A song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: That went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Such is the joyful exclamation of the sweet psalmist of Israel. He beholds all Israel coming up the mountain to worship the Lord with one heart and one mind. He sees all Israel gathered to worship God. He hears that with one voice they confess God to be their God.
It had not always been so. For many years the land and nation had been torn by the divisiveness of an evil king. He had torn the nation away from God to bring it into subjection to himself. That king God had rejected. Rejected by God, the king had desperately clung to power and control. In his hatred for God and the neighbor, he had relentlessly persecuted the Lord’s anointed. The king had decimated the priesthood and the worship of God. Finally and fatally, he had gone to see the witch of Endor and had come to a terrible end when he met his God on the top of Mount Gilboa.
And still relief had not come. The worthless son of that evil king was propped up in a divisive puppet kingship, and the nation was plunged into a terrible civil war. Tribe warred against tribe, family against family, and brother against brother. The fields were burned; the forests were cut down; the cattle lay bloated in the ditches; the graves of the mighty slain grew in number; a somber, eerie haze of war hung over the land; and a nervous, anxious tension gripped the hearts of the inhabitants of the land.
Yet the house of David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. Slowly but surely, the tribes gave their allegiance to David, the Lord’s anointed. And Jehovah went up with a shout; he set his king upon Zion’s holy hill, and all Israel gathered to him. One house, one kingdom, one nation was formed under one head.
And now a good and pleasant scene unfolds before David: all the tribes coming up joyfully to worship Jehovah with one heart and one mind under one shepherd. The groups of pilgrims coming out of their homes stream up to worship Jehovah. There is joy in their minds, happiness in their hearts, praise on their lips, and fruitfulness in the land. Prosperity abounds! Israel dwells safely together, every man under his vine and under his fig tree. There is one head, one heart, and one mind. Israel lifts up its voice again in thanksgiving and worship to God, the God of Israel.
How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity!
The blessing of God!
For God is unity in himself. He is the one, simple God. There is only one God. And God is simple; he is his perfections. He is love, grace, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and mercy. All his perfections are one in him, and there is no disharmony or war in him. He is perfectly self-sufficient, fullness and satisfaction itself. Because he is almighty, all his willing and wishing and desiring are perfectly fulfilled, so there are no frustrated desires in God.
And he is triune. He makes brethren dwell together in unity because that is who he is in himself. His blessing consists in delightful unity among the brethren because in that unity he makes them taste his own goodness as the covenant God. Within the divine being of God subsist three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And what delightful, good, and pleasant dwelling together there is among them! The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father. The Father embraces his Son in the Spirit, and the Son presses himself into the bosom of his Father in the Spirit. Sweet communion! Jehovah, the covenant God in himself. Perfect unity in Trinity, and Trinity in unity. Three dwelling together, the one true God.
Such pleasant unity did God create in the beginning. A unified, harmonious earthly creation concentrated in the heart of Adam, who consecrated all to the glory of God. A unified heavenly realm under a mighty prince of the angels to the glory of God.
Yet not all was well in heaven. Pride tore the unity of heaven, and the devil and his demons were cast out as the enemies of God. Woe to the inhabitants of earth! Into the earth and into the midst of the garden, the terrible fiend came to mar the beautiful unity of that place. And giving ear to the devil, man rent the unity of the earth by his sin! Listen as he defends himself in his sin: “The woman thou gavest me!”
And such is the state of man outside of Christ. The world is torn by strife and divisions, wars and rumors of war, social upheavals, schisms, family feuds, marital strife, interpersonal hatred, envy, and every evil work. Such is all that man can do. To such divisiveness he is driven by the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. Far from God and at war with each other is the state of man. The only unity that man can create is devilish and antichristian. Man’s unity in the world creates an abominable monster—to whom the dragon gives his power and seat and great authority— who blasphemes the God of heaven and wears out the saints of God. Man’s unity in the church creates only a deceptive creature that looks like a lamb but speaks as a dragon and causes the whole world to worship man and the dragon.
Such man does also in the church of God. Does not the Bible call the heretic a divider and heresy division? What did the heresy of works-righteousness produce in the Galatian churches? “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). Did not those heretics trouble the church, so that the apostle wished they were cut off? “I would they were even cut off which trouble you” (v. 12). Does not the Bible lay at the feet of the lusts of man all wars and fighting? “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:1–2). Does not the Bible lay blame for all the envying, strife, confusion, and every evil work in the church on the application of wisdom that descends not from above? “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (3:14–16). Surely where false doctrine comes in, where the lusts of men reign, and where the earthly, sensual, and devilish wisdom of man is applied, there will never be unity.
And there too, where the lusts and wisdom of man reign, the true unity of the brethren will be evil spoken of. Man is not only unable to create good and pleasant unity, but he also hates it. Man’s unity, which is only a false and evil imitation of the unity of the Spirit, is a unity against the truth; a unity enforced by command, fear, and terror; and unity in which the truth is threatened, silenced, and finally cast out, in order that men might enjoy the peace of the graveyard, united together in death.
Indeed, man will dare object against unity in the truth that the unity is, in fact, divisive and dangerous, and man casts the truth out as the cause of division.
A divine creation, a mysterious and spiritual gift of grace, it is when brethren dwell together in unity. There!
There, where brethren dwelled together in unity, Jehovah commanded his blessing. By command he creates. The unity cannot fail to be any more than light could have failed to come into being when God commanded light to be. His command brings grace to the eternal objects of his grace, and his grace creates good and pleasant unity.
Such was Zion, the city of the great king, where all the tribes of Jehovah went up. Where Jehovah dwelled in his name and where Jehovah’s glory was revealed between the cherubim of the ark. There Jehovah put his king upon the holy hill of Zion. There all Israel was united in its one head, the king after God’s own heart. There all Israel was consecrated in the confession of He makes brethren dwell together in unity because that is who he is in himself. His blessing consists in delightful unity among the brethren because in that unity he makes them taste his own goodness as the covenant God. SWORD AND SHIELD | 5 the truth and the true worship of God by one priest.
Oh, they did not merely exist together. They were not merely bound together outwardly as the slats of a barrel are bound together with iron rings. Surely, they did not exist together in a mutual hostility. They dwelled together as brethren: as the loving members of one household of God, as the many members of one body are joined together into one man. They were knit together in a common confession; knit together in a common love of God and of the brethren; knit together and made one in their head; and joined in one heart, mind, and will. When they talked together their speech was with grace seasoned with salt. They all together confessed their sins in their sacrifices to God; all together they confessed that their right to come into the temple and to draw near to God was by the sacrifices and shedding of the blood of the lambs, as that looked forward to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God; all together they worshiped God in the beauty of holiness and offered unto him the fit sacrifice of true worship.
So good and so pleasant!
Good in itself as the creation of God. Pleasant in itself and bringing with it delight for the hearts and minds of the brethren. Good as the very purpose of God for his church, a reflection of and participation in the good and pleasant fellowship of God’s own life. There was life with God. There in the presence of God were joys and pleasures forevermore. There the people were united together in the confession of God as their God, enjoyed his fellowship, and had fellowship with one another.
And such good and pleasant dwelling together in unity does God create in his church. There he commands his blessing. One head he made in Jesus Christ, David’s greater Son, God in the flesh. In him first there is perfect unity—a unity of God and man in the one person of the Son. In his person there is unity in which God and man dwell together in perfect fellowship and have perfect friendship. And that he not be an only child, God foreknew and predestinated in him many brethren. And these he calls, justifies, and sanctifies in Christ. He creates one body, one new man, one holy temple of the living God. And these all are united in one Christ with one Spirit, one baptism, and one God and Father.
And they do dwell together in unity. Together with one heart they believe the truth. Together with one mouth they confess the same truth. Together with pure joy they are consecrated to the true worship and confession of God. With joy they confess together their salvation by pure grace and their fellowship with God through Jesus Christ alone by faith in him alone. Together they give themselves and offer themselves as a new royal priesthood, a living sacrifice of thanksgiving to the God of their salvation to praise his name and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
There is the sure sign of the presence of his Spirit. There is the sure sign of the presence of Jehovah himself bestowing his blessing and wonderful grace.
So good and so pleasant is this unity!
Such unity in the truth, in heart, mind, and purpose, is like the precious ointment upon the head that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, and that went down to the skirts of his garments. As David beholds the beautiful dwelling together of brethren in Mount Zion, the Spirit takes his mind to a scene beneath Mount Sinai. He sees in the Spirit Moses standing over Aaron with a vial of sweet-smelling oil in his hand—a symbol of the Spirit of God. David sees the oil being poured all over Aaron and that oil running all over his beard and down to the very hems of his garments.
That is what good and pleasant unity is! It is like that oil.
From God, coming down from God. Down, down, down from heaven onto the crown of Aaron’s head to the hem of his garment. Unity does not come up from men. It comes down from God. Unity is not the creation of men. Unity is the gift of God. Such unity is a taste of God’s own unity, and it emits the sweet smell of the fellowship of God himself.
The Spirit. What—no! the one who—comes down from God is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He is the unity. He unites all the brethren, from the least to the greatest, to Christ first, the only head of the body. And uniting them to Christ, the Spirit is the personal share of Christ’s anointing, in which all partake according to the measure of grace given. And Christ’s Spirit is the personal union of all the brethren to one another to make one new man.
Consecrating for holy toil! The oil on Aaron’s head consecrated him to God. Pointing him out as the one chosen of God and equipping him for the work of God. Aaron was to serve the glory of God. Only as he sought the glory of God did he serve the people and bring them to God by a sacrifice. So precious unity makes one new man, one new body consecrated to the worship, service, and glory of the name of God. Only in unity of the truth, unity of heart, mind, will, and purpose—a unity of Christ by his Spirit—can the church be to the glory of God to confess his name, show forth his praises, and labor in his kingdom. The body that is at war with itself is unable to live and work and serve its purpose. The body unified, each member and part joined together, is vigorous and strong. So the church in the unity of the truth, confession, will, purpose, and worship by one Spirit, in one head, is able to live unto God.
Good and pleasant unity!
Like the dew of Hermon! The Spirit moves David’s eyes from the scene unfolding before him in Zion to look far off to the northeast, where on the horizon he sees through the bright sunshine the misty peaks of Hermon lush and green, full of flocks and cattle, fruitful and teeming with life. All because the slopes were watered by the thick dew of heaven. And the Spirit causes David to see in that dew what unity is. Like the dew descending upon Hermon, so unity descending down out of heaven upon Zion causes to spring forth the glorious scene unfolding before his eyes: all the tribes coming together to worship and praise their covenant God with one heart and one mind and one mouth.
Unity is like the dew of heaven!
So refreshing to the dry and thirsty souls of believers worn ragged by wars and fighting and strife and envy. Down from heaven comes the precious unity of the Spirit uniting them to Christ and uniting all to one another.
Causing the land to blossom and burst forth with new life. Unity is the cause of any fruitfulness in the church. Brethren dwelling together in unity causes the church to blossom and burst forth with life unto God. Without unity man is a barren desert bringing forth no fruit to God.
But there, where brethren dwell together in unity, is a taste of heaven, even of life forevermore. It is a taste of heaven, for that is what heaven will be—the perfect union and reunion of all things in one head, Jesus Christ, things in heaven and things in earth, each in their place, all united together and all consecrated to God through the heart of Christ to the glory of our covenant God. We, as brothers and sisters in the Lord of Reformed Believers Publishing, had a little taste of heaven a few weeks ago, and it was thrilling!
There is no nobler duty than to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Let everyone strive in the love of the truth for the truth and for the unity that the truth brings with it. Let everyone strive to keep out the wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and devilish. Let everyone labor to crucify his lusts. Let everyone strive to exert himself to reject all heresies and false doctrines of men that aim to destroy that unity. Let everyone with one heart and one mind know, believe, and confess the truth. Let everyone embrace all who so confess the truth in the fellowship of love; and let everyone acknowledge no concord at all with anyone who denies the truth.
Then good and pleasant unity will abound, and there will be the sure mark of the presence of Jehovah God himself commanding his blessing there. —NJL