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Sunday, October 04, 2020

"The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" Psalm 133 [Matt's Messages]

“The Blessing of Aaron’s Oily Beard”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 4, 2020 :: Psalm 133

Psalm 133 is one of my all-time favorite Psalms in the whole Bible. It’s really short, really beautiful, and really weird. It’s got these strange (to us) images that just make you go “What?” when you read it. But when you get what it’s saying, it really sings! 

Psalm 133 is one of the “psalms of ascent” that the Israelites sang together as they traveled in family groupings up to Jerusalem to worship at the major feasts of Israel. 

Back in seminary, my Hebrew professor would have us sing the first line of this song together at the beginning of our class-times, in Hebrew.

I won’t try to do it for you today, but I imagine it was so beautiful to hear those Israelites singing it together as brothers as they went up, up, up to Zion.

Now, here’s why I picked it for today.

Because Psalm 133 is a praise song about unity.

It’s a paean of praise for unity among brothers.

And I am so grateful to God for the unity that we are experiencing as a church family these days.

Last week was so encouraging! It was so delightful to gather together as one church family, at least 169 of us. It’s hard to count people when they are in their cars. We might have missed some, but we counted at least 169 of us all together in the same place at the same time worshiping the same LORD.

Unity. Togetherness. Spiritual fellowship and oneness. That’s what this song is about.

Psalm 133 is a praise song about unity.

Let me read it to you, and just let these lovely words wash over you. And then I want to point out 4 things about unity that the psalm gives us and press them home to our hearts.


I first preached Psalm 133 after a “little event” we had on our campus here called “Wild West Day.” I’m just joking about it being little. We actually had 1200 people on our campus that Saturday in July 2001. (Back when there was no such thing as social distancing! Those were the days.)

Our little church banded together to put on a one-day western-themed outreach for our whole community, and it was huge.

But what was really amazing was how unified we were as a church family in putting it on.

There was no complaining, no jostling, no struggling with one another, no conflict.

Just total teamwork.

And I sensed the same thing last week from set-up to tear down for Celebration Sunday 2020. I said on Facebook, “I might be a tad biased, but I think our church has the best servants on the planet.” And it just continued as we all worshiped together.

And that’s why I picked Psalm 133 to just sing about how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters in Christ live together in unity.

And I want to give this sermon the same title as the one I did back in 2001, “The Blessing of Aaron’s Oily Beard.”

Four things. Here’s number one:

#1. UNITY IS RARE.

Hidden in your NIV is a little Hebrew word that is more visible in other translations such as the King James Version or the ESV. It’s the Hebrew word “hinneh,” and it’s often translated, “Behold!” which isn’t a word that we tend to use today.

You could say, “Look!” or “Check this out!” I think the NIV tries to accomplish the idea of this word with the HOW and the front coupled with an exclamation mark at the end of verse 1.

“Whoa, look at that!”

The point is that unity is a rare thing. Unity must be remarked upon. Unity must be noticed. It’s not seen all the time, so when unity crops up, attention must be drawn to it.

Behold! See what’s here! Look, unity!

Sadly, unity is sorely lacking in our world today.

Do I have to prove that to you? Do I need to give you examples? I know that I don’t.

Disunity, division, and fracturing is common. That’s what’s usual.

And that includes among Christians and churches.

I know that a lot of churches are struggling with one another over how to “do church” during this coronavirus pandemic.

And it’s not easy to know how to do it, and do it well.

Here at Lanse Free Church, we’ve tried hard to listen to everybody and to find creative ways of ministering to everybody the last 6 months, but I know it’s been frustrating at times for all of us.

And yet our church has been amazingly unified all along so far.

Yes, we’ve had to be physically apart, but we have been spiritually together.

Praying for one another.
Checking on one another.
Worshiping together.
Considering one another.
Respecting one another.

Last week was just the wonderful capstone of six months of unity.

We have been unified all along.

We decided as a church family to go ahead with 3 costly facilities improvement projects during a pandemic when we weren’t even meeting together at the same time! And we had an overwhelmingly positive vote for those projects with more members voting than I have ever seen in my 22 years here as your pastor. That’s a sign of unity.

We have like 6 separate seating sections on Sunday mornings plus Zoom on Sunday nights and others worshipping from home using the worship at home guide and sermon videos.

And yet we’re together. We’re unified.

That’s  rare. And it’s wonderful.

King David says, “[Behold! Look!] How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

#2. UNITY IS GOOD.

That word “good” there in verse 1 is the Hebrew word “tov” which takes us back to the creation of the world in Genesis 1 when God said that everything He made was “tov.” It was “good.” 

That is, it’s the way things ought to be.

It’s working. It’s right. It’s complete. It’s going according to plan.

It’s good. “How [tov] it is when brothers live together in unity.”

But it’s more than just “good.” It’s holy. Unity is so good it’s holy!

I think that’s the point of the first really weird word picture in verse 2.

And I love this. I actually wrote about it in Resisting Gossip because I love this really weird picture. Verse 2.

“It [the goodness of unity] is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.”

What in the world is going on here?

Believe it or not, this is psalm singing here about holiness.

Remember, precious oil is a symbol in the Bible of the anointing, consecrating, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. 

And David is drawing his imagery from the consecration of the Levitical priesthood, when Moses’s brother Aaron was consecrated as the first high priest.

You can read about it, without the singing part, in Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 and 21.

Do you remember that part of the Bible’s story? The Israelites did! They know exactly what David is referencing.

When Moses poured oil over Aaron’s head, he was consecrating Aaron and symbolizing Aaron’s being set apart for priestly work by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

And Psalm 133 tells us that it was a total consecration. You get the picture of this fragrant, perfumey slick stuff sliding down Aaron’s head and into his beard (he’d never get the smell out of it!) and down upon the collar of his robes. He was completely immersed in oily goo.

Do you hear the “down, down, down” in the song?

That’s Aaron being completely covered in precious oil!

Now, that sounds gross to our foreign and modern ears, but try to put yourself in Israelite shoes. Here is a poetic description of one of the most completely consecrated people, visibly holy by the marking of oil. 

And, catch this, David is saying that unity is like that. When brothers and sisters live together with rare unity, holiness is present.

So last week when we were together. Or today when we are together even if yet apart, there is something holy going on.

Not just good. But holy.

Something from another world.

Now, of course, if we are not being unified, then that signifies the opposite, doesn’t it? Unholy and wicked. That’s what sinful divisiveness is.

And we need to avoid that at all costs.

Because unity is rare, and it is good.

#3. UNITY IS PLEASANT.

Back up to verse 1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

It’s not just good. It feels good!
It’s joy-giving. It’s pleasant.

We all know how unpleasant conflict is. Stress. Strain. Pressure. Tension. Pain.

I’m sure that we could all tell stories about unpleasant conflict in our lives from the last seven days. 

And if you don’t have enough conflict in your life, just scroll down through your newsfeed, and you’ll experience plenty of unpleasantness.

Conflict does not feel good.

But true unity sure does.

Remember how nice the weather was last Sunday? Just perfect for outdoor worship.

I wish it was like that every week outside. We could just figure out a way of having worship like that every Sunday!

It was so pleasant.

Well, David uses weather like that to explain just how pleasant unity is in verse 3.

“It [spiritual unity] is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.”

Now, who is this Hermon guy?

This Hermon is not a guy. It’s actually a mountain. And so is Zion.

So there are two mountains and one dew.

I don’t know if this is where we get Mountain Dew from? Is that pleasant? I’m not so sure on that one.

But David says that the unity of brothers and sisters in the Lord is as if the dew of Mount Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.

Which if you know what that weird word picture means, it’s a beautiful description!

Do you know anything about these two mountains?

Mount Hermon was (is!) huge.

Mount Hermon is actually a mountain range that rises 9,200 feet above sea level, and extends some 16 to 20 miles from North to South. A little bigger than Sandy Ridge or Bald Eagle!

Mount Zion, on the other hand, was relatively small.  More like a little hill upon which the city of Jerusalem was built. It’s only 2,500 feet above sea level.

You get the picture? Big Hermon. Little Zion. 

How much dew on Hermon? A lot. A lot more than Zion.

So what happens if the dew of Hermon falls on Zion?

In verse 3, King David uses that same Hebrew word for “descending” from verse 2 (down, down, down), and he says “Imagine the dew of Hermon falling, descending, really–flooding upon Mount Zion.”

Imagine the deluge of water, the wetness carrying life-giving sustenance to a drier, more weary land! I read this week that sometimes Jerusalem Mt. Zion doesn’t even  get dew because it’s so dry.

So what happens if the dew of Hermon falls on Zion?

It would spring to life! All of that water would refresh Zion.

David is saying, imagine how green and fertile and rich and refreshed Mount Zion would be if Hermon’s dew covered it!

Now, apply that picture in your mind to unity because this song does. 

Unity is refreshing, restoring, reinvigorating, life-giving. It’s not just pleasant–it is completely refreshing.

Do remember how hot it was this summer, and it never rained?

And you remember what it was like to walk into air-conditioning? Or now that it’s cold outside what it’s like to take a hot shower, or eat a hot bowl of soup after coming inside?
Unity is that kind of pleasant.

Do you see why I love this psalm?

It makes one more major point.

#4. UNITY IS BLESSING.

And by that I mean it’s a gift from God. From the LORD. Capital L-O-R-D. From Yahweh. V.3 again.

“It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there [Mt. Zion?] the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Unity is pictured as coming out of Mt. Zion which in the Old Testament was the earthly symbol of the presence of God with man.  Unity is pictured as coming from God’s presence mediated at Jerusalem, specifically at the temple in the Old Testament, and coming out to us as a part of the blessing of “life forevermore.”

And it’s the gift of God.

The LORD bestows this blessing.

Psalm 133 is a praise song about unity, but it is not praising us.

It is not praising Israel.

It is not praising Lanse Free Church for being so unified.

Who gets the glory?

God does!

Unity is not something we can do on our own. I didn’t pick this song to pat ourselves on the back.

I did it to give thanks to the LORD for his gracious blessing on us.

Because unity is a gift from God.

We sure don’t deserve it, but we sure do benefit from it when He gives it to us.

Psalm 133 does not tell us how to maintain unity. The rest of the Bible has a lot to say about that.

On Wednesday nights, our on-campus prayer meeting is studying what love is from 1 Corinthians 13. We do have a responsibility to do our part to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

And I exhort us all to keep up all of our efforts to be unified.

Keep loving each other!

It is not normal. 

What is normal is not good and not pleasant. And the world is full of it.

We are called to be a counter-culture community that is different from the world.

And it’s not just automatic. It involves patience and forgiveness and respect and humility and kindness and forbearance and consideration of others.

Maintaining unity is a lot of work.

But it is worth it. It is so worth it!

And, ultimately, it doesn’t come from our hard work.

It comes from the LORD.

Only He is rare enough, good enough, holy enough, pleasant enough to bestow the life-giving blessing of unity.

Praise the LORD!


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