The Fragrance of Unity
Cliff Jones, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
A Meditation on Psalm 133
The beauty and blessedness of brethren dwelling together in unity is brought before us in Psalm 133. Lasting unity is not experienced in the world. Attempts to achieve unity among the nations fail sooner or later, and there is increasing disunity within them and families. Organisations strive to achieve this unity because it is the foundation of military, political and economic strength. One of the major aims of invading forces has always been to divide and conquer because unity is strength whereas division is weakness.
GOOD AND PLEASANT
David, the human author of Psalm 133, knew the trouble, weakness and sadness brought about by lack of unity both in a nation and in a family. Led now by the Holy Spirit, he tells us to consider how good and how pleasant it is to behold brethren dwelling together in unity, v. 1. It is something 'to behold', 'to ponder’, and on which 'to meditate’, because it is such a rare, wonderful and delightful thing. On account of our sinful natures, Rom. 3. 23, it does not come naturally.
Brethren dwelling together in unity please God, and those enjoying such an experience are truly blessed. The Lord prayed to His Father for unity among believers, asking 'that they may be one, as we are', John 17. 11.
Unity existed in the early days of the church at Jerusalem when 'the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul’, Acts 4. 32.
Elsewhere in Acts we read of believers united together: in prayer, 1. 14; 4. 24; in one place, 2. 1, 44; praising God, 2. 46, 47; and serving God, 5. 12.
Unity is not uniformity. We serve in different ways, for the Spirit distributes, as He wills, the various gifts to be exercised in the local assembly and this for the spiritual blessing of believers and the glory of God. We are all different. Who knows this better than He who made us. When we consider Martha, Mary and Lazarus, whose home at Bethany the Lord loved to visit, we see three very different personalities. Martha, busy and impetuous; Mary, passive and contemplative, and Lazarus, quiet, reserved and a living witness to the power of God, having been raised from the dead, John 11. 44. Three very different temperaments and they served the Lord in different ways. That's how it should be. He loved each one of them, equally and without distinction, John 11. 5.
Moving from the spiritual to the physical and mundane, there are things which we might find pleasant to eat, but which are not good for us. On the other hand, there may be some things, which are good for us, but we might not find them particularly pleasant. However, the unity David wrote of is both good and pleasant.
It is not ecumenism and is not achieved by doctrinal compromise. It is a unity of mind and purpose, based on love for the Lord and a God-given desire to do His will as revealed in the Scriptures. The early church was united and 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship’, Acts 2. 42.
The psalm speaks of brethren dwelling together in unity. This is a continuing, not a temporary or fluctuating unity such as might be experienced in worldly organisations. To achieve such unity, our natural, self-centred pride must be overcome by submission to the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. For this cause we should examine ourselves and our motives for the things we do and say. There is a need to avoid being unbalanced, in the sense of stressing one particular aspect of truth to the exclusion of others, and also for all in fellowship to avoid cliques and divisions, 1 Cor. 1. 10, by endeavouring 'to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace', Eph. 4. 3. Striving for a dominant position will destroy unity: there must be no such strife, Phil. 2. 3, but rather, lowliness, meekness, long-suffering and a forbearing of one another in love, Eph. 4. 2. Love is one of the fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5. 22, 23, and we are told to 'love one another: for love is of God', 1 John 4. 7. The Lord commanded us to 'love one another; as I have loved you', John 13. 34. Our love is to be real and 'without dissimulation’, Rom. 12. 9, unfeigned, with a pure heart and fervent, 1 Pet. 1. 22, and 'in deed and in truth’, 1 John 3. 18. Our love for one another is proof and evidence of our salvation, 1 John 3. 14; John 13. 35. Loving God, seeking His glory and living in submissive obedience to the word of God, all the while considering 'one another to provoke unto love and to good works', Heb. 10. 24, will help to bring into being the atmosphere and environment in which brethren dwell together in unity and peace. We have the promise, 'be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you', 2 Cor. 13. 11.
Dwelling together in unity is likened to 'precious ointment', v. 2. The precious ointment or oil referred to was made from pure myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus and cassia, each being bound and blended together in olive oil. The oil speaks of the Holy Spirit. It was made in accordance with a formula given by God and was not to be duplicated. This was the oil with which the head of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, his sons and the vessels of the tabernacle were anointed, Lev. 8. 12; Exod. 30. 22-33. The oil was fragrant and pleasant like the unity spoken of in the psalm.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest, Heb. 4. 14. He is the only begotten, eternal and beloved Son of God. He was born of a virgin and is eternally sinless, holy, gracious, compassionate, full of love. He is the Lord and Saviour of all those who have been saved by grace, through faith in Him, Eph. 2. 8, 9, and to them He is 'altogether lovely', S. of S. 5. 16, and His very name is fragrant. This precious unity of believers has only been made possible by the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus on the cross and by the working within us of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 12. 13.
The fragrant oil ran down from Aaron's head onto his beard and priestly garments. Unlike the Lord Jesus, Aaron was made fragrant by this oil, it was not his naturally. When Mary anointed the Lord's feet with precious ointment and wiped them with her hair, the odour of the ointment filled the house, and must have clung to Mary, John 12. 3. As believers we should have in our unity, service, and witness for the Lord, His own fragrance, the fragrance of Christ. He is the head of the body, which is the church, and, by grace, we are members of that body, Col. 1. 18, bound and blended together by the unifying work of the Holy Spirit. The fragrant oil flowed, and love and blessings flow to and from believers dwelling together in unity.
THERE THE BLESSING
In the third verse of the psalm, dwelling in unity is likened to dew. If we omit the italicised words we have, 'As the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion'. The copious, refreshing and invigorating dew descended from Mount Hermon on to the mountains of Zion, providing life-giving moisture.
Moisture is needed for the germination of seeds and the growth and fruit-bearing of plants. Dew does not descend in a storm but in the quietness and calmness of the night, a time of stillness when men are resting and not striving. God's invigorating power and refreshing blessings are diffused upon believers who are resting in Him and enjoying the fruits of unity. How good and pleasant to be in an assembly where there is unity, and where, at prayer meetings, one or another brother will praise and give thanks to God for the unity that prevails and prays that it might continue.
Where there is true, continuous unity among believers, there the Lord commands and gives the blessing, v. 3. This is the environment in which all the Lord's people worship and serve together out of love for Him and for the glory of God. This is done all in accordance with His revealed will to them. Here there is a fragrance of Christ, and sinners saved by grace, and having life for evermore, will be nurtured and built up in their holy faith. The atmosphere will be attractive to those who do not belong to it. When the seed of the word of God is sown where there is love and unity, it will develop and flourish, ultimately producing fruit to the glory of God.
Let us endeavour, therefore, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in peace and 'let brotherly love continue', Heb. 13. 1.