For Brethren to Dwell Together in Unity
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For Brethren to Dwell together in Unity: An Exposition of Psalm 133 The 133rd Psalm is one of the shortest psalms in the Bible, yet it speaks a wonderful message. How pleasant it is when there is harmony in the household. The reason it stirs up such sentimentality is that it seldom works itself out. To understand how precious unity is, one had to experience dysfunctional relationships. This prerequisite is not lacking in too many of us. We live in a world full of conflict at every level. The world always seems tottering on the precipice of war. Fractures occur in nations. There is racism and tribalism. Local communities are ill at ease. When we come home, conflict awaits. So the idea of unity comes from the deepest desire of our hearts. How do we get there? First of all, we must understand that the world has always been restless. Communities have always been restless. Families and individuals have always been restless. We can look at old time TV shows like "Father Knows Best" and imagine that the world was once like this. But I can remember the air raid drills and fallout shelters. I can remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember Vietnam. I remember the riots of the 60's. So things weren't so wonderful back then. Families and people were troubled. There might be more or less "dis-ease," but even in the best of times, things were far from perfect. We don't know when the 133rd Psalm was written, but if one reads about the history of Israel and Judah in the Bible, we can see that things weren't much different back them. The names and places were different, but this same restlessness existed whenever it was written. It is one of the "Songs of Ascent," a group of Psalms collected together which were sung or chanted on the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem. This, at least, is how it was applied. In Hebrew thought, one always goes up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem stood on Mt. Zion, so this climb was literal. But is way also symbolic. One's thoughts were to ascend as he or she walked up to the city. We would call this "lofty thoughts" or "idealism." People were to center their thought on the perfection of Yahweh, the Creator. They were to take their thoughts off of themselves and their problems. Yahweh was so much greater than these. The psalmist uses two metaphors to describe the unity of God. Yahweh is One." The first metaphor is the sweet smell of the anointing oil poured over the head of Aaron. One can see Aaron in his beautiful garments and the oil dripping over them. This evokes pleasant thoughts. The blessing of unity pours down from Yahweh unto Aaron, the priest of His people. We think when we see this that this same blessing is also available to us as well. The second metaphor compares the blessing of Yahweh to the dew of Hermon which flows upon the mountains of Zion. This metaphor takes a little more explanation. Water is precious in Palestine. The rains provided fresh water to drink rather than the putrid water in the cisterns. The rainy season was always welcomed, as it gave life for crops also. Much of the water which flows down the Jordan River comes from the mountains of Hermon in Lebanon. Because the mountain is high, fog, rain and even snow comes down upon the mountain to provide visual refreshment as well as real refreshment to the people. The psalmist pairs the dew of Hermon to the dew falling upon Mt. Zion. Mt. Zion gets much less moisture than Hermon as it is at the edge of the desert. So even when the morning dew falls upon it, it is a blessing. But we must remember that a metaphor is used to point to a greater reality. Mt. Hermon provides water to drink and irrigate crops. But Mt. Zion gives comfort to the troubled soul. We certainly need earthly food and drink. Yahweh supplies that. But He also calls us to receive spiritual refreshment. We cannot live by bread alone. There is a thirst that water cannot quench, no matter how fresh and cool it might be. St. Augustin talks about this spiritual thirst. He says that the soul is always restless until it finds its rest in Him. The French mathematician and theologian, Blaise Pascal, says that there is "a God-sized hole in everyone's heart. This points us to join the Jews and the saints of the church in spiritual pilgrimage into the presence of God. In Old Testament times, the physical presence of God was in the Temple at Jerusalem. We understand along with Solomon that God cannot be contained in a building, no matter how spectacular. Even so, the Temple was a special place. We are temporal creatures. We can think upon the omnipresence of God in theory, but it is hard to relate on a physical level. The Temple was a condescension on the part of God to meet this desire. In our day, the Temple of God is in the heart of the believer. Wherever we are and whatever our situation, we do not need to go to a place on earth which God designated but rather to the Holy Spirit who dwells within, who desires to quench our thirst. When the Israelite came back down to his or her house, they were going back to the same world that they left. But they came back with a different perspective. The problems are still there. The world is still restless. But there is a sense of peace that God is bigger than our problems. Nevertheless, they would begin to sink under the weight of their problems. They would get thirsty. It would be some time before they got to ascend Mt. Zion again. But we are not limited. We can go into the closet and pray. We can find spiritual nourishment anywhere and anytime. We need to take advantage of such a gift. Verse 3 talks about the ultimate blessing, life everlasting. There are two aspects of everlasting life. The first is that we will live forever. The second is that we will live forever in bliss and unity in the New Jerusalem. The unity we pant for as one dying of thirst in the desert will be there in abundance. We will have more than the morning dew that barely sustains us from day to day. Not only must we ascend to Zion, we also are sustained by the promise that the Kingdom will come. I wonder what the Israelite would have thought about verse three in Biblical times. I do believe that the Old Testament prophesies about the Christ to come. Abraham rejoiced to see that day, saw it and was glad. I wonder what Moses saw from Mt. Nebo. The Jews at the time of Jesus had some concept of a Messiah, an anointed one, was coming. Some saw two Messiahs, one a priest like Aaron and the other a King like David. But their view was as the dew in the desert. We Christians have been given a clearer view. The greatest of all blessings was poured down upon us in the person of Jesus Christ who became flesh of the Virgin Mary and dwelt among us. He is the true Manna and living water. He is the one to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. It is in Him that we find true rest. It is the Holy Spirit who descends upon the believer in Jesus. This Jesus died upon this very Mt. Zion for our sins. He arose and ascended back to the Father. Some day we will arise and ascend unto Him. The blessing we enjoy in part today will become an everlasting one. We appropriate this future promise here and now. We are encouraged on our difficult journey. The pilgrimage of Ancient Israel to Jerusalem was accompanied by many hardships. But the joy at the end of the journey was worth the toils, trials and snares. So let us pilgrims press on, for we have a far greater Jerusalem to which we are going. In the meanwhile, let us realize that we do not undertake this journey alone. We have the presence of the Spirit and each other to travel there. Let us help each other on this journey, encouraging one another on the way. At times, we help the faint. At other times, others help us when we faint. We must work together to maintain unity within our ranks. The pleasantness of fellowship with fellow pilgrims is wonderful nourishment.