Friday, August 10, 2012
The Oil of Healing: Question 24
James 5:14 is a difficult passage. In it, James says that if you're sick then you should call for elders (plural) so that they can (1) pray over you; (2) anoint you with olive oil; (3) recite the name of the L-rd (i.e. Yeshua). James seems to be saying that if we follow these procedures then we can be confident that healing will result. But what is the social and religious context here? To understand this we must ask a few questions...
What does olive oil signify in the Bible?
--It is at times an agent of healing as in the case of lepers in Lev. 14:13-18
--It is a blessing. Deut 11:13-14 says that if Israel keeps Torah then it will be blessed with grain, wine, and olive oil.
--It is not to be used in certain cases. In the case of the Sotah, it may not be employed (Number 5:15).
--It is associated with the Ruach. I john 2:27 talks about the anointing which also "teaches" you. Also see Zechariah 4.
--It makes the face "shine": “wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15).
--It is associated with Torah-observant children: “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD” (Psalm 128:1-4).
--It has medicinal properties: Isaiah 1:6; Luke 10:34. [So it's important to keep in mind that James wasn't necessarily advocating against standard medical practices].
--It is used to consecrate prophets (Is 60:1), priests (Ex 29:7), and kings (1 Sam 10:1).
--It is used in the menorah to generate tongues of fire. See also Acts 2 which records the New Covenant Shavuot during which the disciples were "filled" with the Spirit which Joel prophesied would be "poured out" and manifested as tongues of fire above their heads.
What about the fact that James says that the sick person must summon all the elders? What is the significance of having multiple elders?
--“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Psalm 133:1-2).
This makes it seem that where there is unity there is the Holy Spirit also, pouring itself out like a comforting, healing olive oil on all those gathered together in unity.
ON TO THE QUESTION:
Why don't we see James' proposed healing technique employed in congregations today? [if you have seen it employed then perhaps you will share your stories with us]
Posted by Peter at 10:04 AM