Pastoral Perspectives

Too Oily For Comfort?

On Saturday after our usual Dawn Prayer meeting, I sat next to Elder Chee Ann and he narrated the account of his second knee surgery.

Why the second time? According to him, there was no pain and no sign of anything after the first surgery until he developed fever. He was eventually admitted to hospital for 3 days because of the pain and the swelling of the wound. The doctors found out there was an infection and tried to clean the wound by using Tap (where they use a hollow needle to draw out the pus from the wound). The wound was too deep and eventually they had to perform another surgery to clean up the wound. They managed to drain everything out and washed it clean to ensure that there was no harmful bacteria left in the wound. It was another major surgery and even after closing up the wound, he said he was in so much pain that he needed morphine to deal with the pain.

As we talked, I was reminded of a verse in Psalm 23: 5b “You anoint my head with oil.”  To understand this passage, we need to look at the world of shepherds in the Middle-East since we are not familiar with the sheep and the life of the shepherd. Also I figure that Singapore’s weather is not conducive to apply oil. I know some people still do on the hair but not on the face. Rev Dr David Wong gives us a very good explanation of this passage in his book Quiet Waters and Dark Valleys-Reflections on the Shepherd Psalm. There is this interesting thing that a shepherd does to protect the sheep. Shepherds would often anoint the sheep’s head to keep nasal flies away.  It is a combination of olive oil, sulphur and spices that is smeared all over the head, especially the nose. This repellants keeps the flies away. Otherwise the sheep would not be able to graze in peace.

“The nasal fly would hover around the sheep’s head looking for an opportunity to deposit its eggs in the wet membranes of the sheep’s nose. When that happens, the eggs hatch into tiny worm-like larvae, which crawl their way up the nasal passage and deep into the sheep’s head, causing irritation and inflammation. The infection, if unchecked, leads to blindness. Meanwhile, the sheep suffers the agony of an itch it can neither reach nor scratch. So it beats its head against the trees, rocks or any hard surface. It hurts itself and sometimes even kills itself in the process.” (p40)

Another problem the sheep might encounter is sheep scab which is an infection due to parasites that affects the head and is highly contagious. It can spread quickly among the flock as they sheep playfully rub their heads with one another.   The remedy for both is a good dosage of oil to be poured on the head, and sometimes the whole sheep is dipped into water containing the solution.

As we have just ended our preaching series on 2 Kings, I cannot help but think about the judgement that came upon the nation of Israel as a result of sin. There were 19 kings and the sins they committed against the Lord eventually brought them down and in chapter 17, we read that they were exiled. Sin, just like the worms, parasites and the bacteria, eventually destroyed them.

Just as elder Chee Ann mentioned about how there were no signs of the infection going on, when we first sin, we may not feel anything and may not face the consequences immediately. But sin is deadly and we are reminded in Romans 6:23 that ‘the wages of sin is death’. Sin is not static and will eventually surface its ugly head with painful consequences. Even after the surgery was done and wound cleansed, Eld Chee Ann said the pain was unbearable for a few days. The consequences of sin, even after our sins have been forgiven are painful. King David confessed his sins before the Lord after committing adultery (Psalm 51). The Lord forgave him but the son that was born out of this erroneous relationship did not survive his illness. The consequences further down the road were no less painful and costly. His kingdom was divided and his children fought against each other and even turned on him. This is what sin does to us.  The only way to ensure that we do not let sin breed in us is by protecting ourselves through His anointing. We are definitely not free from the flies and scab of life. When we sin, it lodges itself within us and its larvae will wreak havoc in our inner being and like the sheep, we may hurt ourselves, suffering the agony of the itch that we can neither scratch nor itch. We may resort to many things to deal with our sin but it can only be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

How can we keep from sinning? ‘By guarding our ways according to His word’ (Psalm 119:9). May we hide His Word in our hearts and be anointed with His Spirit so that we will be able to withstand the flies and scab of life.

Ms Loliro Sani

June 18, 2017