Psalm 133 is another of the Songs of Ascent which was sang as people went up to the high place. For the Jewish people in ancient times, that high place was the Temple in the city of Jerusalem. One literally “goes up” to Jerusalem. The temple literally stood on a ‘mount’ and was high above the city. Temple Mount is still there today but is home to a mosque which is built on the site of David’s temple for God. It is the source of much of the clashing that happens between the Jews and Muslims to this day. The Jewish people sang Psalm 133 to express their joy in coming together for worship at the Temple, where God promised to meet them.
This psalm begins with an obvious fact but one that most struggle to live out. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”! God’s desire is for His people to live in unity. People living together without strife or selfish actions. The problem – man’s heart which is evil and corrupt. But oh how great life could be if we managed to live out this statement – a world filled with unity. It is possible, or God would not have put it in His word this way. But it requires us to change how we live and think – by putting the well-being of others first and ourselves behind that.
The Psalm, though short, is extremely ambitious: it calls all people to worship God and get along with one another. It begins at one very particular place on the Mount and cascades downward from there. It starts with a few insiders but flows outward in blessing for many. Understanding the psalm requires us to go with the flow down the mountain and outward to valleys and plains. Only liquid can flow. So the Psalm gives us two liquids: oil and dew which drive home the fact that God’s love and unity flows freely to all.
Oil was used to signify God’s touch on the priests. The oil is precious but God is not stingy with it. Indeed the oil is poured out so lavishly on the head of the priest, it runs down the beard of Aaron and onto the collar of his robe. Like the oil that flows down the beard of Aaron, so the dew of Mount Hermon reaches far beyond its point of origin and gives life to faraway lands. God’s blessings flow from Him to His people all over, not only at the temple mount, but wherever we are. God is a God of love that desires us to be a unified community that worships Him together in truth!