Passion for unity flows throughout biblical narratives and prayers. We may overlook the friction that threatened the confederacy of tribes united around worship of one God and awareness of a common ancestry. The book of Judges records a tragic incident that sparked a civil war that almost annihilated one of the tribes. After the death of King Solomon, the united tribes divide into two nations. Still, the quest for unity remains. As Jesus prayed shortly before the arrest that led to his execution, he prayed that his disciples would be one.
Psalm 133 celebrates unity as people of God come together to worship. The festivals of Israel brought together the people and reminded them of what united them. The palms may have been written by King David, or written much later to celebrate his vision for worship. The worshippers sang:
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!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
Three times the psalm rejoices in anointing as a metaphor for unity: the anointing oil runs down the beard of Aaron the priest, it runs down the collar of his robes, just as the dew of majestic Mount Hermon in northern Israel is said to fall also on the location of the temple, Mount Zion. The Lord blesses, and creates the conditions for, the unity of his worshipers. The unity begins with dwelling together, with community, as we praise our Creator and God. Sadly, we relish discriminating among ourselves and seeking what differentiates rather than what unites us. Rather than seek division, or avoid reconciliation if division already exists, lets meditate on these words, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
Father, help us to understand how we may overcome the pride and envy that divide us. Help us to navigate the difficult paths through controversy to reconciliation and unity. May we discern the ties that bind and seek to repair relationships that have frayed. May we learn again how to pray and to sing together so that we may enjoy your blessing, life evermore. In Jesus’ name, amen.