In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus. "These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold." "Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"
Sometimes it seems like the Christian community is like that we cant seem to get organized. Psalm 133 was written to encourage believers to dwell in unity.
The Masoretic text tells us this psalm was one of Davids. As Baker suggests, "This psalm reveals Davids feelings when he regained his throne after Absaloms rebellion." And Spurgeon remarks, "We see no reason for depriving David of the authorship of this sparkling sonnet. He knew by experience the bitterness occasioned by divisions in families, and was well prepared to celebrate in choicest psalmody the blessing of unity for which he sighed. ... The visitors of Zion were about to return, and this may have been their hymn of joy because they had seen such union among the tribes who had gathered at the common altar."
As we consider all the turmoil David had to face in his battles with King Saul and his own royal uprisings, we can understand why he would so appreciate the concept of brothers dwelling in unity. The Restoration Movement in the 1800s was founded on the idea of bringing all the different churches together in unity, and eliminating the divisions that divided Christians. Perhaps we need a new movement today to restore unity to the churches in America, to the people in America, and to the families in America. Lets examine what David had to say about this important topic.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
If you have ever been in a church situation where you have experienced conflict and turmoil, you can appreciate this verse. Dwelling together in unity doesnt necessarily mean we all agree on everything, but it does mean that we are united in serving Christ, in proclaiming his message, and reaching our community for him. Dwelling in unity means that we are willing to set aside our own concerns for the benefit of others. I believe this is one of the real strengths of our congregation here in Merced. We care about each other. And even though we dont all think alike, we are united in our purpose as a church to worship God, to make all feel welcome to our church family, and to reach our community with the gospel message.
The new people that have come to our church have told us that they sense Gods Spirit in our services, and they sense the love of the people. Thats because, as David wrote, "how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity."
Horton in 1673 gave these definitions for the meaning of pleasant in verse 1:
First, it is pleasant to God,
Secondly, it is pleasant to ourselves,
Thirdly, it is pleasing to others.
When we are united together as a Christian family, it pleases God. He wants us to all be working together for the same goal. It is pleasing to others because they can sense Gods love in our midst, and it also blesses us, because we sense the support and encouragement from each other.
But more importantly than being united as a church is for us to be united as a family. The same compassion and forgiveness we show at church needs to even more be shown at home. Husbands and wives, sons and daughters need to be bound together with Gods love. Gods plan has always been for there to be strong families. A strong nation comes from strong families. Nothing that is worthwhile will ever come easily. Sometimes sacrifice, hard work, and patience are necessary. But God will strengthen our efforts and guide our way.
I read recently, "There are two ways of being united one is by being frozen together, and the other is by being melted together.." I really like this analogy. Some people may feel that they are frozen together out of duty and obligation. But let us be melted together. As a family and as a body of believers let us be united in love, in forgiveness, and in service. God would have no less from us.
In John 17:22 Jesus prays, "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one." For some families and churches these are only empty words. Let us strive to make them a reality in our lives.
It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
The oil was a sweet perfume and an oil of consecration. It diffuses down until it touches all of Aarons garments. Brotherly love blesses all in its influence. It has a special use for it separated Aaron and his household for service.
I want to examine the flow of this oil and see how we can apply this to our own church life, and our own family life.
1. It starts at the head.
I think this is an important point. The oil began at the head and flowed down. Unity must always start at the head. In the church it starts with the leadership. In the family it starts with the husband and wife. We must allow that anointing oil from God to touch our head, to change our thoughts, to transform our mind, and correct our attitudes. If we insist on being stubborn and demanding our own way, we will only engender strife in our church and our family. Once we allow Gods anointing to guide our thoughts, we will find it will flow down to others.
The Treasury of David tells us, "This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down...even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon."
2. It runs down the beard.
Aaron had a beard just like I do. The Hebrews considered the beard a badge of manly dignity, and most men in the Old Testament wore them. But in a way the beard represents the masks too many of us try to put on. I havent shaved my beard off in so long that I would probably be frightened if I did I wouldnt recognize myself. Who knows whats hiding underneath! But in a way, all of us wear masks of one sort or another. We all pretend to be something that we are not. In order to dwell in unity we need to allow Gods oil to run down our beard, to expose those masks. We cannot hide behind our pride or false pretensions. Underneath our masks, we are all exposed as flawed and weak. Until we are ready to admit our own weaknesses, we cannot show unencumbered love for others.
After God anoints our head by changing our thoughts, then he wants us to remove our masks. All of us have weaknesses, fears, worries, and doubts. Let us not hide behind a mask of pseudo-spirituality. Rather let us openly admit our own weaknesses. In this way we will be better able to have compassion for the faults of others. None of us are perfect. None of us have arrived. There is no one who isnt good enough to be part of our church, because none of us are good enough.
The beard was a sign of age and respect. In our families its important to remember to treat each other with respect. Let us allow each other the dignity they deserve, even if it means we have to swallow our pride and our words.
3. It touches the robes.
The Hebrew word here translated collar is piy and it means "mouth of his garments." It is sometimes translated "collar" and other times "skirt." It can mean either, so I will look at it as the whole robe. The garments are what we dress ourselves up in. After awhile we may forget why we selected certain garments, and just wear them without thinking about it. Every church has garments and robes. We dress up our service in forms and traditions. It is easy to lose sight of the purpose of those garments. It is easy to start taking them for granted, and sometimes they lose their meanings as we merely go through the motions. We need to allow Gods anointing to touch every aspect of worship. Let nothing be done as a routine or a ritual. But let us allow our heart and mind to be focused on God and the reason behind our worship every Sunday morning. May our singing be from the heart, may our prayers touch heaven, may our worship touch Gods throne room, and may we experience Gods presence in our lives every time we gather together as a church. Let Gods anointing oil transform and renew our church services. As we gather together, may we allow the Holy Spirit to minister in our lives.
In the same way, a family must guard against taking each other for granted. Expressing love to each other should be more than a routine and a duty. It should be alive with Gods anointing. Let us learn to love our family anew each day. May each moment of our lives together be a time of excitement as we allow Christs love to have rule over our house.
4. It flows down.
The anointing oil ran down. It started on Aarons head and then flowed down his beard to his robes. It descended spreading its perfume and its consecration all over. As we allow Gods spirit to anoint our church and our family, it will pour down to all members. If the pastor and the leaders of the church experience Gods spirit in their lives, the unity of love will flow down to others. They will share in this special anointing as it flows throughout the entire congregation. But it must begin with the leadership. I have seen churches in the past where leadership was fighting and bickering. People were self-centered and stubborn. All the members will pick up on negative attitudes like that, and the church will never be healthy. I thank God that our church displays love and unity. I think people can sense it when they walk in these doors.
Spurgeon comments, "It might seem as if it were better not to smear his garments with oil, but...it flowed over his holy robes; even thus does brotherly love not only flow over the hearts upon which it was first poured out, and descend to those who are an inferior part of the mystical body of Christ, but it runs where it is not sought for, asking neither leave nor license to make its way. ...oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend."
The Christian family also needs to experience this flowing down of Gods anointing. If your family is in turmoil and confusion, ask yourself if you are allowing Gods Spirit to flow from you to the rest of the family. Are you willing to dwell in love and unity? Children will soon pick up on conflict between parents. But what a blessing it is when families dwell in the unity of Gods Spirit.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore.
Unity in Christ is like the dew falling on the mountains. The moisture nourished the vegetation on the mountains and caused new growth. The vegetation supported the animal life. The mountains were lush with Gods blessings.
The Treasury of David remarks, "From the loftier mountains of moisture appears to be wafted to the lesser hills.... Where love reigns, God reigns. ...dwelling together in love we have begun the enjoyments of eternity."
When we see the dew of Gods blessing falling on our churches, we will see vibrant life and abundant growth. New life will spring up and old saints will be renewed in their spirits. This all begins with unity. Without unity, we are divided. With unity, we will be full of Gods blessing. A church dwelling in unity will grow strong and be able to reach out to its community to help others. Let us be that kind of church. Let us continue to allow unity and love to reign in our lives, in every service, and in everything we do for the cause of Christ.
When the love of unity dwells in a family, there will also be vibrant life. Children will discover a joy and meaning in life. Parents will feel fulfilled in whatever they are doing. The dew will fall over the family and nurture spiritual growth. Let us be willing to allow our family to experience the unity of Christ every moment of every day.
Vesta Kelly wrote, "Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together." Let us learn to stick together, as a church and as a family. When we do, we will discover we cannot contain all of Gods blessings as he fills us to abundance.
This study on Psalm 133 © 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Baker: The Complete Word Study Old Testament pg. 1557 © 1994, AMG Publishers
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 167, MacDonald Publishing Company
Horton: quoted in The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 170, MacDonald Publishing Company
"Two Ways of Being United" from Moody Anecdotes pg. 53
The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 168, MacDonald Publishing Company
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 168, MacDonald Publishing Company
The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 168, MacDonald Publishing Company