This expression is generally thought to originate from the grave situation which David faced with King Saul. Despite Saul’s repeated attempts to kill innocent David, he would not dare lay a hand on “the Lord’s anointed.”
“Do not touch the Lord’s anointed” therefore has been used countless times by self-proclaimed “anointed” ministers to deflect questions or criticism away from dubious actions or practices on their part. Let us examine whether or not the use of this expression is in fact scriptural.
Interestingly, the expression itself is not at all found in the five verses from 1 Samuel where David expresses his reluctance to “lay a hand” on King Saul.
1 Samuel 24:6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”
1 Samuel 24:10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’
1 Samuel 26:9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?
1 Samuel 26:11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”
1 Samuel 26:23 The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.
It is not recorded that with regard to his conflict with Saul David ever uttered the expression, “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed.” Instead five times using the same Hebrew verb David declared that he would not “lay a hand” on Saul. The word “touch” is a different Hebrew word entirely. Therefore one cannot and should not use the expression as the basis for a major scriptural teaching or principle. It is simply not found in Scripture in the form in which it is quoted. So from where does the expression “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed” come? It would appear to originate from Psalm 105:15 (or 1 Chronicles 16:22).
Psalm 105:10-15 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”
It is highly significant that the reference is not to “the Lord’s anointed”, but rather to “my anointed ones.” Who are these “anointed ones”? The reference is to God’s people the Israelites whom He delivered from slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land of Canaan forty years later. Indeed God protected His anointed ones from their enemies during their time in the wilderness and allowed no one to oppress them. By contrast, God did not protect His anointed one Saul, who along with his three sons died a horrible death in a battle with the Philistines. Saul was decapitated and his body desecrated. David indeed did not touch “the Lord’s anointed”. He would instead trust the Lord to avenge him. In 1 Samuel 24:12 he said to Saul:
May the LORD judge between me and you, and may the LORD avenge me of you. But my hand shall not be on you.
And that is exactly what happened. “The Lord’s anointed” ended up being slaughtered in a way that David perhaps would not have imagined and of course not have wanted, for even his very dear friend Jonathan the son of Saul died with his father on that very occasion. Is it possible that by refusing to lay a hand on Saul, David gave room to God to repay Saul in a far worse way?
Therefore the current use of the expression “do not touch the Lord’s anointed” has been grossly misapplied by some ministers to exempt themselves from questions about their practices or behavior. When taken out of context, Scripture can become pretext. Do such ministers want to fall into the hands of the Living God as befell Saul?
In the New Testament, moreover, there are no “specially anointed” ministers whom God has raised up. There are certainly gifted ministers. But the word “anointed” is never used in the New Testament to refer to someone other than Christ Himself who can minister effectively to others in some special way.
Rather, in line with 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, the whole body of Christ consisting of all believers is anointed as God’s possession. It is consecrated and set apart as holy for God.
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
This is entirely in line with the reference in Psalms where the Lord speaks of His people the Israelites as “my anointed ones.”
Therefore we should no longer allow “anointed ministers” to quote the expression “do not touch the Lord’s anointed” as a cover-up for their questionable teachings, practices and behavior. This may ultimately be for their own good as well, lest unrepentant they suffer the same fate as “the Lord’s anointed” Saul.
How did Lucifer fall to become Satan?
Ezekiel 28:14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
The anointing on Lucifer eventually caused him to become proud and resulted in his fall. We are now seeing the same thing befall servants of God who depend heavily in their ministry on being “anointed.”