The Importance of Unity
(H) A Song of Ascents. Of David. (1) Behold, how good and how 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 onto the collar of his robes. (3) (It is) like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion, for there Yahweh commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.
Three repetitions and two similes mark these three verses. As for the repetitions, the adjective translated “good” (vs. 1) is found again in the next verse (vs. 2). However, there it is better translated “precious” when used to describe the special oil used for anointing priests. The noun, “beard,” is also used twice in this verse (vs. 2). The same verb translated twice as the participle “running down” (vs. 2) is used a third time as a participle where it means “falling on” (vs. 3).
Two similes, used to describe brotherly unity, shape the essence of the psalm’s message. The first speaks of the anointing oil poured in such abundance on Aaron’s head at his inauguration as Israel’s High Priest that it overflowed into his beard and onto the collar of his robe (vs. 2). This sharing of the nation’s leadership between two brothers, Moses and Aaron, has long stood as a testimony to the importance of working together cooperatively.
The second simile compares brotherly unity to the dew from Mt. Hermon watering Mt. Zion (vs. 3). Mt. Hermon, a snow-covered peak over 9,000 feet in altitude (2814 m), towers over northern Israel. Because of its elevation, this tallest mountain in the region captures an abundance of moisture on its slopes which it shares with the hilly region surrounding Mt. Zion, a much drier area standing at a much lower altitude, just over 2400 feet (800 m), about 130 miles to the south. The topography of the Holy Land thus provides an excellent example of the value of cooperation and unity.
I. Exclamation: How pleasing is brotherly unity! (1)
II. Explanation: Why unity is so pleasing. (2 & 3)
- It is like the anointing oil poured on the head of Aaron. (2)
- It is like the dew from Mt. Hermon which waters Mt. Zion. (3)
When unity exists among us, it brings both joy and great blessing to all.
In the New Testament frequent mention is made about the importance of unity particularly within the church, the body of Christ. Jesus called his disciples to mutual love with the New Commandment: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34 & 35). He then prayed for unity among his disciples in his great High Priestly prayer: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:20 & 21). Our unity thus reflects the unity experienced within the Trinity among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and provides a vital testimony to an unbelieving world of the reality of our faith.
Paul appealed to believers to strive for unity in their church relationships with passages like Ephesians 4:1-6 which include the exhortation, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The results of division and dissension can be disastrous. Believers may well be left confused and embittered. Unbelievers, instead of being drawn into fellowship with Christ, may find occasion to ridicule our faith and often decide against having anything to do with a group whose members cannot seem to get along with one another. However, when there is a spirit of unity and genuine love among brothers and sisters in a church fellowship, there are few things more attractive to those who are yearning for a meaningful relationship with God.