Psalm 133 A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down upon the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 133 (above), “how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” The two word pictures he then supplies to support his assertion do not immediately commend themselves to our 21st-century ears. Indeed, his allusions to an ancient religious ceremony and an unfamiliar geographical meteorological phenomenon probably do little on first reading to catch us up into his apparent enthusiasm.
I don’t have time and space here to examine these two word pictures in depth. But let me simply observe that the fragrance of the consecration oil that ran down on the robes of the high priest and the refreshing, life-giving waters of Hermon that David envisioned falling upon the holy city depict at least two essential aspects of Christian unity.
First, the unity that truly binds brothers together comes from above. It flows from the peace that passes all human understanding. Christian unity is not achieved through commonality of background, or interest (certainly not politics) or even kingdom purpose. It is a gift from God above to be prayed for.
Second, the fragrant and life-giving unity that comes from God’s peace continues downward through us to the world beyond. The Church so captivated by the goodness and pleasantness of God’s reconciling peace through the cross, cannot help but extend that peace to each other within the body and by example and extension to the world around us.
Jesus, in what is typically called His high-priestly prayer (John 17:20-23), prayed for His disciples (and for us):
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (emphasis added)
Brothers and sisters, are we so affected by God’s peace poured upon us, that the world sees and knows that what we have together in Christ is goodness and pleasantness? Can our attitude toward our Christian brothers and sisters be described as a sweet fragrance or life-giving refreshment? If not, why not?
Our high calling is to serve as priests in this world, a calling that entails interceding and peacemaking. To guide us in this calling, we have only the example of our High Priest, who after offering up this prayer for unity with and among His disciples, offered up his own life to ensure His request might be granted.
Christian unity is that important. How dare we then sacrifice the unity of the body for which Christ Himself died for anything so mundane as the politics of Caesar’s kingdom?