Summary: B Proper 7, 2021.
(A) Psalm 133:1-3.
I like the Scottish Metrical version of this Psalm:
“Behold, how good a thing it is,
and how becoming well,
Together such as brethren are
in unity to dwell!”
A good one to sing, perhaps, as we break bread together.
“Behold” calls us to look carefully, to look intensely. In the Greek of the New Testament, we are told that John ‘saw’ the grave clothes lying on Resurrection morning; but Peter ‘looked intently upon’ them (John 20:5-6). Or we could say, Peter ‘beheld’ them.
So, in our Psalm, what are we to look upon with such intensity? We are to look upon, to consider, “how good and pleasant a thing it is” for “brothers” (and sisters) to dwell together in unity. This applies on every level of life.
First, it applies on the level of kinship. It is more than just ‘nice’ if we can get on with our siblings. However, we are more familiar with negative examples: like Cain’s murderous, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (Genesis 4:9); or the supplicant before Jesus who complained that his brother had not divided the inheritance with him (Luke 12:13).
Second, it applies on the level of community. As the bombs fell on London in the early 1940s, many were the acts of sheer human kindness between people in the same plight as one another. Similarly, in the times of distress caused by natural disasters elsewhere in the world.
Third, it is good and pleasant when nations and peoples can learn to get along with one another. But how can they, outside of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? While any of us tolerate evil, none of us will ever get on!
And of course, fourthly, Christian people. Those who are born again are called upon to ‘bear one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:2-3). After all, we have but one God and Father, and one Lord (Jesus), and are all members of the same covenant family (Ephesians 4:5-6).
Our unity is found in our very diversity. We do not lose our individuality but live to serve one another. Like the voluntary sharing of the early church (Acts 2:45).
Now, how lovely is this?
“Like precious ointment on the head,
that down the beard did flow,
Even Aaron’s beard, and to the skirts,
did of his garments go.”
The reference is evidently to the anointing of Aaron as high priest. It sounds messy, but it is the aroma of unity. We have a much greater high priest, and our unity in Him is a matter of fact, not of boring uniformity.
Think of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly oil, and how the fragrance filled the whole house (John 12:3). Jesus associated this act with His burial (John 12:7). And without His death and resurrection, there are no grounds for unity.
Then we have another illustration:
“As Hermon’s dew, the dew that doth
on Sion’s hill descend:
For there the blessing God commands,
life that shall never end.”
From Mount Zion, Mount Hermon is far to the north, on the border with Lebanon. So how does the dew of Hermon water Zion? Well, it is not meteorologically impossible, and has been known - although it is rare - for dew from Hermon to bring refreshment to Mount Zion during the arid summer.
But what a picture of unity! The melting snows of Lebanon watering Zion, even as Zion has sent the Gospel out to the wider world (including Lebanon). Or Paul’s churches elsewhere feeding the needy poor in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26).
Christians here, and Christians there, all one in Christ Jesus!
‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren’ (1 John 3:14).
And we should ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, from whence our blessings came (Psalm 122:6).
(B) Job 38:1-11.
After all the crying and sighing, moaning, and groaning of Job (and I do not blame him for it); after all the blaming and shaming, sharing and tearing of his ‘miserable comforters’ (Job 16:2): “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).
We notice two things here. First, it was “the LORD” who answered. Literally, YHWH. This is the first time that this name has been used for God since the prologue (Job 1:6; Job 2:1). In the intervening chapters, Job and his friends refer to God with the more impersonal ‘El’ - perhaps not recognising that our God is a God who is near, as well as a God who is far off (cf. Jeremiah 23:23). As Christians, we are enabled to approach ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3) with the intimacy of sons, addressing Him as ‘Abba’ (Romans 8:15)!