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Unlocking the Power of Anointing for Effective Biblical Ministry by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Feb 18

Leviticus 8:23-24 by Dr. Terry Harman

Photos courtesy of Daniel Smith

In my early years I grew up with my grandmother “Madge Miller.” She lived in a small house on a mountainside in West Virginia. She had no running water, no indoor plumbing and a wood burning stove. Life was hard for her, but she honored the Lord in everything she did. We never realized it as being hard. But one thing we knew for sure, “Cleanliness was next to Godliness!”

As a young boy she would send me to the well outside to “fetch a bucket of water.” I would let down the makeshift, metal, stove pipe contraption deep into the waters of the well. Then I would crank the handle till the stovepipe was above the edge pf the well and empty the pipe into the bucket. The water was always ice cold! Soon afterwards I would hear her say, “Don’t forget to clean behind your ears! Did you wash both sides of your hands and in between your thumb and fingers?”  If we resisted washing, she had a distinct way of twisting your ear lobe to get your attention. Cleanliness and good health are important. When you have wax buildup in your ear, you cannot hear well. When you jam your thumb, it is hard to grasp objects. When you stub your toe, it is difficult to walk. These members of our physical bodies have essential functions. Buildups, jams, and stubs are not only painful, each prevents or interferes with our daily routines.

Background of Leviticus

In Leviticus chapter 8 there is a unique ritual that was performed on Aaron the High Priest during the consecration and inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). His right ear, right thumb and big right toe were all anointed with the blood of the “ram of ordination.” In his commentary on Leviticus chapter 8, Dr. Thomas L. Constable states,

"Until now, Israel followed the custom common in ancient Near East, that the father of a family functioned as the priest for his family (Cf. Job 1:5). The Levites as a tribe now assumed this role for the families of Israel, under the leadership of Aaron and his sons. The nation as a whole had forfeited the privilege of being a "kingdom of priests" at Mt. Sinai when they worshiped the golden calf. Now this privilege became the portion of the faithful tribe of Levi. The main function of the priests in Israel was to guard and protect the holiness of God."

Dr. Constable set the stage by explaining the reason the Levites were set apart for the service of the Tabernacle. Context is everything. Leviticus is a challenging read and study

because we are far removed from the ancient rituals of the Hebrew nation. A review of the purpose of the book of Leviticus will help us to understand the context of this strange ritual of blood anointing.

In Judaism, the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra, "He called") is known as Torat Kohanim, the Teachings of the Priests." Today, ministers and rabbis have "Minister's Manuals" and "Rabbis Manuals" that contain various rituals for marriage, funerals, communion, baptism and prayers for other special occasions. Leviticus is the Priest's manual for biblical times. Leviticus contains detailed instructions for the sacrifices, offerings (Korban), purity and other rituals pertaining to the services offered at the Tabernacle and later at the First and Second Temples. If we are honest, we dread reading these portions of detailed rituals because they appear irrelevant to our lives today. Whether we are Jewish or Christian, both our traditions teach us that as God's people, we are to avoid allowing the world to we live in to press us into its mold of standards and values. We must keep in mind we are a nation of priests, a holy people. We are to be holy because he is holy (Exodus 19:6, Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 2 Peter 2:9).

Whether we are laypersons or clergy, we are ALL called to be his holy people and share his light in this broken world. We are to do our part in repairing the breaches. This is our divine mission! The consecration of the priests and the blood anointing of the extremities are full of symbolic meaning for us today. A ram was used for the ritual of consecration (Leviticus 8:22). When speaking of this ram, Rashi uses the designation "investitures." From this point on Aaron and his sons were invested with the duties of holy priest.

Cleansing Ritual with Water Leviticus 8:1-6

"And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water." To ensure Aaron was prepared for his role as High Priest and protector of the sanctity of the Tabernacle, he had to be cleansed and set apart or sanctified for the holy work that would occupy the rest of his life. Even though he engaged in the son of the golden calf, the Lord still appointed him as the first High Priest of the newly established nation. During the inauguration ceremonies for the Tabernacle services, the Lord commanded Moses to perform a public water ritual for cleansing. This was performed before the entire congregation. Aaron and his sons were cleansed from the past.

After cleansing, Aaron was adorned with the garments for the office of the High Priest (Leviticus 8:7-9). These eight "golden garments (Exodus 28) signified Aaron's status as the High Priest who would represent the people before the Lord. The garments were costly and uniquely different than all other priests. These garments were not to bring glory to Aaron but were made for "splendor" and for the "glory of the Lord" (Exodus 28). Next Aaron and his sons were anointed with oil which would consecrate, set apart or sanctify for holy work.

Leviticus 8:10-12 JPS 1917

And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them. And he sprinkled thereof upon the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its vessels, and the laver and its base, to sanctify them. And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.

Leviticus 8:22-24 JPS 1917

And the other ram was presented, the ram of consecration, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And when it was slain, Moses took the blood thereof, and put it upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot; and Moses dashed the blood against the altar round about."

Therefore, when the right ear lobe, right thumb, and the right big toe were anointed with blood, that member was sanctified and set apart for holy purposes. Set free by the blood of the ram. From this point on Aaron and his sons were connected to the altar and services associated with the ministry of the tabernacle. From this point on, they would be God's representatives to the people.

Symbolically, there would be a fresh hearing of the Lord's voice, a fresh grasp for the Lord's work, and a fresh path for the Lord's anointed. Set apart by the blood of the ram. The noise of the past would no longer interfere with the voice of the Lord (ears to hear). The anointed would be able to grasp and perform the duties of the Lord (thumbs enable us to grasp objects and hold onto tools) and the priest's walk would no longer be hindered. He would be steadfast (Big toes provide us with the stability to walk.).


Ministry and service to others is not easy. Often it is difficult for the religious leader. We tend to expect our spiritual leaders to be perfect. The pressure is tremendous to perform instead of serving. Giving up sounds appealing. Sometimes we become weary in well doing. Our spiritual leaders are not perfect. Yes, there are higher standards for those who spiritually lead us. Until you walk beside your pastor or rabbi, you will never understand the pressures of serving congregations. As a holy nation and kingdom of priests ALL of us represent the Lord before the world we live in.

God's servants are exposed to hearing words from those who accuse, condemn, and malign character. There are times the work of your hands may be dismissed by others, discounted, questioned, rebuked and even torn down. Yet the Lord calls us to listen to his voice, work for his glory and to walk in his ways.

Sometimes you may question yourself and say, "Maybe I did not hear the Lord correctly when I entered this work or became the leader of this congregation." Listen to praise and worship music when ungodly chatter attempts to diminish the Lord's voice. Ask for help from godly mentors when the work of your hands seems difficult. Ask the Lord for a fresh anointing when the path becomes difficult. King David experienced the triumphs, disappointments, successes and failures of of serving God. Maybe his prayer will lift you up.

"Create me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and let a willing spirit uphold me."

Psalm 51:12-14 JPS 1917

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