Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 24 2019 - Psalm 133 – Brethren dwelling in unity

This is the last of the songs of pilgrimage that we shall be looking at in our Sunday morning readings. The pilgrims have arrived in Jerusalem and there they meet with others who have travelled from every corner of the land, all wanting to celebrate a festival together and to meet together around the temple. I don't know whether such gatherings were always marked by unity and blessing. There may have been times when the crowded character of the city gave rise to tensions and arguments but the psalmist is looking beyond such problems to the wonder of being the people of God; of belonging not only to the living God who had redeemed his people and brought them into fellowship with himself but who had also made them all part of his one great family – brought them to recognise the fellowship that existed between them as brothers and sisters.

The psalmist uses a couple of images to illustrate the blessing of such fellowship. Let me take them in reverse order. The blessing of unity among the Lord's people is described as being, "as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion" (v. 3). Mount Hermon was situated in the northern kingdom of Israel while Zion / Jerusalem was situated in the southern kingdom of Judah. The dews of Hermon falling on Mount Zion is a picture of the divided nation reunited under the blessing of God.

In the other image, this unity is described as being, "like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe" (v. 2). This may seem a strange picture to us, but that is partly because oil does not have the same significance to us as it had in the Old Testament. Firstly, oil was a symbol of well-being. In a hot and dry climate it was applied to the face for protection and to make the face shine (Psalm 104:15). It also symbolises joy (Isaiah 61:3), and was used to welcome a guest to a feast (Psalm 23:5). Special oil was used to anoint Aaron to his role of priest (Exodus 30:30-33); it was a symbol that Aaron was consecrated to the service of the Lord. Oil is a symbol here of God's blessing on his people and, in the way it flows from the head to the beard and over the clothes, symbolises the abundance of that blessing – an outpouring of blessing. Above all it is a symbol of God's Spirit poured out on his people.

My thoughts turn from the pilgrim assembly at Mount Zion that the psalmist would have witnessed to another gathering of pilgrims in Jerusalem many years later to celebrate Pentecost. People had gathered not only from every part of the Promised Land but also "from every nation under heaven". On that day the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the risen and ascended Saviour, was poured out from heaven on those first disciples. People from many nations heard them in their own languages "declaring the wonders of God." Three thousand of these disparate peoples came to faith in Christ on that day and were bound together by the Spirit of God in a remarkable unity:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

They were a people united in love for Christ and a people who experienced the outpoured blessing of God as together they enjoyed the gift of eternal life in Christ.

Father God, we rejoice that you have brought us into fellowship with your precious Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. In the fellowship of your Holy Spirit, keep us also united with one another that we may experience the outpouring of your blessing upon us and that our shared life may draw others to acknowledge that you are the living God. We long for the abundant blessing of seeing you add to our number daily those who are being saved.

Peter Misselbrook