when pilgrims unite

When Brothers Dwell in Unity
A Song of Ascents. Of David. Psalm 133

1 Behold, 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.

A community of faith can be and often is like a dysfunctional family. But this is not God’s plan and the thoughtful pilgrim knows better. What is truly good and pleasant is when we dwell together in unity.

Siblings can easily become rivals, angling for the biggest dish of ice cream or a parent’s attention. But this is is not pleasant, even if you win. It is not our Father’s will. However, the stress of trekking, or sojourning in the biblical sense, sometimes makes us anxious for our share.

One of the great joys of our trek with students was that we shared a common goal and a common path. This brought us together and there was a pleasing unity and a spirit of adventure. A shared obstacle or challenge can indeed bring people together, but in this short Psalm, there are two images which promise lasting rather than temporary unity: oil and dew.

The oil running down Aaron’s beard suggest our priestly responsibility to each other. The Scripture offers little toward the notion of an isolated and private faith. Our coming together is commanded and our restoring each other is commended. And this should be warm and restorative, like oil that glistens, reflecting the sunlight, softening and perfuming.

In the church we are a nation of priests, ministering to each other in “the priestly service of the gospel of God (Romans 15:16).” We instruct each other, bless each other, and encourage each other, with a spirit of meekness and love. In this way, we learn to dwell together in unity. We are priests to each other, brothers and sisters in faith. This is one reason we need each other. And it is one reason God calls us to be part of his church, not loners or rebels.

The second image is the dew of Hermon, and it also comes when and because we dwell together in unity. We were trekking in January and it was dry and dusty. But on Hermon, along Israel’s northern border at that time, a heavy morning dew was frequent and refreshing. And each morning in the household of God is new, as “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 2:18).” This too we experience in the community God calls us to. Unity is like morning dew, awakening us to new, refreshing possibilities.

These blessings come when we come together “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2–3). These blessings are a glimpse at least of heaven itself, “of life evermore (vs. 3),” not just with God but with each other.

How good and pleasant that will be.

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