Psalm 133 (NKJV)

Behold how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head

Running down on the beard.

The beard of Aaron

Running down on the edge of his garments.

It is like the dew of Hermon,

Descending upon the mountains of Zion;

For there the Lord commanded the blessing --

Life forevermore.

Translated from STOTEN OP DE RAMSHOORN, N. Baas

David’s song; Psalm 133

The problems of boarding together are more or less well known by many. There were times when there was a considerable shortage of houses but no shortage of brides and bridegrooms.
Compelled of necessity, in many cases, they had to put off building their own nest and make the decision to take it up with others. Sometimes by voluntary agreement but more often the department of housing had to get involved.
At first they comforted themselves over the difficulties that affected both parties bound to these regulations.
“It will roll along okay, probably better than we expect”.
It seldom goes okay.
It almost never goes better than expected.
The bride will have red eyes before the last wedding sweets are gone, and the chin of the bridegroom will hang on the top buttonhole. Nor is the other party satisfied, and they sigh somewhat after Solomon, “it is better to live on the corner of the roof then to have lodgers “.
Often it is somewhat better when living with strangers, or should I say a small degree less troublesome than with your own. There is a tremendous shock to family relations and people complain: Oh, oh, how awful it is when brothers live together!
Familiarity and quarrels between brothers is as old as mankind. We read of it happening in the tents of Jacob and in the palace of David. Yes, this faithful king and holy singer had bitter sorrow on account of his children !
I only have to remember Amnon who defiled his sister Tamar, or Absalom who stabbed his brother to death and wished to take the throne of his old father. And as it happens in families, so it often goes, ~ regrettably ~ in the spiritual family, the church of the Lord.
What God has joined together is all too often torn apart by fraternal animosity. Many who will eternally praise God in heaven and on the new earth cannot bear the sight each other in this temporary life.
But it is fortunately not always so.
When the Spirit of Christ pours the love of God into the hearts then the Christian family and the Christian congregation form oasis’s in the wilderness of life.
That is what Psalm 133 describes.
I will point out three things in this short Psalm. First, that church life is one expression of the spiritual life. Second in its service of the Word and Sacrament it is a revelation of heavenly life. And third It is preparation for that heavenly life.


Psalm 133 is a farewell song.
Coming out of all the regions of the Jewish kingdom, yes, even from far away land,s devout pilgrims have gone up to the Temple of Jerusalem sojourning there from Passover till Pentecost.
They had no worship assemblies in their towns and cities for the synagogues where not established till after the exile. Perhaps they had a Levite as an instructor for worship or a prophet who went up as itinerant preacher.
But as far as going to church was concerned they could only go up to Jerusalem at most once a year. Passover and Pentecost, and these two belonged together, were the climax of their spiritual life.
Now naturally the journey to Jerusalem also had an earthly or natural side. The women would have prepared new clothes in advance and even planned to buy in the market bazaars of the capital later. There would have been many Rachels who found their Jacobs on these festive journeys!
But the climax undoubtedly would have been the procession to the beautiful temple.
The House of the LORD.
Where the altar stood.
Where the blood flowed.
Where the nation was gathered together.
For indeed it was not easy to be devout all by yourself.
When spiritual life receives no nourishment you get bow legged believers and anemic confessors. The Jews who came out of the Diaspora, who lived in Moab, Egypt and Syria, had the greatest difficulty, especially spiritually. But not less those who lived in those spiritually cold towns where the people daily scoffed: “where now is your God?”
How glorious it must have been for these people to be able to practice fellowship with the children of God.
And that begins already on the journey of ascent.
Together they sing the songs of Hammaaloth, the advent or pilgrimage songs, from Psalm 120 to Psalm 134.
The songs come from deep within; ‘Woe is me, that I am a stranger in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!” In other words; “Oh LORD how difficult it is to live among worldly people who do not fear Thee!”
But the voice of faith beseeches: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth”. the words echo against the hilly slopes and mountain sides!
How beautiful it is when the high notes of the girls and the clear voices of the young men are combined with the women sopranos and the baying of the men and the old ones sing with their thin shaking voices and tears in their eyes!
At evening sometimes, by the watch fires, an old sojourner will testify of the ways of the LORD. “Come” he says, “ listen all who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for my soul.” Even the children will say, while listening with great curious eyes, “What a life we have with the LORD?” And young Jacob will forget the black locks of his Rachel and pray in his heart, “LORD also make me live according to Thy covenant!”
When, from the tops of the mountains, they finally see the white city with its shimmering temple roof of gold, they sing;

“Jerusalem where blessing waits,
Our feet are standing in your gates…”

Perhaps you also have your precious memories.
You are sitting in the old living room with its cane chairs and father calls up a psalm: “How blessed is the nation who hears Thy voice!” You are young and you sing with a full throat and think “how glorious to belong to the people of God!”
Again the visitors to the old home come before your eyes, Men with beards and women with bandanas. They speak of sin and grace, of the small gate and the narrow way of the LORD and His service. You will never lose or forget it, even if you become one hundred.
But there is one question: do you live according to it?

We return to the pilgrims.
The beautiful days fly by. The moment comes all too soon that they must go back to their towns, back to the dispersion. They have to live on their own for another year on the spiritual energy they received and Rachel whispers to her Jacob; “don’t be sad, a year is gone in no time.”
Many Rachels have whispered thus through the ages and so they still whisper. Men shake each other’s hands while the embracing women weep. The graybeards mutter despairingly; “it was the last time, I will soon be gathered to my fathers…” And when the crowds cast their final glance on the city of God and get the last glimpse of the House of the LORD where they enjoyed the communion of the saints so gloriously then the psalm bursts out of their throats;

“Behold how good, how pleasant is the union when brothers live together in communion!”

Not good in the first place because unity makes power. Not because the recruiting power would be greater, the Word is the recruiting power!
But good for the soul.
Loneliness breaks down.
It make the heart of man barren.
When the children of God comfort each other with the promises, then the words of an old song can be sung;

Sweet are the ties that bind me
To God’s beloved people!

Speaking about the promises with such faith, ~and what else do we have but the promises ~ is so good and sanctifying for the children, for the weak of faith, for the wavering who look at the world, for the Jacobs and Rachels in the temptations of youth.
Love penetrates very deep!
Down to the hem of the robes.
Meaning to say that even the least are involved and those farthest away receive something to take along. If I enter an argumentative family even the dog is vicious. But if, opposite that somewhere, love rules and even the pony is friendly and polite. It is to our hurt that we have lost the beautiful family life of the past.
People can say: “Oh, how rare it is that brothers can also live together”. Sometimes a family is not much more then a cafeteria and a dormitory. You can hardly talk together because the radio blares above everything. No, modern life will certainly not chase faith away from the heart if the Lord puts it there, but these things will never nourish it.
By these means we will get pale Christians with gaunt cheeks and washed out eyes, out of which there comes no energy.
In many ways life in the congregation is the same. The number of families that are in church twice a Sunday becomes smaller. Those who do not come out of custom that is, who don’t say with a sigh: is it time to go to church again, I’ve just finished eating and have an interesting book to read in this warm room”, but who come from the needs of the heart and the desire for the service of the LORD.
Indeed we will experience that church life nourishes our spiritual life, if we faithfully go to church out of the love of God and united with the people of the LORD. We will sing with David; “how good how pleasant it is when brothers dwell in communion”.


The church is not pleasant from herself.
On the contrary, her members can make the impression of being self centered and sour.
This impression is not always justified however.
An outsider cannot immediately value the true significance of the attitude of a brother who lives on the street of the Rams horn. But it is true; in itself that church of poor sinners is not pleasant. For there are not only sinners of principle who sit there, i.e. those who sin from the viewpoint of the doctrine of sin according to the pure confession. They are members who sin in practice: liars and slanderers, high-minded and cheapskates, stingy and shallow people, grumblers and unchaste, shortsighted and sticky fingered.
Judged on its own merits it is just all well not to go there, you don’t get anywhere by frequenting the church too much! You don’t automatically go from your place on the church bench to your place in heaven. There is no saving church. Even less are there saving ministers nor a sort of uber-christian which some would consider the leaders of revival movements to be.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not writing a condemnation concerning these revivals. I’m only warning those who go to look for it in man that they will return deceived.
There is one God who is our salvation, (Ps. 68) who has given us the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
The temple was given by that God.
Not from Benjamin, in whose territory Jerusalem lay.
Not from Judah or any other tribe.
The church is from the LORD, the God of the covenant.
The church is from the LORD and His beloved son.
Not Lutheran, Dutch Reformed or Calvinistic even though these have great historical significance.
The church is Christian.
If our church attendance is to be meaningful it must be said: “I know whom you seek, Jesus who was crucified”. If that is how we go our Savior makes church attendance pleasant and good for the soul. Jesus, whom we don’t see, is the all-ruling center of the church service.
He speaks!
Just as when He wandered about on earth and the people sat at His feet on the mosses of the mountain, as He spoke to them from the deck of a fishing boat, so he still speaks to us from the Father, who is in Heaven.
Every one receives their own message. To the younger he says: ‘do not love the world” and addressing men and women still in their strength: “go and work in My vineyard”. To the sorrowful: “weep not, they are not dead but sleep”. To the broken and contrite heart: “your sins are forgiven”. The old ones who must be picked up to go to the house of the Lord hear His voice: “soon you will be with me in Paradise”.
But to the hypocrite He comes with a strong admonition; “friend what are you doing here? Are you betraying the Son of man with a church penny and psalm verse?”
For everybody together there is the message: ‘”love God above all else and love each other fervently with a pure heart”.
I don’t know whether the Savior, if He were still on earth, would pass if He presented Himself for an ecclesiastic examination. Perhaps the professor of homiletics would not accept His sermon proposal. In any case there would be people who would claim that He didn’t go deep enough. Over against this others would express the notion that He wasn’t fluent nor realistic, that he didn’t deal with a lot of questions.
It could have gone that way.
But the Lord be thanked, He, our Lord, preaches and baptizes and blesses in each Christian church that can truly carry this name.
Because the Father has prescribed, ordained and sealed this calling by pouring the Holy Spirit over Him to realize His official capacity as Mediator. (L.D. 12)
The anointing of Israel’s high-priest was a shadow of this.
The literal definition of high-priest is “anointed priest”.
He was the only one in the earthly sanctuary who was doused with a very fragrant, costly and rare perfume and all the other priests were included in him. The perfume drips from his head to his beard, yes down the hem of his robes.
Do you want a blessing too my friend?
You desire the gift of prayer more fully, more knowledge of scripture, more constant faith, more boldness to witness to others. And when you get older your wishes become more discerning. You urgently long for greater peace of soul and trust as death comes nearer…
You have often prayed for these things but have not received them. You don’t understand and it saddens you. Well, test yourself with this psalm. Did you seek for some jar of costly lotion that would be poured over your head perhaps? For a gift of the Spirit especially and only for you?
Then I must tell you: you seek in vain and wait for nothing.
In all that great temple there was no jar, even as small as a thimble, with oil for priest A, or Levite B, for brother C or sister D.
There was only the oil for the high priest, the perfume flowed from his head to his beard and the hems of his robes, even if the ordinary priest might have had some of it wiped on his forehead.
For you and me that means we have to be with Jesus Christ. We have to take part in His anointing.
The church is no longer chilly and the sermon no longer tedious when you seek Him. No for then your soul rejoices: “how good, how lovely it is when brothers dwell in unity”.
I know, love seems so impractical. They will graze all over you when you love! The natural man says; don’t be crazy, throw them off! But these punchers and kickers, these folks with big mouths and sharp elbows, fish behind the net and pull at the short end. Love appears so small.
In its weakness Almighty God works .
It is as the dew on Hermon, the snowy mountain north of Palestine that brings moisture and fruitfulness to the whole of the Jewish country.
Dew also appears but paltry.
No flood, not even a down pour.
The dew comes noiseless, in the quiet of early morning.
Yet it has an awesome effect.
Where ever it comes, soundlessly and largely unnoticed, there will soon be waving fields of grain.
The grape blooms and the rose sends out its fragrance.
The oak takes root and the palm tree grows tall.
The quiet influence of love is that powerful.
Are you living between sour people?
Has it become chilly in your congregation, as in a hermitage where treasures are kept but not enjoyed?
Have love then!
And keep loving!
Pray for more love!
For that love will win!
Because Christ is the anointed Priest over the house of God.
Where love dwells the LORD commands His blessing.
That command in context with the blessing reminds us of the verse from the gospel that reads, “The Kingdom of God comes with power”.

Love is not only a delight,
But also the power of renewed life.
The less the others will give,
The greater you’ll receive from God.


Spurgeon had said that Psalm 133 is a heavenly psalm for not a single harsh word is written in it.
Love is heavenly in origin, it descends into our hearts from above.
It is also heavenly in its future, whoever loves God and his neighbor is certainly on the heavenly road.
In 1 Corinthians Paul says: Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail;
Whether there are tongues they will cease;
Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. (NKJV)

That is to say: the most beautiful bundle of sermons will be burnt along with the old earth. The theological schools and universities will also be consumed by the flames, libraries and all.
I have read all the institutes of father Calvin five times and crawled through the E. Voto Dorraceno of Abraham Kuyper. In heaven we will not read them any more. These books have been very useful but they won’t be necessary in heaven.
We will not read that great work of Schilder: “Christ in His suffering” because we see the “Lamb standing as one slain“.
Because in heaven the little women who could not get one question from the “Short Summary of the Catechism” into her head (remember how she sighed, perspiring and the elder looking on sourly) will know more of God than the most brilliant minister or professor did on earth .
That is comfort.
That is judgment.
I rest assured the reformed will not be kept out of heaven from a lack of orthodoxy.
But did we love?
Was there much in our church life of what the bride in the Song of Solomon asks: “Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock, where you make it rest at noon!” (Song of Solomon 1:7)
My beloved brother, we will not take any thick volumes into heaven and say: “Lord, it says in here that I have all the marks of a child of God:.
In the judgment other books will be opened, namely the consciences.
How will that come out for good with you and me?
My conscience accuses me that I have many marks of a sinner and not many of a Christian.
It is fortunate that you can stammer with Peter: “Lord I love thee, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
And still more.
Though the books of theology do not accompany us through the heavenly gates, those precious promises, which let us escape from the city of destruction, and which were our only staff on the lonely pilgrims path, will not be silent in the Judgment.
They will speak, louder than ever!
Sweeter will be the sound than ever came from the most anointed mouth on earth.
Melody of the heavens!
The promises will speak in the name of Him who is true.
“I have loved you with an eternal love, therefore I have taken you up with goodness and mercy.” For if there is found in us even a drop of love, it will have dripped from the head of God’s Anointed and the LORD will be glorified in His own work….

Psalm 133 was a farewell psalm whereby the worshippers cast their last glance on the earthly Jerusalem.
It will be a song of welcome by which the redeemed will be greeted in the New Jerusalem.
When “the city of assembly” will rise before your breaking eyes, when all the redeemed will appear, also your precious ones who have gone before you, then you can for the first time truly rejoice:

“Ah see, how good, how joyful it is that brothers can live together”

The Lord once calls his well beloved
Into the light of eternal sunshine,
Where they again can find each other
And blessed be without end.
Then after storm enduring calm,
Palm follows after sword, crown after cross
And after the pilgrim’s road of tears,
A resting room in Father’s house.