Pastor Edward Brouwer 2-11-2018 Good and Pleasant Psalm 133
Good and Pleasant
What’s your definition of good and pleasant? Perhaps it’s a warm sunny day at the beach with a great book? Or maybe you’d settle for the kids getting along in a Norman Rockwellesque, Saturday Evening Post Cover worthy state of domestic bliss. Travel with me one more time to Jerusalem with the Psalms of Ascent and understand what the psalmist sees as good and pleasant.
Read Psalm 133
The first word of the psalm is LOOK! Behold! Seeing brothers getting along is good and pleasant! Now on first brush it would seem to be a no-brainer that brothers, of all people, would get along. They grow up together and typically have the same parents, all the common things that we tend to think link people—language, culture, shared experience—and when it is so, it’s wonderful. On the other hand all these things, do not necessarily create the conditions for unity. In fact, close proximity and competition can create a powder keg of boiling emotions. I don’t know what your growing up experience was like, but I tended to fight alot my 3 brothers. I got beaten up, and in turn, doled out the same. I have scars on my body (and psyche) to prove it! And if your lucky you grow out of those things, but it is all too common a reality that siblings do NOT get along. Hence the word of surprise from the psalmist’s pen of LOOK! The psalmist then describes several pictures describing that unity: it’s like OIL, like DEW, like Priestly work, like Temple! All of it is grace and it’s clear that this grace comes from above. Let’s look at the oil metaphor first. The unity of brothers is like oil running down Aaron’s beard. To understand this oil on the Priest we need to read Exodus 30:22-33
22-23 Then the Lord told Moses to collect the choicest of spices—eighteen pounds of pure myrrh; half as much of cinnamon and of sweet cane; 24 the same amount of cassia as of myrrh; and 1½ gallons of olive oil. 25 The Lord instructed skilled perfume makers to compound all this into a holy anointing oil. 30 Use it to anoint Aaron and his sons, sanctifying them so that they can minister to me as priests. 31 And say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall always be my holy anointing oil. 32 It must never be poured upon an ordinary person, and you shall never make any of it yourselves, for it is holy, and it shall be treated by you as holy. 33 Anyone who compounds any incense like it or puts any of it upon someone who is not a priest shall be excommunicated.
Take note here: the consecrated oil was for priestly service. It was not to be profaned by personal use. The penalty of appropriating holy things for personal enjoyment was harsh. Such a one was cut off from relationship with God and community: in a word, excommunicated. God means business. Is there anything in your life that God has asked you to consecrate for him and you have not? Your time? (Or do you think how you spend your time is your business?) Your talent? (Same?) Your treasure? (Same deal?) Repent and believe the gospel. The gospel means that Jesus was cut off from His relationship with God and His people on the cross of Calvary for a moment, so that we would not have to be. Whoever believes in Jesus will never be cut off. But that doesn’t mean we don’t sin and make selfish choices. But it does mean that the moment the Holy Spirit brings that to my mind, that I repent.
Getting back to Aaron and priestly service. Why is the oil a symbol of unity of brothers? When the priest was consecrated each day for service, the oil would be poured on the head spill down onto the priests beard and on his tunic. On the front of his tunic was the ephod, a special cloak that had 12 semi-precious stones embroidered into it. Each stone represented the 12 sons of Jacob, these 12 brothers representing the tribes of Israel as a people precious to God. The priest represented all of God’s people and prayed for them. There has always been a close link between the anointing oil and the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit. Think of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus when he opened the Isaiah scroll in the Capernaum synagogue and read “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor!” Jesus has a ministry as the great High Priest and he is interceding for us before the Father (Hebrews 7:25) And what is the prayer that is on His lips? I believe it is the same as the prayer he prayed the final week of his earthly life in John 17:21. Father I pray “that they would be one even as we are one”. Jesus is concerned about our unity and so he prays for that. But does our unity come from simple agreement to essential things? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and is one with the Father and the Spirit. Our understanding of the Triune God puts us together in theological accord, and unity in that flows naturally. But on the other hand, in the nitty-gritty of life, we can disagree on a host of things. Solomon wrote “be aware of the little foxes that ruin the vineyard”. (Song of Solomon 2:15). Are you in strained relationship with someone in your life who is a believer, either here at your church or outside? I urge you to make that a matter of prayer. To acknowledge that Jesus himself is concerned about our unity means this is a big deal. Pray for the oil of the Spirit, which is his grace and mercy. Heed the words of Paul in Romans 12:18 “as much as is up to you, be at peace with everyone” or the author of Hebrews when he writes: 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Here the connection between God’s grace and our unity is brought together.
We’ve seen how oil represents the Spirit’s work of unity amongst us. But the Psalmist uses a second metaphor to describe this good and pleasant situation. He says “it is like the dew of Hermon falling on Zion”. Now Mount Hermon rises 9000 feet in the north of Israel and is in a well-watered and temperate region of Israel. The relative humidity is high and when temperatures drop at night the dew falls heavy. And the mountain of Hermon is covered with grass and trees. Not so Mount Zion. It is in an arid desert near the Dead Sea. The psalmist is expressing surprise that the Dews of Hermon are falling on Mount Zion, the place of the Temple. It’s miraculous and life giving. For wherever the dew is heavy, there is verdant life. Take note of two things: this dew comes from above (from God) and it brings life (through His Spirit). I think this picture applies to us, God’s people, the church. For isn’t it surprising that God has brought together, in his one family, all of us as brothers and sisters in Christ, from every tribe and tongue and nation? Our unity is not forged because we are all alike—the church is a motley crew of people that are so different as to be a miracle that we are together! And that is God’s doing, and He has done it through Jesus Christ. He is our peace who has broken down every dividing wall of hostility says Ephesians 2:14. We have all been made one in Him. Jesus Christ who is our High Priest. And now Jesus asks that in our unity we might be a witness, that the world may know….that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
So the great Apostle Peter could write to God’s people then and now in 1 Peter 2:9 that his ministry of reconciliation is extended to US…. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The mercy of God to us in Christ brings about a beautiful reality of peace and unity that is Good and Pleasant in God’s eyes and he challenges us to receive His mercy that we would live in peace with one another and be actively sharing the hope of the Peace of Christ with those around us.