Elder Ko Swee Chay
Meaning of “Touch Not Mine Anointed”
Deception, confusion and lies are rampant in the Christendom of our age. Misrepresentation, manipulation, distortion, and wrong teaching and preaching of God’s Word are common and easily identifiable if believers were to compare what they hear and read with what the Scriptures say. These requires believers to know and understand God’s Word well and be mindful to search and find out the truth. Because of biblical ignorance, or wanting to protect their church’s pastors, preachers and leaders who have erred from the truth and who teach another gospel, many of their followers have misused the term “touch not mine anointed” to mean not to question, scrutinize, criticize and rebuke the so-called Lord’s anointed ministers. Not only that, many false prophets and false teachers whose ministries influence millions of people are quick to quote “touch not the Lord’s anointed” to silence critics who expose their false gospels and doctrinal errors and sins, for self-protection and self-preservation.
Let us search the Scriptures to understand the meaning of “Touch Not Mine Anointed”.
Meaning of “the LORD’s anointed” in the Bible
The term “anointed” appears 99 times, 87 times in the OT and 12 times in the NT in the KJV Bible. Examples: “And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.” (1 Sam 24:6). “Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD's anointed.” (1 Sam 24:10). “And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD's anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Sam 26:9). “The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD's anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.” (1 Sam 26:11). Note: “the LORD’s anointed” in these four verses refer to king Saul.
“Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (1 Chr 16:22, Ps 105:15).
The term “the anointed” here means God had, as it were, authorized or set apart people to be His peculiar people specially consecrated for a service or work.
In the OT time, “the LORD’s anointed” would include Israelites chosen and designated by God as prophets (e.g. Elisha in 1 Ki 19:16, Isaiah in Isa 61:1), priests (Aaron and his sons in Exo 28:41) and kings (e.g. Saul in 1 Sam 10:1; David in 1 Sam 16:13; Jehu in 1 Ki 19:16). God regarded them as His own and protected and strengthened them. The act of anointing was done with pouring of anointing oil on the head (Exo 29:7; 1 Sam 10:1). Frequently the anointing was regarded as the act of God, because he commanded it to be done (1 Sam 9:16, 16:3 and 16:12; 1 Ki 19:16) and was associated with the out-pouring of the Spirit of the Lord (1 Sam 10:6, 10:10 and 16:13; Isa 61:1) to prepare, empower and equip His chosen servants to perform the work or service assigned. Patriarchs of old like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and servants of God like Noah, Moses and Joshua, though there is no record of them being physically “anointed”, in the same context and by implication, they were “the LORD’s anointed”.
In the NT time, the entire body of Christ is “anointed”, i.e. all of Christ’s disciples set apart and commissioned for His service, not just a certain group of people in the body. The following verses makes this abundantly clear: “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor 1:21-22). “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now people of God which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pe 2:9). “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even it hath taught you, you will abide in him.” (1 Jo 2:27).
It is needful to highlight in the English Bible, the words “anointing”, “anoint” and “anointed” - different words conveying different meanings were used in the original Hebrew and Greek texts:
- The word “anointed” also applies to furniture and vessels of the Tabernacle separated unto God for special service, thus they were holy and sacred.
- A secular practice in Israel of rubbing the body with Olive oil after bathing (Ruth 3:3) or anointing a guest to show honour (Jn 11:2, 12:3) - this practice was prohibited during mourning (2 Sam 14:2, Dan 10:3).
- Anointing the sick (Mark 6:13; James 5:14) and the dead (Mark 16:1).
- “To rub on” is used of the clay with which Jesus anointed the eyes of the man born blind (Jn 9:6); “to rub in” for anointing the eyes with salve (Rev 3:18).
(Reference: Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, Editors: Charles F Pfeiffer, Howard F Vos, John Rea. Hendrickson Publishers)
Meaning of “touch not the LORD’s anointed” in the Bible
Psalm 105:15 “Saying, touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (cf. 1 Chr 16:22) is one of the Scriptures most taken out of context. Many have invoked this verse as a means of avoiding questions and scrutiny and skirting accountability for false teaching and sin. This verse is often misquoted to protect church leaders of their wrong doing and to stop people from taking disciplinary action. However, the account of the Scriptures in 1 Samuel 24 and 26 clearly show that “touch not the LORD’s anointed” has a totally different meaning than what these people think and believe it to be. It simply means not to inflict physical harm and/or death upon someone, and it has nothing to do with questioning the teaching, conduct and behaviour of church leaders.
Let look at Psalm 105:15 and the preceding verses to understand the context: Psalm 105:8-15 – “8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. 9 Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; 10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: 11 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance: 12 When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. 13 When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; 14 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; 15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”
In this passage of the Scriptures, God was speaking about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He spoke about their sojourn and how He protected them by not permitting any people, any king or any nation from hurting them. They were on a mission from God. They must not trust in the arm of the flesh like others and live within the high walls of cities for protection. They trusted in the LORD to protect them and their families as they lived in tents. The LORD protected them and did not allow anyone including kings to touch them, i.e. to hurt them. It does not mean that when they did wrong they were not chastised by the LORD. In fact, the LORD used the heathen kings to rebuke them when they did wrong. For example, when Abraham lied to Abimelech that Sarah was his sister resulting in Abimelech taking her to be his wife, God had to appear in a dream to Abimelech to stop him from sinning against God. After God told him to return Sarah to Abraham who was God’s prophet, Abimelech rebuked Abraham for his deception. He said that he was a shame to Sarah for what he did (cf. Genesis 20). When they were doing God’s will, the LORD protected them until their work was completed. Then the LORD took them home to be with Him.
Next, let us look at 1 Samuel on the account of how David purposed “not to touch the LORD’s anointed” king Saul. In response to the persistence of the people of Israel to give them a king like all the nations around them, God gave Israel a king named Saul and anointed him through Samuel: “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Sam 10:1). “..., a company of prophets met him: and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” (1 Sam 10:10). God told Saul to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not...” (1 Sam 15:3). But Saul didn’t obey God’s Word, and he “spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the lamps, and all that was good...” (1 Sam 15:9) with an excuse and under a pretext of pious intention “to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God and the rest we have utterly destroyed” (1 Sam 15:15). Samuel verbally rebuked and condemned Saul in public: “.... Hath the LORD as great delight in burning offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the Word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Sam 15:22-23). The LORD led Samuel to identify David as His chosen second king for Israel to succeed king Saul and to anoint him: “.... Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward....” (1 Sam 16:12-13). Out of jealousy towards David’s military might and popularity and wanting to keep his kingship and sustain his dynasty, king Saul attempted to kill David on many occasions but failed each time. David fled from Saul for his life and became a fugitive, even taking refuge in the territory of Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. David who was anointed before the LORD to succeed Saul as the next king of Israel, lost the comforts of life, his home and family, his friends, safety and security, and faced great difficulties and uncertainties. David was presented with two golden opportunities to get rid of king Saul with one simple stroke (1 Sam 24:1-7 and 26:1-12) to end his miserable fugitive life and to ascend to the throne immediately. However, David being a man after God’s own heart refused to succumb to the great temptation and chose instead to obey and trust God, touching not the LORD’s anointed, i.e. to kill king Saul. The Bible makes it very clear: to touch the anointed means to terminate God’s will in that person’s life. In the case of David and king Saul, David knew that the LORD alone has the power to terminate king Saul’s life since he was anointed to be the first king of Israel. Furthermore, the LORD did not tell David when he would be king. The LORD just said that he would be the next king of Israel. David had to wait patiently for God’s timing to be the next king of Israel. David wanted to be the next king of Israel in holiness and righteousness and not in sin. If he were to kill king Saul he would have sinned against God and be guilty. He waited for God’s right timing so that when he became king he would be blameless before God and man.
Please take note that though David honoured and respected Saul as the LORD’s anointed king and refused to touch him physically when the opportunities arose, this didn’t stop David from rebuking and questioning Saul and telling everyone about the truth of the matter and his wrong doing publicly. In the first episode, David asked Saul why he listened to other men’s words, alleging that David sought to kill him. David proved his innocence by saying to Saul that the LORD had delivered him unto his hand in the cave and some of his men told him to kill him, but he spared him because he would not lay hands on the LORD’s anointed. David appealed to the LORD to judge between them, and declared that his hand shall not be upon Saul, and pleaded to the LORD for deliverance from Saul’s hand (1 Sam 24:9-15). In the second episode, David once again tried to point out to Saul that he was innocent and had done nothing to harm Saul by asking him three questions: “Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? For what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?” (1 Sam 26:18).
The revealed Word of God is for the benefit and blessing of God’s people; it is to guide and lead them to live a holy and godly life. Correct understanding and application of God’s Word are very important in a believer’s life. Sadly, many have openly misrepresented and misused God’s Word, thus impacting millions of people around the world. Saying that questioning, scrutinizing and rebuking the wrong doing and teaching, and unacceptable behaviour and conduct of church leaders are not allowed because they are the LORD’s anointed is one such example of taking God’s Word “touch not mine anointed” out of context. Looking at the context of Psalm 105, the words “touch” and “do no harm” in Ps 105:15 refer to protecting God’s servants who were obeying God’s will in their lives; and the phrase “touch not mine anointed” refers to David submitting to God’s will and not taking matters into his own hands and sinning against God. It has nothing to do with questioning or rebuking the teaching, conduct and behaviour of someone.
Every truly born again believer is the Lord’s anointed, belonging to the body of Christ. We are called and set apart to serve God, do His work and be His holy and godly witnesses. In God’s eyes, we are all equal, sinners saved by grace. Each one of us is given different roles, duties, responsibilities and accountabilities according to the different gifts given by God and His allocation. We all need to give an account to God for our life. It doesn’t matter who you are or how highly you think of yourself, whoever sins or goes astray or teaches God’s Word wrongly will be subject to questioning, rebuking and even disciplinary actions. May God help us to know and obey His Word and do what is right in His sight. AMEN.