We are going to leave our study in the book of Acts this week to look at this psalm. This is a psalm of ascents, which means it was likely sung by Israelites as they neared Jerusalem on their way up to worship the Lord at an annual feast, such as Passover.
The psalm is about the blessedness of unity among God’s people: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (verse 1). We know how blessed peace is in our relationships, and how fleeting it can be. Because of sin we all have a divisive, war-like nature within. It’s not easy to get along with each other, but when we do we are happier.
The Lord commands his people to love one another and to have unity in him. David uses two easy to remember metaphors to teach us the root and blessedness of true unity in the Lord. The first one is in verse 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.”
Aaron was the high priest, and this imagery refers to his anointing as the high priest, the representative before God for the people. He would offer sacrifices for the atonement of the sins of God’s people. The root of unity for sinners is to first have reconciliation with God through forgiveness of sins. If no one has room to boast, then it is easy to be unified over gratitude to the Lord for salvation.
Aaron’s anointing pointed to the coming of the Anointed One of God, the Messiah or Christ, the greater high priest who would offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of his people. This is Jesus of Nazareth, whom all the prophets spoke of, and who did mighty works, who suffered and died upon the cross for sinners, and who rose from the dead for our justification.
Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, and the waters running down from his head are comforting to us because we know he was committing to be our representative before God to take away our sins.
Christ absorbed all our sin and was consumed by God as the ultimate sacrifice. It is his precious blood that makes us clean and destroys the hostility between God and us. He puts everything back in harmony between God and us.
The peace he makes with us is not only taking away the wrath of God against us. When he makes peace, he confers all good to us: reconciliation, adoption as children of God, fellow heirs of the inheritance of God, and assurance that we may go boldly to the throne of God for all we need here and when we depart from here.
Christian unity is built upon the truth and Spirit of Christ. The poor in spirit are those who inherit the kingdom of God. They are united in the knowledge of their need of salvation. Therefore, they are united in their love for Christ, and it flows down to love for his people.
The secret to Christian unity is putting the truth and honor of Christ first, and placing others before yourself. Neither is possible without God’s Spirit, but we are responsible to strive to grow in both. To be sincere we must be thankful.
The second metaphor (verse 3) is the imagery of heavy dew falling upon a high mountain. In a dry, hot place, the cool, moist dew of a higher altitude can revive the body. It is refreshing. So too is the Spirit of God to the soul. We must be heavenly minded.
Christians are never to forget that we are on a pilgrimage to God. We are to live above the present world in that sense. A worldly self-centeredness is not a mark of God’s Spirit. James writes in his epistle of two different ways of thinking that lead to two different ways of living.
Jealousy, selfish ambition, and such lead to boasting and denying the truth. Wisdom from above is meek, peaceable, and full of good fruit (James chapter three). James is speaking of the blessedness of the heavenly dew, even though he doesnot use the metaphor.
The devil wants us for his own; our sinful nature seeks to control us, so we have need to remember these metaphors. The first one leads to the second. We remember Christ crucified is our only comfort in life and in death, and we remember the blessedness of denying ourselves for his glory is the way of peace and comfort.