Psalm 133 (New Living Translation)
A song for the ascent to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.
- How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony!
- For harmony is as precious as the fragrant anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
- Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And the LORD has pronounced His blessing, even life forevermore.
Beth spends the first lesson on this psalm examining how it can apply to our own families. She states:
We don’t appreciate how “good and pleasant it is” when family members live together in unity until we’ve encountered how negative and unpleasant it is when they don’t.
. . . never forget that the psalms are for real people . . .
I don’t think there is any family out there, mine included, that hasn’t experienced at least some disharmony and disunity. Some more than others. Beth says, “Psalm 133 extols the virtues of family unity, not because it came easily, but because when it came it was delightful.” These people had been traveling in close quarters with each other on the journey to Jerusalem. Then, once they got there, they would most probably have been crammed together in a small tent (or tabernacle) for the entire week-long feast. Then, when it was over, they would be traveling back to their hometown again.
I know I would be sick of those around me by the time it was over. lol Sick of people who are quick to take offense no matter what is said. Sick of people who are prone to mood swings based on what direction the wind is blowing. Sick of people who complain about and find fault in everything. I am a person who needs my alone time and my space to “wind down.” This psalm is a reminder to take a breath and be thankful for your family (God love ’em) and do what you can to keep the peace.
Beth points out that one of the things that makes this kind of unity difficult to achieve is the fact that family is ordinarily acquired rather than chosen. This means that we are sometimes forced to interact (and tolerate) people we might otherwise have no reason to have a relationship with – people we have nothing in common with – people with whom our personalities conflict. There are people in my family that I love dearly, but I absolutely cannot stand to be around. People that I can only tolerate in small doses. I am going to quote Beth rather lengthily here because what she says is so incredibly true:
We form most friendships out of personal preferences, but we’re not automatically the better for it. . . . Many of us have distanced ourselves from extended family because we’ve replaced them with people we prefer. . . . Family is more trouble than friendship, and the fear that we might share similarities with some of our members also carries an indictment too strong to face on a regular basis.
. . . we can drop friends more easily when the relationship becomes inconvenient. . . . God chose our family even if we didn’t. Even the challenges they pose can be effective motivation to seek His throne, His help, and His healing (AKA: deal with our stuff.) After all, where would our prayer lives be without family? Furthermore, if we only choose to be around those who require virtually nothing hard from us, what will prompt us (force us) to change?
I know this has been true in my life. I have watched a member of my family lead a life of self-caused loneliness, paranoia, unforgiveness, depression, and misery. I vowed a long time ago to not follow that path. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to automatically assume the worst about people. I am more aware of hypocrisy in my own life.
It was much harder to be aware of going down that path when I was around this person on a daily basis. People who have this type of outlook on life just drag everyone around them down into their pit. I call them “joy suckers.” Now that I only see this person a few times a year, it is easier for me to guard against this mindset and see that it is NOT how we are supposed to live. It is not a life of victory.
But if I had not been exposed to this extreme version of this type of mindset early in my life, and been made aware of the way it can poison someone and rob them of their joy, I do not believe that I would be in the place I am today in my walk with God. God certainly has given Beth a ton of wisdom:
Learning to endure hardship and inconvenience with people is critical to the process of becoming a whole person. When all is said and done, some of the people we needed most to fulfill God’s plan for our personal lives will be those we wanted least. God doesn’t just want us to be happy; He wants us to be useful.
. . . what Satan and others mean for evil in our lives, God wouldn’t have allowed unless it could be used for good and for the delivering of lives.
On the second lesson on this psalm, Beth focuses on how it applies to the Church – the family of God. Beth talked about how the reference to Aaron would remind the Israelites of their anointing as the children of God and also of how their disobedience led to the splitting of the kingdom and scattering of the people. She then brings that back around to us:
The tragic division into two kingdoms also resulted in loss of identity. The reason the people ultimately took on the name “Judah-ites” (shortened to “Jews”) is because the tribe of Judah alone retained a measure of its unity. We may shake our heads and think what a pity before the reality hits us that Christians split into much more than half. We have splintered into every conceivable twisted branch of one family tree.
In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed this prayer for us on the eve of the crucifixion:
I do not pray for these along, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all 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.
This prayer was for us – those who will believe. It was a prayer for unity – that we all may be one. The reason? That we world may believe that You sent Me.
No wonder we aren’t converting more lost people to Christ. We are too busy fighting among ourselves. A lot of Christians do not understand that unity does not necessarily mean uniformity. As Beth states, “we can be very different and still practice unity.” This can’t happen, though, if religious prejudice takes precedence over actual Biblical truth.
Beth speaks of what she calls “spine” issues and “rib” issues. Spine issues are backbones of the faith. The creed. Rib issues are matters of personal preference that might be important to us, but “are not matters of eternal life and death.” She asked us to label a diagram of what we consider to be spine issues and rib issues.
- Jesus was the God-man
- Jesus is the only way to God
- Salvation is through grace
- Jesus resurrected from the dead
- God’s Word is inerrant
- What translation of the Bible you use
- Musical preferences
- Women Bible teachers
- Spiritual gifts
Trouble arises when people start putting as much emphasis on “rib” issues as they do on “spine” issues. This has killed some churches and ruined the effectiveness of countless others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.” If we would only focus on THAT, a lot of the petty little squabbles between denominations would disappear. When we get to heaven, there will only be one body – unified and complete.
If you are one of those “my denomination is better than your denomination” people, you’d better be prepared for your “denomination” to disappear.
My Psalm 133:
It is awesome when believers come together in fellowship! It is like a breath of fresh air from heaven coming down to give us a taste of eternity. Christian unity is like cool refreshing rain, washing all our petty differences away. Pronounce Your blessing on us, Lord! Help us keep the main thing the main thing. Unite us as one body while we are here on earth, as we will be forevermore.