A song of ascents. Of David.
|1||How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!|
|2||It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
|3||It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the
LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
If you could give Christ a gift this Christmas what would it be? What would He want? It’s a whole lot easier to give gifts when we know what a person wants. Katie our daughter is now of the age where she pretty much flat out tells us what she wants for Christmas. Andrew – well this past week he left, just by accident, a letter to Santa Claus laying around the house. The twins, well, they just point to every toy commercial on television and say I want that. What would Christ want for Christmas? Has He left us any clues as to what He would like? Yes He has, and one of those clues we find this morning in Psalm 133 as we finish up our sermon series on The Psalms of Ascent.
Psalm 133 is a Psalm of Ascent but it is also a wisdom psalm and wisdom psalms are those psalms that reveal to us the kind of life or lifestyle that is pleasing to God. So let’s take a look at what Christ wants from us as we look at Psalm 133. I would invite you to turn to that psalm and keep your Bibles open during the sermon as we unpack this text today.
This is the Word of God:
A song of ascents. Of David. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
Join me as we pray: And now, Father, as my words are true to Your Word, may they be taken to heart; but as my words should stray from Your Word, may they be quickly forgotten, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There were some twins born back in 1984, their names were Ruth and Verna Cady and like most twins they share a lot in common. They shared bedtime stories together, they shared bath time, they shared birthday parties. They shared the same womb before they were born and they share the same bedroom now. But Verna and Ruth share a whole lot more than toys and trinkets. You see they share the same heart. They are joined together from the sternum right down to the waist. They have distinct nervous systems and totally different personalities but they are sustained by the same heart and they literally need each other to survive. Maybe there is something that you and I as Christians, as parts of the body of Christ, can learn from Verna and Ruth about what Christ wants this Christmas and all around the year because you see what Christ really wants from you and me, what He wants for His church is unity. We saw that in the text How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity. That is what Christ wants for His church and lest you think that I am overstating the case, turn in your Bibles to John, the seventeenth chapter, and let’s take a look at verses 20 through 23. Here is Christ’s high priestly prayer on the night before He was crucified and here listen to him as He pleads and prays to the father for his church. My prayer is not for them alone, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me .
Unity – that is what Christ wants for His church and that is what He wants for you and me and He says that when you and I are unified as believers it is then that the world begins to take seriously our witness for Christ. If you have ever been a part of a church fight or family feud then you know how precious and true verse one of Psalm 133 really is. How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity . Remember this is a Psalm of Ascent that the Hebrew people would sing as they were on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the great feasts. Now what happened at those great feasts is that the family tribes would come from all over Palestine and they would head toward Jerusalem where there was going to be one heck of a great family reunion. However, have you ever been to a family reunion where you can cut the tension with a knife? That potential was always there whenever the tribes of Israel came together and I can’t help but think that this particular Psalm was one that those folks sang as Jerusalem came into sight. They began to sing it as a reminder of what God wants from us when we get together with the other kinfolk. Maybe it was a prayer asking God to bestow his unity upon His people because any way you look at it yeah unity is something that we can hope for and it is something that you and I can work for but when all is said and done unity is a gift – it is a sheer gift of God’s grace to His people. It is not something that you and I can manufacture.
David goes on in this text to give you and me two illustrations of what unity is like in verses two and three. Now these illustrations may seem a little strange to us high-tech nineties kind of folk, but they were very powerful illustrations to Hebrew pilgrims heading toward Jerusalem in the sixth century, B.C.
In verse two David says that unity is like oil, precious, deliciously scented olive oil poured over your head and cascading down your beard onto your robe. That sounds real appealing doesn’t it? Hey back then that was the sign that your journey had come to an end and that you had arrived. It was the sign of hospitality that you were welcome and included and accepted and loved because, you see, as you went on a journey covering a lot of ground in an area with not very much water but a whole lot of sun, you were dusty, you were tired and you were worn out and oil soothes and heals and moisturizes and it is kind of a conditioner. It was a conditioner for their hair and their skin after they had come in off of that hot dusty trail where their skin was about ready to crack.
Every night my wife Anne (I hope she doesn’t kill me for this) uses Oil of Olay as a moisturizer and it does a great job – just look at her! But that oil was more than just a moisturizer it was also a symbol of a bond – a unity between the person doing the anointing and the one being anointed.
David goes on in verse three to say unity is also like Mountain Dew . The dew of Mount Hermon. Palestine is a very arid area and there is only an average of about one-hundred to one-hundred-fifty days out of the year when there is any dew fall at all; but do you know where the highest rate of dew fall is? On the slopes of Mount Hermon, which is the highest peak in Palestine. Dew is necessary for life and growth. When plants are in the middle of a growing season water is so precious that dew is a nightly gift that God bestows upon plants. Here David is saying that when the tribes of Israel come together, and they are united, it it is like the dew of Mount Hermon was falling upon Mount Zion. You see Mount Zion is in Jerusalem and that is where the pilgrims were headed but there wasn’t much dew fall in Jerusalem because it is very dry, but David says when believers are united when the families of Israel are united it is as if Mount Zion is being drenched with the dew of Mount Hermon.
Unity is a great thing. How good and pleasant it is that Central Presbyterian Church can sing Psalm 133 because God has blessed us for the past decade with a remarkable unity. People have come together in Jesus Christ. We don’t have church fights. Oh we have little skirmishes here and there but there is a pervasive unity in this congregation that is very, very precious. God has poured out his precious oil upon this church, the oil of His Holy Spirit. An oil that has brought us together and, like Aaron who was anointed for the priesthood by anointing with oil, so God has anointed each of you as a priest. A priest to each other and to a very lost and broken world. We have the opportunity to be priests to the world and show it where eternal life is really to be found and God has drenched this congregation with Mountain Dew and provided all of the nourishing moisture for us to grow. There is life and health here. Look around you. People moving toward Christ, coming to Christ, surrendering to Christ, going out and serving Christ. God, through the dew of Mount Hermon that he settles upon this congregation, waters the seeds of faith that He Himself has planted in the lives of children, youth and adults and we see the fruit coming to blossom all around us, but watch out – watch out, this unity that we enjoy here – don’t take it for granted! Sin and Satan are very real and they’re always with us and they are always trying to disrupt that unity.
Let me clue you in on reality folks we are always just this close to Balkanization, fractions and disunity breaking out in the congregation. Yes unity is a gift from God to His people but there is something that we can give to Christ in return and that is to work for the preservation of the unity that He has given us.
I am going to give you eight ways – practical ways that you and I can help preserve unity here at Central but first of all I want to say this – our unity here in Central is really in just two things. You know we are not Christian clones here. We don’t all look the same, we don’t all think the same and we don’t all act the same. Our unity at Central is not based on race or gender or socioeconomic status or political views – no it is not even based on having the same theological views. There are only two things that bind us together here.
The first is the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the second is the authority of scripture. When you have submitted yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and are working your life out under the authority of scripture then there is a whole lot of freedom that you and I have here as to how God is calling us to live out our lives. So we differ and there is a lot of diversity here in terms of how and when somebody should be baptized or when and how Christ is going to return and a whole myriad of other things, but we are united in Christ and under his Word. That is where our unity is found.
You and I need to work hard at preserving that unity and not take God’s gift for granted. Let me give you eight practical ways to help preserve unity here at Central Church.
The first is this – to bow. To bow under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You will never hear me ever say Make Christ Lord of your life. – huh, as if we can do that — as if we need to do that. Christ is Lord of your life whether you want Him to be or not whether you recognize it or not. What I say is bow and recognize that Christ is Lord of your life and that He is the only Lord. You know that phrase Jesus Is Lord ? Well we take it for granted but let me tell you this – only God is Lord. If we call anyone else Lord then we have stepped into idolatry; therefore, Jesus, you see, is God. When Scripture tells us to refer to Jesus as Lord it is the same thing as saying Christ is God . He is Lord of everything in your life or He is Lord of nothing. You either recognize his Lordship over every part of your life or He is Lord of nothing. He is Lord of your Tuesday afternoon as much as of your Sunday morning. He is Lord of your recreational life as much as He is of your Bible study. Bow before the Lordship of Jesus Christ and do you know what happens? When you and I do that and we start moving from different places toward Christ – what happens? We come together and that’s where our unity is found.
The second thing you can do is to order your life under the authority of Scripture. God has given us His Word to give us direction in matters of faith in practice; faith in terms of what we believe. In the scriptures God lays out for us what I like to call the biblical apostolic faith. That core of the Christian faith that the mainstream of the church has held to and been held by from the first century right down to today. Practice how you live your life. In God’s Word He shows us what it really means to really be a human being. He shows us how to follow Jesus Christ in a faithful way. Order your life on the authority of scripture. You can’t do that if you don’t read it. That is why I again exhort you to pick up one of those Bible reading calendars and join me as we read straight through Scripture in 1999.
The third thing you can do is to cultivate a healthy self critical/teachable spirit. My way or the highway is only said in the church when Satan is involved because that is Satan’s way. Reinhold Niehbur, the great 20th Century theologian, said Even in our best deeds we still sin and that is so true. Even when you and I are thinking that we are serving Christ – if we could dig down deep enough we would realize that there is always a taint of self interest there. We walk a little old lady across the street and it is pretty hard to do that without wondering who might be watching. Even in our best deeds we still sin . Develop a healthy self critical spirit and realize that there is always room for improvement within you. And cultivate a teachable spirit. There may be some better ways of doing things than you have come up with. Show me a better way and I will take it, cultivate a teachable spirit.
Fourthly – those twins, Verna and her sister, like they were dependent on one heart to sustain them, remember that you are sustained by one heart – the heart of Jesus Christ. Does you heart beat in sync with Christ? Look at the person on your right and on your left. They are sustained by the same heart as you. Your are not joined at the hip to them but it is the same heart that sustains you, the heart of Jesus Christ himself.
Fifthly – put the charger in the stall or put him out to pasture. You know the charger, that white charger that your tempted to get on sometimes when you want to head off on a crusade. When folks within the body of Christ launch out on crusades by themselves it usually disrupts the unity of the church.
Sixthly – ask yourself this question, Am I quick to give offense or take offense? Do I have a quarrelsome spirit, do I always need it my way? Do I walk around the church with a chip on my shoulder? Do I treat other believers and other nonbelievers with grace? Am I willing to forgive? Is there somebody this morning that I know I need to move toward and seek reconciliation with?
Seventhly – cultivate a vision that is larger than yourself and larger than Central. So many times we get involved in doing things for the Lord — but are we really doing it for Christ or to get our needs met? Or things are going very well here at Central. Do we just sit back and go Well, things are going great here. Olé! Or do we cultivate a larger vision of the kingdom of God where churches that are not enjoying unity or where they are not so blessed with resources do we send our hearts that way and begin to build up the kingdom in other places as well? Well I think that you know the answer to that. Cultivate a kingdom vision.
Then lastly number eight – Pray. Do you know why Central holds together? Do you know why we are unified today? I’ll tell you. Because there are some prayer warriors who are on their knees every single day praying for the unity of this congregation. I would invite you to be one of those. I thank those of you that are doing that because God is answering our prayers. God is in the process continually of bringing about a common unity, community – that is what the church is all about. He is doing that through you and me and this very morning. He wants to take you and me into an even deeper unity by inviting us to this table. Inviting us here in common union, communion, with Himself and not just with the believers in this sanctuary but literally with believers around the world and those that have come before us and those that will come after us. This is a Kingdom Table. It is a Kingdom unity, and He invites you this morning to go deeper. And I would invite you this morning, as you come to this table, to make that act of coming your pledge; the act of taking the bread and the wine your pledge to work toward the preservation of the purity, peace and unity of this congregation and the larger church of Jesus Christ. Here at this table you and I share a common heart, the very heart of Jesus Christ.
Join me as we pray:
Father, we thank you and we praise you and we are eternally indebted to you for the unity that we enjoy here at Central. And Lord, in that text you also promise us eternal life there in verse three and so Lord, we come to this table this morning and we realize eternal life begins now not when we die but it begins when we accept you as our Lord and Savior. And Lord, we realize that as we come to this table that we come as close to eternal life in this life as we can. That here the veil between time and eternity is thinnest. So Lord, welcome us into your arms and may we go from here truly united in Christ. May your heartbeat regulate our heartbeat for your honor and glory and we ask it in Jesus name – Amen