As I was researching this subject, I came across an excellent article by Dr. Thomas Williamson, so I have decided to publish the article in its entirety in five (5) parts.
Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed” Is the Command for Today? By: Thomas Williamson, Th.M, Ph.D. 3131 S. Archer Avenue Chicago, Ill., 60608
The familiar command, “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed,” appears in Psalm 105:15. So that we can see what God is talking about here, let us quote the entire passage, starting with verse 10:
“And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance; When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, and from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:10-15.)
Many preachers and evangelists today teach that if anyone criticizes them, or finds fault with them in any way, or goes against their wishes, then that miserable sinner has “Touched the Lord’s anointed.” Many eloquent sermons, rivaling Dante’s Inferno in ferocity, have been preached to warn those who would dare commit such a sin that they face the unmitigated wrath of Almighty God. But is that what the verse is really talking about?
The immediate context of the verse is a reference to the patriarch Jacob, who was not an ordained preacher, at least not as we would understand that concept today. Just what kind of hazard was Jacob in fear of as he wandered from one nation to another people? Did he live in mortal dread that someone, somewhere, would criticize him? No, his concern was that the heathen would use physical violence against him. Read his complaint in Genesis 34:30: “And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.”
It is clear that to touch the Lord’s anointed is to commit an act of physical violence against the one anointed by God. It does not refer to those who verbally attack and criticize a preacher and his doctrine. Such verbal attacks may be quite wrong and sinful, and in some cases they may be commendable and necessary (see Jesus criticizing the Pharisees in Matthew 23, Paul criticizing Peter in Galatians 2:14-21, Paul versus the Judaizers in Galatians 5:12, Philippians 3:2, etc.) but they are not covered by the idea “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.
For further confirmation of this, see I Samuel 24:6-7, where David had an opportunity to have King Saul killed, but refused to take advantage of it: “And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.” Immediately afterward, David publicly criticized Saul in front of 3000 of Saul’s troops, as well as his own 600 men, saying “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As sayeth the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked, but mine hand shall not be upon thee.” (1 Samuel 24:12-13.) No one seemed to feel that David was touching the Lord’s anointed by this open rebuke of Saul. It is clear that to touch the Lord’s anointed involved violence against his person, not criticism, rebuke or public disagreement.
A similar incident took place in 1 Samuel 26: “Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: Now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time. And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not; for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless? David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 26:8-11.) David was willing to let judgement be executed against King Saul by the hand of another. He was not talking about the judgement of someone criticizing Saul, or disagreeing with Saul, or printing an article in opposition to Saul’s doctrine, but rather about the violent death of Saul. That is what it means to touch the Lord’s anointed.
PART II ON TOMORROW
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