a healing shepherd, and knowing He is there is a great comfort.
And last, one of my favorite phrases in the Bible. “My cup runneth over.” The “cup” here has two possible meanings.
A shepherd would often carry water to drink in what we would call a “canteen” but they called it a “cup”. And he would share it with his sheep. He knew they had to have water, or they would die, and he provided it out of his “cup”.
The other meaning here refers to a dinner host who would serve drinks in cups. At the beginning of the night the host would fill them to the brim and the servants would keep them full. As long as that cup was full, the guests knew they could stay as long as they wanted. It was only when a cup sat empty that the host was hinting that it was time to leave. When the host really enjoyed the company of the guests, however, he filled their cups until the liquid ran over the edge of the cup, telling the guests of the great love he had for them when their “cup runneth over”.
God’s love for us is so great that He has provided a wellspring of water that will never run dry, and He will fill our cups to overflowing because He loves us so much and wants us to remain with Him always.
What a great heavenly host God is.
“Father, Thank you for the many ways you comfort us and remind us of Your love for us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”