How Good and Pleasant: Psalm 133


Psalm 133

 

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
2 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!


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3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

 

True Beauty

When the Bible describes “brothers dwelling in unity” as “good and pleasant,” this greatly challenges our aesthetic values. “Totalitarian aesthetics” seek grand scenes: one thinks of Hitler’s speeches, which ignited the passions of millions of Germany. Although the speeches united Germany, they became a nightmare for other nations. In our own culture, the “big parade” seems to be the time of the most passion – but what does this have to do with beauty and goodness? It just feels terrifying.

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“If an aesthetic sense exists merely to please fallen sinful nature, then God hates our appreciation of beauty.

Our understanding of beauty and goodness must be renewed by God’s perspective. Yet when fallen humans try to imitate the beauty and goodness of God, we inevitably butcher them. In today’s world, beauty and goodness seem to be an individual concern. Aesthetics is relegated to the private domain, because every individual perceives beauty differently. As a result, it is impossible for any group to manifest beauty and goodness through its communal life, because each person has a different beauty-sense. When all are brought together, this creates many disagreements.

If an aesthetic sense exists merely to please fallen sinful nature, then God hates our appreciation of beauty. In the Garden of Eden, Eve saw the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was “a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” So she took it and ate it, and as a result, her eyes were opened. She realized that the beautiful fellowship of husband and wife had become ugly. The most important union – the marriage in which two become one, the community in which they could be naked and unashamed – was thus torn apart by sin.

A Redeemed Aesthetic

In order to understand Psalm 133, we must rightly see the glorious church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

 Marriage, the community that was torn apart by sin, was redeemed by Christ. Our aesthetic sense has also been redeemed, and we know that all goodness comes from above, coming down from the Father of light. One of the results of having our minds and hearts renewed by God is that we love God more and more. God himself is the source of all goodness.

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“Christianity is a way of life that pursues true beauty and goodness.

What a surprise this is to those who think Christians are rigid and serious. They think Christianity is only a series of rules and regulations; they do not know that Christianity is a way of life that pursues true beauty and goodness.

Blessing Flows From Above

The author uses two metaphors to describe this beautiful scene of brothers living together in harmony.

The first example is of “precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” This is a picture of an elderly man with a full beard, being anointed with the holy oil of the priests. This symbolizes that the whole nation of Israel was chosen by God to be a kingdom of priests, and Israel’s people are to live a life of holiness and worship. This life is the reason for the harmonious cohabitation of the brothers, who have come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord and to receive the blessings that come from above.

The second metaphor speaks of “the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” Mount Hermon was the highest peak in northern Israel, and the dew that flowed from there was the source of water, nourishing the people, livestock, and plants of Israel. This dew symbolizes life and blessing.

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“The harmonious cohabitation of brothers has to do with the heart of God. His blessing brings true union… All goodness comes from above. Without the renewal of God’s grace, there is no good.

From these two metaphors we clearly see that the harmonious cohabitation of brothers has to do with the heart of God. The Lord’s blessing brings true union to Israel, an organized and organic community. All goodness comes from above. Without the renewal of God’s grace, there is no good. That is why this psalms keeps talking  of  descent: we can only have life and blessing if we are reconnected to God.

Has this sign of blessedness been revealed in our lives today? Are you living a blessed life? Are you loving your neighbor in the love of God? If you cannot love your brother whom you see with your eyes, how can you claim to love the invisible God? We can only live this life of unity and love for one another if the Holy Spirit has poured out God’s love in our hearts. We must ask God to take back our hearts from the adulterous woman of this world, and, as Christ’s holy bride, to long for our holy bridegroom.

Brother Fan is a pseudonym for a preacher at an urban house church in southwest China.

 

PRAYER

 Lord,

Help us to commit ourselves together to the holy community of the church. Let us truly see the glorious church, Christ’s bride, and may each of our gatherings be a beautiful experience. After going through many ups and downs, we so long for this beautiful fellowship, a clear proof of God’s blessing and renewal. For no believer is an only child, but we share a common Father and an elder brother, Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead. O Lord Jesus Christ, come quickly! For this bride is fully adorned and awaiting her husband.

   


We are using the Psalms to guide our prayers for China

In 2022, our prayer movement is turning to the scriptural prayers found in the Psalms as we pray for the Chinese church. When you join our prayer movement, you will receive weekly prayer emails and a monthly newsletter so that you too can pray for our brothers and sisters in China.

  

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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