An Exhortation for Unity from Psalms 133

King David mused in the Psalms about the usefulness of unity among brothers:

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 (English Standard Version)

He compares unity here to two things: running down the beard and robes of Aaron and also, the dew of Hermon which falls on Zion. With these two things he concludes that unity among brothers is what God has commanded, moreover he even calls it a blessing! In this blog I want to discuss the two things that David compares to the unity among brothers and some thoughts on their importance.

Firstly, the oil that was applied to Aaron is an image of what unity is like. The holy anointing oil would have had been a great fragrance, strongly perfumed and its odor would have been diffused in the space around. This would work with great pleasure to the bystanders when it was poured upon the head of Aaron. I wonder what fragrance we are giving out today. To our brothers and sisters in Christ, are we showing the love of Christ and diffusing a heavenly smell. Moreover, are we open to what our brothers and sister are diffusing, are our noses open to the wonders of God as well? In a sense (no pun intended) if we are only experiencing God through our ears, but not smelling, we are missing out so much on God’s fullness in our lives.

The second thing to take from the precious oil running down Aaron was that it was plentifully. So excessive that it ran down the face to his beard, and even down his collars of his robes! How plentiful is God’s grace to us, and how much should God’s grace indwell in us when we experience him, that it should flood our souls. Furthermore, he describes the oil as precious, something not ordinary. And indeed what great love that God has given us, not only for Himself, but as each other as well. The oil that David is describing here is an anointing oil that was only given to an select few among the whole nation of Israel. It says in Exodus:

“You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.”You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” Exodus 30:29-30.

To link it back to this passage, David is linking the consecration of these priests to a brotherhood that is a consequence of this. In other words, we are celebrating our salvation when we are united with one another. When we are saved and Holy Spirit is indwelt in us in a greater measure, we become like Aaron covered in Christ’s blood and part of God’s priesthood, there is no greater joy to us than fellowship with brothers and sisters!

Secondly, David compares unity to the dew of Hermon. Mount Hermon which David is referring to here is a prominent mountain, reaching a height of 9230 ft on the northern border of Israelite territory. The important thing here, is the height of the mountain is the highest within the whole Israel territory, that brings about a sense of the awesomeness of the mountain. David uses dew of Hermon as the source of water that rains on the mountains of Zion, or Jerusalem which we are more familiar with. To truly appreciate this, we have to look at a map to see what David is referring to:

Mount Hermon is the square in the top right, and Jerusalem the one in the bottom left.

The map shows us the source of water for Zion, coming down from the mountain, running down the River Jordan and to the Salt Sea. The water was a way of sustenance for the whole of Israel, bringing livelihood to the whole nation. Without this source of water, the whole nation of Israel couldn’t have continued operating. It makes you really think of what reliance we have on God that we so often forget, that we could have all our dreams destroyed swiftly by a natural disaster. What then is the power of man, if he cannot predict when the next earthquake is going to strike? David here is applies this reliance on God to unity, the need to be in synergy with the whole body of Christ. For what brother can live without fellowship and congregating frequently? What would a sister pursue if not continually communing with other believers?

Here also we have to be careful, when Hermon is within the Promised Land that Israel was given by God, so too does unity only apply to our brothers and sisters. As to who exactly are our brothers and sisters, I think it is orthodoxy is my primary measuring stick. For example, I would not consider polytheists, pantheists or atheists brothers and sisters, on the basis that they are not in Christ, though love them always. Divine love will always trump human love, notice that both examples that David uses, they are of God’s work, not ours. We do not anoint ourselves with oil, God does consecrate us with His Son’s blood – Man does not control when the ground is flooded or parched, but God brings the dew that refreshes us daily. Unity is not a human reaction to others, it is a natural working through of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that we should seek fellowship with one another.

The last two lines of this Psalm prescribes the greatness of this unity between brothers and sister. Unity is said to be a blessing that is coming from God himself, therefore it speaks of excellency. It speak of the “life forevermore”, therefore it is eternal blessedness in this state of God’s love. The Psalms is an argument for the excellency of brotherly love, if we are not continually united as a body, then we are not loving God. Simple as that. “As the perfection of love is the blessedness of heaven, so the sincerity of love is the earnest of that blessedness.” Matthew Henry

map source: http://www.netzarim.co.il/Shared/Temunot/Map%20Israel%201000%20BCE%20(Hammond)%20980×1427.jpg image source: http://www.colehardcash.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Unity.jpg

Advertisements

Remembering the Anointed One

Since it’s getting to Christmas almost, I thought I should start writing some Christmas themed posts.

“But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Mark 14:6 (English Standard Version)

Christmas is the remembrance of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. The name, Christmas, being derived from the Christ, a name of Jesus meaning “the anointed one”.

In the Old Testament, anointing was important for many leaders of Israel. David was found by Samuel and immediately anointed, Solomon was anointed by the priest Zadok in his inauguration before whole nation of Israel. “The specific practice of anointing by pouring oil on the head was used as asymbolic act for officially, designating and setting apart a person for a certain, public,leadership function in the community.” (source) All throughout the Old Testament, there were only three groups of people that were anointed: priests, prophets and kings. The Old Testament dictates that anointing someone involves pouring oil over the head of the one concerned, perhaps not unintentionally similar to the act of cleansing. The aim of anointing giving to the one anointed power, strength, or majesty.

In Christmas, we are remembering someone who was anointed by God, his holy oil poured on his head. But mankind only put a crown of thorns on his head, and killed him on a cross. Only once was Jesus anointed on earth, by a poor woman in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus was eating at the house of a leper, his name was Simon. The unnamed woman opened an alabaster flask pouring it over her head. She was no Levite, her anointing meant nothing, at his feet and she wiped them with her tears.

She was one who had sinned all her life, but she came with a great gift, and put it on his feet. To put the bottle of alabaster in context, a denarii was the pay for a day’s wages to a Roman soldier and the bottle was worth 300 denariis. The disciples naturally were vicious towards her, asking why she didn’t sell the bottle and give the money to the poor. But Jesus defends her, that he would not be with them always, but the poor shall be.

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:8-9 (English Standard Version)

This event occurs close to the end of his life, he knew that the end was coming where Judas betray him and hand him over to the authorities. Everything he said was a reference to his coming death, he states that she will be told in memory of him. His humility and shame in dying on the cross, is mirrored clearly her through the undying devotion, and total sacrifice of her heart to Jesus.

And through this birth of Jesus Christ, no longer was anointing for only those who were of the tribe of Levi, or kings of Israel even only those prophets which preached God’s Word. But now, even to the poorest of women and the tax collectors, they could be anointed and even that be received as children of God. Jesus was born so we could be anointed, and be cleansed and restored to our original state. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us” (2 Corinthians 1v.21)

*note some other gospels give a different account especially john which gives the woman the name, Mary, who is presumably sister of Lazarus. there is a bit of debate among scholars whether the accounts are related and if the two stories refer to the same event.