Friday, October 11, 2013

Dwelling Together in Unity

Today is the final day in our 40th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* today are:  Jeremiah 25, 35, 36, 45; James 3; Psalm 133.

Psalm 133 is one of my favorite psalms, because as a pastor, I love it when God's people dwell together in unity.  Too often, churches can be places for contentious quarreling.  Better indeed is the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit!  Psalm 133 is only three verses long.  In its entirety, it reads:

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

Verse three compares unity to oil.  This is because throughout the Bible, oil represents the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  It was used to anoint kings, priests, and prophets, as well as holy objects and places.  I'm reminded of Mark 14:3-9, where Jesus was anointed at Bethany.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world,what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

The alabaster jar that the woman had was constructed in such a way that it had to be broken open in order for the oil to flow.  If we want the Holy Spirit's unity to flow in our homes and in our churches, there must be brokenness as well.  Broken egos that are willing to open themselves to the opinions of others, and to God's leadership.

When the Holy Spirit begins to flow, it can be messy.  The Spirit gets everywhere--uncontrollably flowing down on the beard, on the collar of robes, into the lives of people you never imagined, into neighborhoods you'd given up on, into enterprises that surprise you, into movements that catch you off guard.  There's no stopping the Spirit, who flows when you're broken, who flows when there's unity.

The psalmist also compares unity to the dew of Hermon, falling on Mount Zion.  Some translations have the dew of Hermon and the dew of Mount Zion falling, and others say that Hermon's dew falls on Zion.  The Pulpit Commentary says this:
The interpolation of the words, "and as the dew," is quite unwarrantable, and spoils the sense. It substitutes duality for unity, and destroys the parity of the two illustrations. Translate, "As the dew of Hermon, that cometh down upon the mountains of Zion." The psalmist sees the moisture which fertilizes the Holy Land, and makes it the fertile land that it is, all given forth from Hermon, the one greatmountain at its head. As Dr. Kay well observes, "Physically, Hermon was to Canaan what Aaron was ceremonially to Israel - its head and crown, from which the fertilizing stores of heaven descended over the land. For not only does the one great river of Palestine, the Jordan, issue from the roots of Hermon, but the giant mountain is constantly gathering and sending off clouds, which float down even to Southern Zion." For there (i.e. in Zion)the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore. The reference is to Leviticus 25:21, and perhaps to Deuteronomy 28:8
In other words, the anointing comes from the top down.  Just like oil starts at the crown of the head and moves down upon the robes, so the dew and the waters of Hermon flow to Mount Zion.  When there's unity among the "people at the top," there's a trickle-down effect of blessing for everybody.  

I wish our President and members of Congress knew this.  Just imagine the blessing that would flow to our nation if the "people at the top" could dwell together in unity.

But there must first be brokenness for that to happen.  Broken egos.  Broken agendas.  Broken hearts before God.  Let's pray for brokenness in Washington, and for God's blessing to flow.

*All scriptures today taken from the NIV.


(A side note:  I've been quite impressed with the new edition of the NIV, which is now gender-inclusive.  Lately, I've been listening to the 2011 edition NIV on Biblegateway, and reading along with my 1984 edition NIV.  The difference is astounding!  The NIV used to have a masculine gender bias, but the recent edition cleans this up beautifully.  For example, the 1984 edition rendered Psalm 133:1 as "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"  There was no need to translate this word "brothers" in the masculine, yet the old consistently chose masculine terms when gender-neutral was the original intent.  The 2011 version gives us "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!"  Kudos for you, NIV (biblica, inc)!  Maybe I'll go out and buy a new NIV Bible, now that you've decided to be more inclusive.)

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