Psalm 133 July 24, 2016
Sermon Series: “Short and Sweet Summer Psalms”
Today’s Sermon: Psalm 133 – “God’s Blessings of Unity, Running Down upon Us”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is 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.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
Introduction: Last Sunday, when I asked you why you come to church on Sunday, some of you said that it was for the fellowship you have here, with other brothers and sisters in the Lord. Let’s explore that aspect of our gathering together, and ask another question, namely: “Why do you enjoy meeting with other people? What is it that you have in common which makes your time together pleasant?”
Ps. 133 helps us to see that there’s more to sweet fellowship than common interests, similar personalities, and shared experiences; in fact, there’s a supernatural dimension to true Christian unity. Let’s take a look.
Outline of today’s sermon:
I. The Structure
II. The Setting
III. The Substance
IV. The Significance
I. The Structure of Ps. 133
As we did last Sunday with Ps. 117, we want to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the symmetry and structure of this short psalm. What do you notice about its form?
Look at the Psalm; now notice the words/ ideas that are repeated (Running down/ falling).
So the three-fold structure of the psalm is as follows;
- 1 is a declaration of the blessing of true unity (horizontal relationships)
- 2-3a give us two analogies of this oneness (using vertical illustrations: running down)
- 3b concludes with a declaration of the blessing which the Lord bestows upon His unified people.
So you can see that the recurring picture or direction in this psalm is the idea of “running down.” Three times in the Hebrew, and in perhaps your English translation, we see the word “Running down” (2x in v. 2), and once in v. 3 (“falling” or “falls”), which is the same word as in v. 2.
It is the word “Jordan” as in the Jordan River, which runs down from the 9,000 ft. mountains in Syria, all the way to the Dead Sea, some 1,300 ft. below Sea Level!
Therefore the dominant imagery used in Ps. 133 to describe blessings and goodness is that of something coming down from above… and ultimately coming down from the Lord, the source of all goodness and blessing, in Jesus Christ.
So while we tend to think about a psalm of unity in a horizontal plane, God’s Word points us in a vertical direction, as we see His blessings running down on His unified people!
II. The Setting of Ps. 133
Ps. 133 is the next to last “song of ascents.” (Ps. 120-134) These are the songs that were sung as the Jewish people made their pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Note that as they going up to Mt. Zion, the blessings of the Lord were coming down upon them, in their unity of purpose and worship.
These pilgrims were enjoying a special oneness, a vibrant unity, as they traveled as one on their journey of faith to worship the Lord.
Perhaps David used this psalm at the time of 2 Samuel 6, when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to the new capital city of Jerusalem, and all the people were unified in celebration.
Or later, when all Israel came together for one of the major feasts in Jerusalem. (For example, we read in 2 Chron. 30:12 that when King Hezekiah celebrated the Passover, we read “That the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.”)
Therefore, for us today, Ps. 133 has special significance when we gather together in worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ, like we are doing today!
III. The Substance of Ps. 133
There are three parts to the substance of this psalm:
- A declaration of the blessing of true unity (horizontal relationships) v. 1
“How good (the dew) and pleasant/ delightful (the oil) it is when brothers live together in unity!
This unity is “good” in itself (objective), and “delightful” in experience (subjective.)
Motyer: “brothers” necessarily implies belonging together, family oneness. But “unity” is another thing altogether! It is good to see the family together, but if there is true unity that is a bonus and a huge blessing. Oneness by blood advances to oneness of heart.”
Stott: “The covenant people of God are already brothers; but it is good and pleasant, if, in addition to their fraternal relationship, they live together in unity. (Simply being brothers does not guarantee unity- see the Genesis stories of Cain and Able; Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brother!) This unity is the work of God; His blessings running down to us.
2. Two analogies of this oneness (using vertical illustrations: running down) vv. 2-3a
Why is this unity like the oil running down? Is it because both descend, and they both embrace the whole body, sanctifying it? Or is it to teach that such unity is a fragrant as oil and as refreshing as the dew? Perhaps both are true.
Motyer notes: “Two distinct analogies: first, the oil of consecration, pointing to unity as a sacred blessing from God, creating the priestly people that Israel was meant to be (Ex. 19:6). The second deals with a miracle – Hermon’s dew falling on Zion’s hill/ Hermon was the chief mountain of the north (Israel); Zion the chief mountain of the south. That they should be united in this way could only be an act of God: such then, said David, is the unity of the family of God’s people, a God-made miracle.”
3. It concludes with a declaration of the blessing which the Lord bestows upon His unified people. v. 3b
For there (i.e., Jerusalem; but also referring to the opening of the psalm: where there is unity, there blessing falls by God’s command.) the Lord bestows his blessing (Ps. 134:3), even life forevermore. (“True unity is from above; a blessing bestowed far more than something we achieve.”)
The place where God commanded His blessing is where His people have unity in the Body. God doesn’t bless a church that has division and gossip. No. He sends His gospel blessing upon those congregations that have humbled themselves and love and serve one another.
Calvin writes: “God commands His blessing where peace is cultivated.”
IV. The Significance of Ps. 133
Let me ask you: “What do you have in common with others in the church that makes your fellowship with them enjoyable?” Similar interests? Stage in life? Personalities or backgrounds that are alike?
If we are honest, it’s often the PLU factor: We enjoy being with People Like Us.
But you don’t need the Holy Spirit for that to happen. You don’t need the cross of Christ breaking down any dividing walls to have that kind of friendship, right?
But God is calling us to a supernatural oneness in Christ! His goal to make us one in Christ supercedes hobbies, age, race, professions, or personalities.
In their book The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power makes a Church Attractive, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop propose that the true community God is looking for is not those fellowships of PLUs, but of a God-given oneness among diverse people who are drawn together, not by similar outside interests or demographics, but because of our oneness in Christ. Our unity must have a supernatural basis; it must be attributable to Christ, not natural compatibility.
What’s the “glue” that unites us?
Is it mostly common interests and similar personalities?
Or is it more that we are a “Band of Brothers” serving and worshipping and witnessing side by side in the spiritual trenches, as we fight together against our common foe, the devil, and as we serve our one true commander, King Jesus?
Do you see evidence of that in your fellowship with others?
Let me give you another significance of out grace-based unity in Christ.
We are all aware of adults who know that their biological mother made an adoption plan for them when they were infants, and now, later in life, they seek to be re-united with their biological mother/ parents. Yes, they belong to their adoptive parents and siblings, but they have a longing to connect with their flesh and blood family as well. They know they are out there, but they haven’t met them yet.
What happens when they do find their biological family? Often there’s a great time of celebration and of spending hours and days getting to know this family. It can be hard and awkward, but there’s something satisfying about uniting with your flesh and blood family.
David Bricker, the executive director for Jews for Jesus, writes in this month’s newsletter about “Our Mysterious Family.” He talks about a staff member who had been adopted as an infant, and knew she had a biological family that she never had met. When, as an adult, she sought to find this family, she became united with two biological brothers and her father, and she was both blessed and challenged by relating to these people, her flesh and blood!
Bricker goes on to write that all of us who are believers in Jesus Christ actually experience a similar process, but in reverse. That is, most of us grow up with our biological family, and then when we are redeemed by Christ and adopted into God’s family, we meet all these brothers and sisters that we never knew we had! And it is a both a blessing and a challenge to relate to this spiritual family, our real family!
Let’s Apply This:
Do you seek such unity? Is it important to you?
This unity is a great challenge: in churches, in Christian schools, in mission organizations, and even on elders or deacons boards! At a time when our nation is so divided up along racial lines and political sides, we desperately need to seek this God-given unity.
Are you willing to work toward this God-given unity?
If so, then what first step should you take? (Repentance of prejudices, grudges, hatred? Asking for forgiveness?)
Remember: the whole process starts with you being united to God, through the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How important is this unity?
John 17:20-21 “That they may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us. That the world may believe that you sent Me.”