Good and Pleasant Days
Please read Psalm 133 in your favorite Bible
One of the things affected by the pandemic was family vacations. You remember family road trips? Lengthy road trips, especially with young children are a fine example of the way unity can be broken down.
Let’s consider: the first stage of a family trip is anticipation and excitement. Unity is high in the first stage because we’re all committed to the trip and looking forward to reaching the destination. Excitement was built with the preparations made for the trip.
The second stage is the distraction stage. Here impatience and boredom are starting to form cracks in our unity. In order to make good time we are getting out books and games and snacks and all sorts of diversions to occupy our minds. Assaults on our good humor occur in the form of teasing, tantrums, impatience, the need for potty breaks, disagreements about navigation; all these things begin to take their toll.
The third stage is called “Are We There Yet?” after the question frequently posed to the driver. In this stage unity is largely absent; its every person for themselves. There are no distractions, not even fighting, that can cure the monotony of the road.
The fourth stage is stupefaction. Everyone is either asleep or in an entirely private world of their own thoughts. The only sound we hear is that of the tires on the pavement. Unity is not an issue since we are each in our own little world. We share a space in the car but are emotionally isolated within the overwhelming sameness of sights and sounds. If you are the driver, this stage is the sweet spot of the trip: the distractions in the vehicle are gone and you are in the zone for safe driving.
The final stage occurs upon arrival. Everyone awakens - either from the trance of the road or actual slumber - and unity is restored as you are able to exit the vehicle at last. You have all survived the trial of the trip. The sense of shared achievement and relief restore good humor and camaraderie.
PSS 133 is about ancient road trips. It is one of the “Song of Ascents;” hymns that worshipers sang as they walked up to the temple and by pilgrims as they traveled together to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts (EXS 23:14-17; LVS 23:4-22, 33-43; NBS 28:16-31; 29:12-39; DTY 16:1-17). It prefaces worship with the blessing of the Lord that is evident in UNITY.
Unity is part of the Lord’s blessing.
1. Unity is precious.
Unity is GOOD AND PLEASANT (1); it is something that feels so good is worth celebrating. Fellowship characterized by UNITY is a taste of what heaven will be like.
When we read the word BROTHERS from our New Testament perspective we think of church. Obviously, “church” was not in David’s mind as he wrote this. I’d guess he was thinking more “countrymen” as BROTHERS. So let’s say this word includes families and churches, anywhere God’s people are joined together for worship or service.
Unity is PRECIOUS, like the oil used for the anointing of Aaron (2). A unified fellowship is related to the Priesthood of All Believers, a doctrine with its origins in Exodus 19:5-6 and renewed for the Church in 1 Peter 2:9-10. I believe UNITY and the Priesthood of All Believers is connected by the mention of Aaron’s name and the reference to his consecration to be the original high priest.
The Priesthood of All Believers is an important doctrine for at least three reasons. One, it identifies our role in this world: as priests we represent God to those outside the faith. We are mediators of Christ in the sense that we are His hands and voice. Two, it is an expression of our sanctification; we are set apart to God’s service as OT priests were. Three, membership in the church is strictly limited to believers. We must exercise caution in extending membership and in maintaining standards for members.
The occasion of Aaron’s anointing was important on its own merits but the OIL itself is also said to be PRECIOUS. This was a sacred OIL prepared with certain ingredients (Exodus 30:22-33), a formula that was not to be used for any other application, only for the consecration of priests.
This OIL had two GOOD and PLEASANT associations in the minds of the OT saints. It had a unique aroma. Even the memory of that scent would stay with them and the mention of it would help them recall the scent. It was a unique situation. The anointing of Aaron was the event that instituted the priesthood. It set apart an entire tribe for holy service (Exodus 29:44-46; Leviticus 9:22-24; Numbers 6:24-26). In their experience it would have been associated only with the consecration of a priest.
The way the OIL is described is an extravagant abundance, an overwhelming experience. This OIL was POURED on Aaron’s head; not dribbled, not splashed. The fact that a great quantity of the special OIL was used is evident in that it overflowed the crown of Aaron’s head, RUNNING down to his BEARD, then over his beard on to the COLLAR OF HIS ROBES.
Unity is a BLESSING like the DEW that falls on MOUNT ZION (3). Because of its high altitude, (10,000 feet above sea level), Mt. Hermon was known for abundant precipitation in all seasons. Even during the dry season (May - Oct.) lush vegetation could be found upon its peak. Mt. ZION (Jerusalem) would have little or no precipitation during these months. The description of the blessing of unified fellowship was that it was so GOOD and PLEASANT, it felt refreshing as if Mt. HERMON’s DEW had fallen on Mt. ZION instead. Just as the DEW refreshed and revived the plants atop Mt. Hermon, UNITY has the effect of refreshing and revitalizing the spirits of the saints.
The word THERE may refer to the mountain and/or to the gathering of God’s people and the revitalizing power of His BLESSING. Some people generalize and say the promise of life after death is absent from the OT but here it is: LIFE FOREVERMORE.
2. Unity is worth protecting.
Protecting unity starts with loving God first and foremost. This Psalm rightly identifies God as the source of life and UNITY. It is His gifts that bring us the most profound joy. The basis of fellowship is our shared relationship with God. Because we have one Father, we become brothers and sisters.
Protecting unity happens when we love others ahead of self. The NT repeatedly lists various sins and identifies them as unity-busters. Sin is the product of evil desires that are expressions of selfishness; putting more value on self than on others. To preserve unity we must humble ourselves and defer to others. Unity requires self-sacrifice on most occasions. On more rare occasions, unity may require the sacrifice of persons who are distracting or disruptive. Unity should be a greater priority than the personalities involved.
Unity is part of the Lord’s blessing.
Like our salvation, UNITY is not something we create by our good works; if it is true, it is God’s gift. However, UNITY is expressed and enjoyed in loving, gracious, and good works. Unlike salvation, UNITY can be quickly undone by sinful, selfish, and divisive actions.
In part because UNITY is so easily broken and also in part because it is intended to be a means toward encouraging spiritual maturity, UNITY is something God values very highly. Psalm 133 is one of many Bible passages that make this truth plain. UNITY is not “optional” to one’s Christian experience, it is essential.
We get a sense of the importance of UNITY among God’s people from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus taught, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Here Jesus says that UNITY must precede worship! God cannot be legitimately approached in worship until we have done all we can to restore UNITY. Healing a broken relationship is to be attempted before worship is offered.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5 - Psalms, Willem A. Van Gemeren
The Daily Study Bible Series, Psalms Vol. 2, George A.F. Knight