True Unity Comes from God Alone.

Psalm 133 has a simple structure around the theme of unity. In reality, unity is not as simple as it sounds. Our unity is only as good as our Savior; if we lack unity, it might be because we are not in our Savior.

Especially in families, times that should bring people together often highlight the differences that are present. Abraham and his nephew Lot realized they needed to spread out to avoid competing for scarce resources in the land of Canaan.

Psalm 133 is a psalm of ascent that Jews would sing as they made pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year as they were commanded. Surely these trips also resulted in some family tensions. Ephesians 4:3 says that the church must strive and fight to maintain the unity the Spirit provides. This can be very complicated because it always involves fallen people. Even this past year, divisive issues in our country have also threatened the church.

Characteristics of Unity

What kind of unity does this psalm speak of? Verse 1 says it is "good and pleasant." This means it is morally upright and aesthetically excellent or beautiful.

There is a unity that should not be celebrated (Psalm 2, Romans 1). One example is the Tower of Babel, where people unified to rally against God. Another example is the world of middle school, where people want others to think and look exactly like them. Unfortunately, many adults never graduate from this mentality. Yet this is a cheap, fabricated form of unity. Current hot-button issues change quickly. There is something much greater to unify around, Someone who will live forever.

Unity must be pursued. “Behold” in verse 1 is a word of surprise, because unity is not always true of God’s people. It is a struggle that involves a lot of asking for forgiveness, overlooking personality, and giving the benefit of the doubt. Maintaining unity takes a lot of work and self-examination.

This psalm reminded the Jewish people of their shared history that united them. The word “brothers” teaches that the nation was a family in God because He was their Father. They were a group of people with a singular identity, who had been unified by sharing the same cry under oppression. (See the story of the book of Exodus.) Often Israel was united because circumstances pushed them together and to the Lord. Unfortunately, they were later also unified in rejecting Jesus as their Messiah.

But the unity of this psalm is not solely based on shared experiences, values, or thinking. This unity is found in their God. Spiritual unity cannot be fabricated by checking all the right boxes. Unity is not agreeing on every single detail, having the same preferences, looking for the one best idea to unite around, or adherence to "my way or the highway." The true test of unity is when there are disagreements. Real unity in Yahweh is surprising.

The New Testament celebrates the practical results of such unity in Christ. If Holy Spirit is producing it, the product of unity will always be the same goal, God’s glory.

The Source of Unity

Spiritual unity from Yahweh transcends all human rallying points. It is so good and pleasant because God is the source.

Both pictures of oil and dew in Psalm 133 show that this unity is produced by God Himself. The precious oil was used to anoint priests and kings. (See Exodus 29 and throughout the Old Testament.) The anointing oil showed this was God’s man, blessed for God’s work. It bestowed and symbolized responsibility, authority, and God’s presence and blessing. In Psalm 133:2, this specific and special blessing was unpacked for the entire nation to enjoy in unity. Yet this privileged position came at a great cost. The anointing of Aaron and his sons as priests was followed by the substitutionary sacrifice of a ram, illustrating the gross price of sin (Exodus 29:10-28).

Similarly, every individual in Christ is blessed and responsible and carries great significance, because each has had their sins transferred to Christ, the only sacrificial lamb who can truly take away our sins. Our unity in Christ is precious because it is costly.

Both pictures give an all-encompassing sign of provision. Oil covers Aaron’s head, beard, and robes – all of him. Dew from Mount Hermon in the north of Israel flows all the way to Jerusalem in the south. These blessings are described three times as “coming down.” As the Jews are ascending up to the Temple of God, they are reminded in this psalm that all blessing is sourced in Him and rains down on them.

The Results of Unity

Unity is not humanly produced, but divinely decreed. The Church’s rallying cry is the Gospel, because that is the only thing that will make a lasting difference. Many things can distract us, even good things. Unity is a direct result of learning, loving, and worshipping God according to His Word. It is commanded to be pursued in obedience. As a tangible manifestation of the presence of God, unity is always linked with blessing: life forever.

Application Points
  • You can't experience the true unity this psalm speaks of without being in and around God’s people. First, are you in Christ? Do you know the person who brings unity to all mankind? Jesus Christ unites us to the God of Heaven and to each other. Second, are you in regular fellowship with God's people in your local church, even if that sometimes produces tension?
  • What are you unified around? We are prone to wander and fabricate unity. It is easy to settle for less, but superficial unity around ideas or preferences or anything less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ will not last. Why are you in the church, and why do you enjoy the unity of this place? Be careful to unify around what will last forever.
  • Maintaining unity takes a lot of work and self-examination. It is a struggle that involves a lot of asking for forgiveness, overlooking personality, and giving the benefit of the doubt. How are you doing at this? Do you need to ask the Spirit's help to pursue unity in a specific situation?
  • The true test of unity is disagreement. Are you struggling to maintain unity? Ask God to show you what in your life is not "in Christ," submitted to His lordship.