“How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!”
Psalms 133:1 NIVUK
Another Psalm from David. This is another “Song of Ascents”, sung by God’s people during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. You can just imagine him watching the crowds of pilgrims, ascending the roads and paths up to Jerusalem. And what he observed brought into his mind thoughts of unity. You can almost feel the emotional glow in his musings, when he thinks about “How good and pleasant” unity is. And we too can imagine joining that throng of people, singing, shouting, laughing. A throng full of joy and camaraderie. But perhaps the exclamation mark at the end of this verse reveals that this was not the normal state of affairs. Perhaps, in those days long ago, God’s people were far from being unified in their approach to their lives and religion. David finished the Psalm with thoughts about the anointing of Aaron back in Leviticus, and the importance of that event in Israel’s history. How it then unified the people as they stood before God.
Today there is little unity in society. Everyone seems to have their own opinions about everything and anything in life, and Christians are not excluded from having their own ideas. Perhaps this was what was in Jesus’ mind when He referred to people as “being like sheep without a shepherd”. Lost and rudderless in the sea of life. In many ways societies today have lost their way because they don’t have a life compass any more. Their moral parameters have disappeared. The concept of there being an ultimate Creator God is now largely missing from society and if thought about at all, is considered irrelevant. So perhaps when David observed the pilgrims ascending the heights, he realised what was missing from his society. I wonder what he would have thought about 21st Century Western society!
The verse about oil is significant. The ritual of a priest being anointed with oil is a practice not normally found in our liturgies today. But if we replace the precious oil with the precious Holy Spirit, then we have a different situation. God loves unity. And through His Spirit He brings that unity, that togetherness, into our lives and communities. Unity doesn’t mean that we all have to be clones of some God-image, all behaving in the same way. But it does mean we must all have the same understanding and are in agreement over the important issues in our faith, and particularly our faith in our loving Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit is the glue that binds us, God’s people together. Sadly, too many Christians get caught up in differences between denominations. Instead of celebrating the Biblical foundations of our faith, they criticise and ridicule the liturgical differences. And on the way, the Christian faith can be replaced by militant sectarianism, demeaning God and His ways.
So how do God’s people, Christians, live together in unity? We pray of course. But more than that, we do what Jesus would do – we show God’s love, grace and compassion to those around us, regardless of their denominations.