Touch Not The Lord’s Anointed

touch-not-the-lords-anointedBy Ian D’Souza

Time and again I have had people mail me or reply to my social network posts saying that it was wrong on my part to be critical of Christian Leaders who are in some form of ministry / office or any other Christian service. They have almost always quoted the scripture “touch not the Lord’s anointed and do my prophets no harm” as the necessary scripture in support of this complaint, without realizing the context in which this statement was made by God and again later on by his servant David. To make things worse, this phrase has been abused and misused by many a tele-evangelist / stage preacher & other Christian ministers as a ruse to protect themselves when their errors become manifest or when they are cornered for lying, cheating, etc, thus instilling fear into the minds of gullible Christians who refuse to study God’s Word for themselves.  To further compound the matter, should any mishap happen to the critic, it is conveniently attributed as God’s punishment for touching the “Lord’s anointed”.  So such Christians become life-long supporters of these ministers who are generally in the “false teacher” or “false prophet” category.  This support is not out of love for truth, but clearly out of a fear of Man!

Loyalty is a good thing if it is for the right purpose and for truth. One certainly does not want to be loyal and then find that we have pledged our allegiance to something that is false.  Even a secular court outside follows the principle:  To find out what is true or false one must look into the matter and hear both sides before they make a final judgment.  The problem here is that usually we simply repeat what we have heard other preachers say without checking the other side, that is, what God has to say about the matter in question.  This is how all wrong teaching, wrong understanding and heresies go unchecked.  That is why Paul commends the Bereans (Acts 17:11) on being more noble because they checked their scriptures even when a man like the powerfully anointed Paul was speaking.  But when Benny Hinn and other false prophets speak, we do not do this noble task of checking, perhaps because we see some signs and wonders on the stage.  We have forgotten that Jesus clearly denounced the generation of His time when they sought for signs, by clearly saying that NO sign will be given (Mk 8:12). Perhaps herein lies the root of the problem – a fleshly fascination for the supernatural.  It is only when you see it all through the lens of scripture that you will be set free from this fear of man, because only the Truth sets us free (Jn 8:31-32). Let’s look at this issue with the help of God’s Word once and for all, as it is only God’s truth that finally matters.

This verse “touch not the Lord’s anointed and do my prophets no harm” is mainly found in three key passages: (Psalm 105:11-15), (1 Chronicles 16:22) and (1 Samuel 24:6). Each context in which it is spoken needs to be seen in order to clearly understand what was meant by the speaker.  As the saying goes: A text out of context becomes a pretext. “In other words, a scripture read without thought to the surrounding verses is easily misconstrued. Each verse lies inside a chapter. Each chapter inside a Book, inside a Testament, and inside the whole of Scripture. To properly pull the truth from a scripture it must be understood within the context of the segment it’s in, the chapter it’s in and the book as a whole. When doing so we find that each book has a specific purpose and/or theme. The verse takes on a broader meaning when you realize who it was written by, who it was written to and why it was written at all” (James Kennison).  This is the first rule of sound hermeneutics.

What does the Bible mean when it says “Do not to touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm? (1 Chron 16:22 / Psalm 105:11-15 / 1 Samuel 24:6).

Look closely at the entire text (context) of Psalm 105 and 1 Chron 16 and you will notice the following. This phrase “the Lord’s anointed”, is a reference to the kings of the nation of Israel (See 1 Sam 12:3, 1 Sam 12:5; 24:6, 24:10; 26:9, 26:11, 26:16, 26:23; 2 Sam 1:14, 1:16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lam. 4:20). The mention of “prophets”, is a reference to the patriarchs (Psalm 105:8-15; 1 Chron 16:15-22). It is interesting to note that in all cases these are used exclusively in the Old Testament. 

Let’s go step-by-step: (Ps 105:11-15) saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance,” When they were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people, “He permitted no one to do them wrong; yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”  Notice in this Scripture that God protected His anointed ones (which comprised of all the Israelites) and His prophets from the enemies of Israel from bringing them any physical harm.

The first thing to notice is that the word Hebrew word naga translated touch actually means to strike or to cause physical harm. What it does not mean is saying something about another person publicly that is true in order to protect others. How do we know this? Because that’s exactly what David did about Saul in (1 Sam 24:26). This is another popular verse from where this line is quoted. It was David who said he would not harm God’s anointed who was King Saul at that time, but He spoke out publicly about him.

Not only David, but Samuel “touched God’s anointed,” as he spoke out against the King’s (Saul’s) disobedience. God told Saul to “Smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not…” (1 Sam. 15:3). But instead, Saul “spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord…” (1 Sam 15:15). Samuel said it was rebellion, like witchcraft and idolatry (1 Sam 15:23). Because he did not obey the Word of the Lord he would be removed from being king. Now take very, very special note of these next two sentences:

Firstly, Samuel rebuked Saul-the-King (God’s anointed) publicly in front of all Israel as shown above. Secondly, Saul admitted he feared the people (fear of man) and obeyed their voice (1 Sam 15:16-24). What a crucial thing to learn of Saul who was God’s anointed.

But let’s move on to the real point. David refused to touch Saul physically but it didn’t stop him from telling everyone the truth about him publicly.  Listen carefully now: David not raising his hand to touch (harm physically) God’s anointed is used in (1 Sam.26:9, 26:11, 26:23). Look at (1 Sam.26:11): It tells us that David would not stretch his hand out to touch him (harm him physically); instead he sneaked up and took Saul’s spear and water jug. In (verse 15) David rebukes Abner for not guarding Saul and says he deserved to die. Saul hears the commotion and comes out, and David rebukes Saul before all his troops, asking why he is pursuing David’s life since he is innocent — that the king has come out to seek a flea (1 Sam 26:20). Saul then repented for his rash behavior and called himself a fool. David returned Saul’s possessions and said, “For the Lord delivered you into my hand but I would not stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Notice what this clearly means, not to bring physical harm but does not include speaking the truth about that person publicly.

Now notice another interesting twist in the situation.  It was Saul (the Charismatic Leader) who was pursuing to kill David (the ordinary Christian) at that time. He did this because he could see clearly that his position was being challenged by David who was also anointed. 

Today’s charismatic leaders and others in high office also do the same thing.  Nobody is physically harming them (as you well know), but all who can see through their falsehood are warning other Christians (especially babes) not to be fooled by them.  This is similar to the rebuke that David & Samuel made with regard to Saul.  

So what do false teachers, false prophets & false spiritual leaders do? They misuse scripture to say that they are the Lord’s anointed men of God and no one should say anything against them or point a finger at them.  The general Christian populace, who do not check this out like the Bereans did, fall prey to this nonsense.  Those of the flesh are pursuing those who are of the Spirit, just as Saul did to David. Those who are following the Spirit of the Lord go to His Word to keep themselves in the truth no matter what the opposition may say. 

What are we supposed to do?  It’s easy not to confront falsehood today, but it has become easy to confront those who dutifully point it out. How many people tell such critics not to touch the so-called anointed and never check out the claims that the critic (who has real concerns), is making? I can tell you from experience, very few. Why is this? Because for the most part they do not study the bible seriously.

It was an apostle named Paul who called the Berean’s more noble than the others. For what reason? They looked to the Scripture to see if what Paul was teaching was accurate. Today those who protect their favourite teachers say don’t touch God’s anointed for doing or saying a particular thing. Paul never said, “Touch not God’s anointed” or “do my prophets no harm”; you will never find an apostle teach this, nor is this found ONCE in the whole New Testament. Why not? When Paul was questioned, why didn’t he say this? The apostle Paul called those who checked out what he said as noble, meaning they were of better stock than the others. May I lovingly ask, are you checking like the Bereans did from the scriptures? Or do you go wherever the tide goes? Are you willing to take a stand for the truth of the God’s Word despite what people say, or will you follow the rest of the sheep into captivity.

A good question to ask is: What does the really anointed man and women of God act like? Do they stop you from going to check their teachings or anyone else’s by the Word? Of course not! (Titus 1:9) says: “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”

No apostle ever said they were anointed, they never did say: “don’t touch me I’m God’s anointed.” If someone is truly anointed, they would want to encourage the people to discern what is true and what is not. They would encourage people to pursue truth no matter where it would lead. They would love the sheep enough to protect them from falsehood and want to see them grow. They would allow the sheep to learn and think for themselves. The anointing, who is the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of Truth and someone who has the Spirit of Truth will never run from seeing error but will confront it when necessary. He will give someone the truth from the Word, subsequently leading us away from error

We also need to ask the question – who is anointed? The Bible tells us the whole body of Christ is; not just some certain people in the body. (2 Cor. 1:20-22) says: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee”.

Let me ask those who use the phrase “touch not God’s anointed”, do you believe that only a certain teacher, preacher or minister is anointed or can you admit that the whole body is anointed? If so, stop using this Scripture from the Old Testament as if there are only certain people anointed, like prophets or kings. The above verse clearly shows that in the NT every believer is anointed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. So use it correctly!

Peter, Paul and John did a lot of judging the Biblical way. Every second epistle written is a judgment on false teaching, explaining the truth by refuting the error. In (2 Timothy 2:17) he warns of the heresies of two men Hymenaeus and Philetus by naming them. Later in the same epistle (2 Tim 4:10), Paul judges by warning them about a man named Demas. Paul did a lot of judging and evaluating when it came to false teachers. Remember this is inspired by the Holy Spirit; therefore we have a mandate to judge false doctrine. In the epistle to the Hebrews 5:14, the writer tells us that mature believers, those who are of “full age,” are those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern (judge) both good and evil.” It is necessary to note also that this correction and rebuke carried out in the course of discerning false doctrines and ministries is to be carried out by speaking the Truth in Love. It is not justifiable to bring correction by speaking the truth in a harsh manner just because it is truth. Nor is it justifiable to only speak lovingly and not truthfully so as not to hurt someone. As Warren Wiersbe noted: Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy. It takes time to learn and grow in discernment, but it is mandated by God that every Christian grow up into this full stature; “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:14-15).

10 thoughts on “Touch Not The Lord’s Anointed

  1. That was perfect answer to lots who ask this question. Its very clearly put across. I thank God for gift of you and Rita . most importantly for guiding and making bible truth available for all those who truly seek Christ and the truth.

  2. Thanks Ian for a clear biblical exposition on this topic touch not the Lord’s Anointed. I pray that Christians believers would read and interpret the Scriptures in context which would save the body of Christ from so much confusion and heresy. God bless you.

    • Hey Ralph, thanks very much for your response. I consider it valuable coming from a good preacher as yourself. Yes, I realise that only sound exegetical expository teaching can safeguard us from the rampant errors that abound.

  3. Hi Ian..a great article and one that helps clarify ! This has been a highly abused and misused Scripture so it’s great to see how it needs to be interpreted. Another passage that is hugely misinterpreted is the one that says “Judge not and you shall not be judged”

    • Hi Starfish, thanks for your feedback. Yes, this has been greatly misused and abused. Glad you found it helpful. I have another article on this blog titled “Should Christians Judge”. You can search for it on the blog itself OR the link is visible at the bottom of this article too.

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