I love the smell of new fabric. My mum was always cutting and sewing materials to make a new outfit for one or other of us. Fond memories of standing on the table for a fitting, and not-so-fond memories of the numerous pin pricks, trying to extricate yourself from the pinned-up garment-to-be. But the smell and crispness of new material spring to mind as I read Exodus 29:1-9, where Aaron and his sons were brought to the Tent of Meeting, washed, and then fitted with their brand new outfits. They must have felt so grand in their pristine robes, ready for consecration into their very special office.
But then (v7) Aaron had anointing oil poured over his head, dripping down and marking that fresh new cloth. A little while later, oil and blood were sprinkled over them, and over their brand new clothes (v21). It seems such a pity to spoil those lovely new things! But the truth is, God’s business is messy. Being anointed to fulfil a task is not all about sitting behind a tidy desk, running an orderly church, dealing with clean, respectable people who all keep to schedule. People live complicated, messy lives; and as we pray for revival, we need to remember they will bring those complicated messy lives right into our churches. If we are doing God’s work, we must be prepared to put our hands in the dirt, cope with disorder, embrace the unlovely. Just as Jesus did.
Being anointed means spilling some oil. And sacrifice involves blood, mess, pain, stench. And the two go together.
Would Aaron have chosen a different way? Would his sons have preferred to be one of the crowd? I doubt it. Being chosen by God for a specific task is the greatest of honours, and satisfying beyond anything imaginable.
Let’s remember, those anointed won’t be wearing clean clothes for long. We may hear nasty rumours; we may not agree with how they operate; they might get tired and weary; they might not have time for clean people. Above all, they need our prayers. They might not always get it right. But thank God for Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one, who entered our messy world and made the greatest sacrifice. Thank God for forgiveness and fresh starts, fresh clothes, fresh anointings. Thank God he calls each of us into his service. What is he anointing you to do?