“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”
Psalm 133:1-3 ESV
Today is a nice break in the reading plan. After several days of long chapters with lots of names I can’t pronounce, today is sort of like coming upon a little meadow in the middle of a steep hike up a mountain. I love having a day to simply meditate on just three verses. It’s like Hebrew haiku.
The theme of 133 is that unity among brothers is a good thing. The Psalmist compares it to oil on the head. We saw that image in the reading from a couple of days ago, in Psalm 104:15. “Oil to make his face shine” was listed as one of the good gifts from the hand of God.
In Jesus’ day, a good host was expected to anoint an honored guest’s head with oil (Luke 7:46).
The Good Samaritan in Luke 10 poured oil and wine on the wounds of the man who had been beaten.
Shepherds in the Old Testament would pour oil on the heads of their sheep to protect them from parasites (see Psalm 23:4)
Oil refreshed, honored, protected, and disinfected. And I think all these things were on the mind of the Psalmist when he wrote that unity among brothers was like oil running down the beard.
But then the Psalmist got specific. he said that unity was like oil running down Aaron’s beard. Why Aaron?
Aaron was the first high priest of Israel, and the line of priests was traced through the genealogy of Aaron (Need a refresher? You can go back to 1 Chronicles 6). And when the High Priest was anointed, oil was poured on his head.
Oil sanctifies us. It sets us apart. It readies us for service to the Lord.
And the Psalmist says unity is like that, too. When believers are united, we are ready for service.
This isn’t just superficial unity, where we decide to ignore our differences so we can get a job done. And it isn’t compromising unity, in which we sacrifice important doctrine for the sake of working together. This is sanctifying unity.
Paul describes this kind of unity when he writes to the Philippians:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”
Philippians 1:27 ESV
This is sanctified unity. When we are united in the gospel, then we can strive side by side for the gospel.
What matters most is that we are united in our pursuit of God. If that is our one, overarching goal, then we will find ourselves united to one another. AW Tozer brilliantly observed:
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
Brothers and sisters, let’s live united for the sake of the gospel, knowing that when we are all in tune with that purpose, we will be tuned to each other.