The Blessing of Christian Unity

What have you recently done that was “pleasant?” When were you with people who bless you with love and interest in you and your life? How do you define “pleasant?” Most dictionaries define it as something that gives a sense of enjoyment or happy satisfaction. But after my week of meditation on our passage, I propose that this definition falls far short of God’s. In Genesis 2:9, “The Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” God’s Word equates pleasant with “good” in God’s eyes, which is supremely excellent. The writer of Hebrews recognizes our tendency to define pleasant as the absence of pain: “…all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant…” (Hebrews 12:11) While that which is agreeable, lovely, or delightful certainly includes the absence of pain (at least for a short time), or a distraction from it, we are called to a much more excellent experience of God’s goodness. The people of God have access to the greatest blessings of Christ, especially when we are gathered together. On Sunday, our pastor asked us, “Do we long to come together as a local church body in the Spirit’s presence the way we long to see grandchildren or others? Did we miss being together during COVID, to the point of heartbreak?” He quoted C.S Lewis, who wrote, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (1) And yet, God pours out his tangible, good, pleasant blessings through believers’ unity when gathered together, as we will see in Psalm 133.

The Blessing of Christian Unity

“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.” (Psalms 133) In this song of assent to worship, David is aware that “God commands his blessing where peace is cultivated; by which is meant, that he testifies how much he is pleased with concord amongst men, by showering down blessing upon them. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in other words (2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9), ‘Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you.’ (2) “Christ died to purify to himself a peculiar people. Unfeigned love of the brethren is the end of sanctification and evidence of it…according to his abundant mercy, by the resurrection of Christ…being children of the same Father, belonging to the same family and household, having the same spirit, and the same nature and disposition, and being members one of another, and heirs of the same grace and glory.” (3) When we think of God’s blessings, unity is probably not the first thing that comes to mind, probably because we are such independent creatures. But after we have had a shared experience with our Christian brothers and sisters, in worship, fellowship, Bible study, or other celebration, it might come to mind. If we would more frequently recognize God’s blessing of our unity in Christ, we would want more, more of God’s tangible, good, pleasant blessings as we spend time together. 

Unity’s Blessing is Like Dripping Oil

“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!” (Ps. 133:2) “Unity is a gift from God. In verse 2 the threefold repetition ‘running down,’ ‘running down,’ and ‘down’—the Hebrew uses the same verb each time—emphasizes that the blessing of Aaron’s anointing was from above himself, that is, from God. The anointing of Aaron was a blessing from God for him, but he was the high priest, which meant that he in turn blessed others. The description of the oil running down from his beard ‘upon the collar of his robes’ also suggests the flow of the blessing. There is even the hint that, since the oil was ‘precious oil’—the best oil blended with myrrh, cinnamon, cane, and cassia (Exodus 30:22–24)—the anointing would have been wonderfully fragrant and would have filled the air wherever Aaron went…In the same way, a person who is at peace with himself or herself or a people who are united are a blessing wherever he, she, or they go. They tend to win people to their unity and spread it.” (4) Sometimes, we settle for much less than Christ’s blessings for his family. I have oil that I use to moisten and maintain my cuticles, that drips down all over my hands. But there is no comparison between this oil from a bottle, purchased and applied to myself, to the precious oil of God’s anointing. “[God’s blessing is] like the precious ointment upon the head…that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard…[like] the grace of the Spirit, the unction from the Holy One; which has been poured on Christ, the head of the church, without measure; and with which he has been anointed above his fellows; and from him it is communicated to all his members…particularly brotherly love is compared to this ointment; because of the preciousness of it, which is true of every grace; and because of the extensiveness of it, reaching to head and members, to Christ and all his saints, the meanest and lowest of them; and because of its fragrancy and sweet odour to all that are sensible of it; and because of its delightful, cheering, and refreshing nature; like ointment and perfume, it rejoices the heart.” (5) We are called, like David, to recognize God’s blessings and enjoy our good, sweet fellowship in Christ together. 

Unity’s Blessing is Like Refreshing Dew

“[Brothers dwelling in unity] is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Ps. 133:3) I have recently learned that Mt. Hermon, in Israel, is the only snow-capped mountain in that area. Mt. Zion is one hundred or more miles from Mt. Hermon. When the sun beats down on Mt. Hermon, the dew is sometimes carried to Jerusalem by a cold current of air sweeping down from the north over Hermon. The sweet, misty mountain air is refreshing, like the Spirit’s presence when we are together. “This comes from above, from the Father of lights; and, because of its gentle nature, this makes men pure, and peaceable, and gentle, and easy to be entreated; as the dew falls gently in a temperate and moderate air, not in stormy and blustering weather: and because of its cooling nature; it allays the heats and animosities in the minds of men; and because it makes the saints fruitful, and to grow and increase in good works…the promise of the covenant, the blessing of the Gospel; which is in the hands of Christ, and comes through him to all his people; (6) “Unity is a foretaste of heaven. The final verse of the psalm speaks of ‘life forevermore.’ Some things are good for us but not pleasant. Other things are pleasant but not good. But the unity we have as God’s people is both good and pleasant. It is even a bit of heaven now.” (7)

Do you know the hymn, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds?” John Fawcett was orphaned at twelve. After being converted under the preaching of George Whitefield at sixteen, he became a preacher himself. He ministered at Carter’s Lane Church in London. His congregation was distraught at his farewell service and begged him to stay, and in 1987 he penned the hymn. “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above…We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear. When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” Are we like Fawcett, filled with inward pain when we depart each other’s company, not just at funerals or quarantines, but whenever we have been blessed to share our mutual woes and bear our mutual burdens together? May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7)

Related Scripture: Genesis 13:8; Leviticus 25:21;Deuteronomy 28:8-10; John 17:20-23; Acts 4:32-34; Romans 12:16-18; 1 Corinthians 16:13-14; 2 Corinthians 13:11-12; Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:1-2; 1 Peter 1:22-23; 2:16-17; 3:8; 4:8.

Notes:

  1. Pastor Bryant McGee, Blessed Unity, 6/19/22, with a quotation from C.S. Lewis, The  Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses. 
  2. Calvin, John, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, Psalm 133, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  3. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Psalm 133, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalm-133.html.
  4. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 133, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  5. Gill, Ibid.
  6. Gill, Ibid.
  7. Boice, Ibid

June 23, 2022

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