The oil of joy is a very special possession in the Kingdom of God.
The psalmist says that the Messiah (in Hebrew Mashiach) has been anointed (mashach) with this joy more than anyone else:
“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy [sason].” (Psalm 45:7)
Moreover, the Messiah who is Yeshua (Jesus), longs for us to share in His joy, and He even tells us how to do it!
Before we find out how to get it, we need to understand what this oil of joy is.
What Is the Oil of Joy?
Oil in Scripture is used to anoint people whom God sets apart for His service, such as kings, priests, prophets, and craftsmen.
But the psalmist above metaphorically writes that one person would be anointed with a kind of joy that even kings and priests do not possess. This oil of joy is only mentioned one other time in the Tanakh, by the prophet Isaiah.
There are many words in Hebrew to express joy, probably because being joyful is a mitzvah (command), such as, “You shall rejoice (samach) before your God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40) and “… call the Sabbath a delight (oneg)” (Isaiah 58:13).
In the term “oil of joy,” the Hebrew word for joy is sason (שָׂשׂוֹן).
Sason is often translated in Scripture as joyfulness or gladness.
Merriam Webster himself described joy as an “exhilaration of spirits” and “pleasurable feelings” that comes from achievement, good fortune, or expecting to have something that we love or desire.
Sason can also be exultation — a triumphant elation.
In the Book of Esther, for example, after the plot to kill the Jews is exposed and overturned, Mordecai comes out of the king’s palace “wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen,” the Jewish People celebrate with “gladness and joy [sason] and honor.” (Esther 8:15–16)
We see a similar kind of triumphant joy when the High Priest anoints Solomon as king, though different Hebrew words for joy are used:
“They blew the trumpet, and all the people proclaimed, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ All the people followed him, playing flutes and rejoicing [sameach] with such a great joy [simchah] that the ground shook with the sound.” (1 Kings 1:39–40)
That’s an incredible kind of joy.
Now, imagine how much joy the earth and all its people will cry out when our Messiah Yeshua takes His throne in the world to come as our King above all kings!
For the Joy Set Before Him
If we could really get a handle on Messiah’s joy, it would radically change our perspective of everyday life.
Consider for a moment how Yeshua could willingly enter into the physical brutality of His execution and the spiritual depravity of taking the sin of the whole world upon Himself.
Scripture tells us how and why:
“For because of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Part of Messiah’s joy is in the promise that He would become our Righteous King. Living under the rule of true righteousness instead of the evils of this world is something to truly look forward to and rejoice about. But there’s much more to Messiah’s joy than being our King.
We find a down-to-earth metaphor of the joy set before Messiah Yeshua in Psalm 126, which speaks of a farmer who has poured himself out while scattering much seed:
“He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)
The Hebrew word for joy in this psalm is rinah (רִנָּ֑ה), meaning a ringing cry of exclamation or praise.
One day, our sacrificial One, Yeshua, will return like the sower did and reap the reward for His labor—He will gather us to Himself, much like a bridegroom comes to take his bride, which is another metaphor used in Scripture to describe the covenantal relationship and love between Messiah and those who place their trust in Him.
What a joyful wedding that will be!
Since the time of the first Jewish disciples and apostles in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), the Gospel of Yeshua and the One True God has been spread around the globe, reaching nearly all people groups.
As that fulfillment of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24) is coming to a close, God has also been fulfilling His prophecies to the Jewish People.
After 2,000 years of desolation and exile, the Jewish People are being restored to their Jewish homeland
One of the astounding prophecies about this restoration is that “yet again there will be heard in this place … the voice of joy [sason] and the voice of gladness [simchah]” (Jeremiah 33:10–11).
The Jewish people who have come to believe in Messiah Yeshua will be rejoicing and praising in the joy of their salvation, which in Hebrew is Yeshua.
Messiah’s Joy Is Rooted in His Saving Grace
In God’s kingdom, Messiah’s joy is not connected to the flavorful food we eat, the wealth we obtain, nor the spiritual power we demonstrate. Though we can find a measure of joy in all of that, God wants our joy to be rooted in the saving grace, favor, and kindness that God extends toward us.
We see this when the 70 disciples return after sharing the kingdom of God throughout Jerusalem. They are full of joy, saying to Yeshua that “even the demons submit to us in Your name” (Luke 10:17).
While being filled with the Holy Spirit and casting out demons can certainly give anyone a shot of supernatural adrenalin, Yeshua is very clear that He wants us to root our joy in His saving grace—the kindness that He has extended to us as our final sacrifice, paying the wages of our sins.
He told the 70 disciples:
“Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19–20)
Even the Lord Rejoices
This is why Yeshua came, after all: to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
The Lord Himself is the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one who has strayed, rejoicing when He finds it (Luke 15:4–6).
The Father gets so excited when a wayward son or daughter comes back to Him (Luke 15:20).
The Prophet Zephaniah tells us that in the last days, when God removes His judgments against the faithful remnant of the Jewish people, He will be in their midst and exult (become elated) over them (Zephaniah 3:13–17).
Being in the midst of His People, extending His grace to them, is the heart of God.
We see this in the Greek language of the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), where joy (chara) and grace (charis) are closely related words.
When a Jewish Believer named Barnabas, “witnessed the grace [charis] of God” on so many Greeks coming to faith, “he rejoiced [chara] and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord” (Acts 11:22–23).
Yeshua’s Joy Is in the Father’s Approval
God wants our joy to be attached to His grace for us and not affected by the words or actions of other people.
We have Yeshua as our model for this truth, for He surely did not win everyone’s approval. The crowds adored Yeshua, but the religious Jewish leaders, for the most part, rejected Him.
Although this brought Him great sadness (Luke 19:41), His motivation and His joy were not based on the opinions of mere human beings. All the time, He was in communion with His Father, who in turn was pouring out His love on His precious Son, saying:
“This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
As we spend time with God, obeying Him, and rejoicing in Him always, He is also thinking, “This is My child, with whom I am well pleased.”
Following the example of Yeshua, “the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:50–52).
May your life also be filled with the Oil of His Joy.