Does “touch not the Lord’s anointed” from the Old Testament equal “don’t criticize the preacher” in the New? Read on to find out.
In Sunday school this morning we studied the incident in 1 Samuel 26 where David passed up the opportunity to take Saul’s life. (For those who don’t know, I’m not the teacher this year.) A deep sleep from the Lord was upon Saul and his men. David’s colleagues encouraged David to use this seemingly “open door” to snuff out Saul’s life and be rid of this troublesome enemy. However, David strongly objects to–even recoils from–this idea. His reason? He will not touch “the Lord’s anointed.” How is Saul God’s anointed when he has already forfeited the kingdom through disobedience and David has long ago been anointed king in his stead? David clearly believes that even though Saul is not currently “anointed” in the sense of enjoying the blessing and hand of God on his life, he is still anointed in the sense that he is still the king of Israel–he still holds the office for which he had been anointed years ago by Samuel.
So why do modern day preachers think “touch not the Lord’s anointed” means “don’t criticize the preacher” or “don’t disagree with the preacher”? I’m not sure, but the idea doesn’t get any support from this Scripture, not from the similar one in 1 Samuel 24 or the one in Psalm 105:15. In all of these Scriptures, the context demands that “touch” means “physically harm” or “do violence to” or even “kill.” When David said he would not touch the Lord’s anointed, he meant that he would not kill him. That’s a far cry from disagreeing with the preacher or challenging erroneous teaching. Remember that the Bereans in Acts were commended for checking out the Bible to see if the things being taught were Scriptural. Remember also that Paul openly rebuked Peter at Antioch for his wrong conduct. Yes we should respect the preacher and obey the truth preached when it lines up with God’s Word, but we are not to sit there and unquestioningly swallow everything just because the preacher said it. Trust me, I’ve done that before, and it’s not good for your spiritual health. We need to be good Bereans, making sure that what we are taught lines up with God’s Word.
Further, it’s important to note that the New Testament regards ALL believers as being “anointed.” Read 1 John 2. Look at verse 20: “But ye [all Christians] have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” Then look at verse 27: “But the anointing which ye [all Christians] 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 as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” One of the great New Testament truths the Reformers of the 16th century recovered was that all Christians are priests–the priesthood of all believers. No one person is more anointed than another. Yes, God has placed authority figures in the church to guide and instruct us, but these should never be regarded as infallible. We should respect the overseers that God has placed over our local flocks, but at the same time, we should search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. And the overseers (pastors, elders, whatever your particular flock calls them) should not hide behind “touch not the Lord’s anointed” as a cop out when someone disagrees or points out a potential point of error.