God’s Gift of Unity Set to Song

God’s Gift of Unity Set to Song

As Jesus told his disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It will be a sweet aroma to lost and hungry souls seeking rest. Here’s an idea for church officers, both deacons or elders. Why not make it a practice to close some of your meetings throughout the year with singing (or reading) a setting of Psalm 133? I know I experience what this psalm describes after many difficult yet united session meetings where God’s presence is palpable. Let’s celebrate that gift by singing this song God has given us.

1Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 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!
3 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~

As the PCA’s 50th Anniversary year draws to a close, I find myself meditating on Psalm 133 quite a bit. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” Each year we close our business at General Assembly by singing this short Psalm which makes for a short song. If you watch it on the GA Livestream, you’ll probably find it underwhelming. The video doesn’t capture the mood in the room. It can’t. You have to be there.

I know we in the PCA don’t always seem to “dwell together in unity.” General Assembly and presbytery floor debates can be heated, and social media rhetoric doesn’t leave us feeling all warm and fuzzy. But the impression I get from many PCA officers across a wide spectrum of views is that the closest friendships in their lives are within the PCA. Generally speaking, we share a genuine fondness for one another as we co-labor in the cause of Christ. Our union with Christ unites us as brothers, and the Lord has indeed commanded the blessing in this uniting of our lives in Him forevermore.

Why Oil Flowing down a Beard?

One part of Psalm 133 that often baffles readers is the imagery that is being used. While Reformer-style beards have made somewhat of a comeback in our churches, none of us particularly want to see a beardsman’s plume dripping with oil. It may just be me, but a greasy beard doesn’t immediately evoke thoughts of “good and pleasant.” What if, however, the focus is not on the beard or the oil itself, but on the movement and effect of the oil?

The oil originates from above and flows down. Down onto the head. Down on and through the beard. Down onto the robe and further to the edges of the robe. Down, presumably on to the anointed priest’s body. There would no doubt be a pleasing aroma to the oil that would be appreciated by those with whom the priest came into contact.

Calvin writes, “We must hold, that when mention is made of the Priest, it is to intimate that concord takes its rise in the true and pure worship of God; while by the beard and skirts of the garments, we are led to understand that the peace which springs from Christ as the head is diffused through the whole length and breadth of the Church.”[1]

To further make the point, the next image is from nature. In similar fashion, the dew that nourishes the mountain comes down from above. And what happens to moisture on a mountain? It runs down. Down to creeks that supply streams. Down to fill rivers to the surrounding areas. Refreshment, nourishment, and life itself comes from above and flows out.

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