Rev. Dr. Bell on Psalm 133, Psalm 133 by John Michael Trotta, and art by Melanie Pyke.
from Dr. Bell:
A Song of Ascents
1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life for evermore. This Psalm is about the experience of kindred unity, those sacred and special times when brothers and sisters of the tribe live in harmony and at peace. Psalm 133 is one of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent that pilgrims would chant as they went on their pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, up to the Temple, with other like-minded souls, brothers and sisters, to worship their God. There is something about a pilgrimage which creates community. According to Walter Brueggemann, this is a Psalm of Orientation, which is best said or sung when things appear to be right and fair and good and just, when God’s presence is felt, God’s goodness unquestioned, and God’s providence is in abundant supply. He writes, “Psalm 133 reflects Israel’s capacity to appreciate the common joys of life and to attribute them to the well-ordered generosity of [their God] Yahweh.” The Psalmist uses two similes to make his point: First, he writes, It [family unity or tribal harmony] is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. Aaron was Moses’ brother and the patriarch of the priestly tribe. Oil was used liturgically in various ways, notably at the anointing of a priest or his consecration. Unity, then, is like the copious amount of oil poured over Aaron’s head. And … It [unity] is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in Palestine and it is located at the most northern point of what is today Israel. Throughout much of the year it is snow-capped. The rain, the dew and the snow feed the Jordan River which, as you know, enables water to flow throughout the land – even to Mount Zion where the blessing of God is pronounced: LIFE FOREVERMORE! Friends, we are separated from one another now due to this global pandemic, and we know the world is a divided between political parties, religions, economic differences, and citizenship status. Let us, as members of the one body of Christ, not be afraid to show the world that we love each other, that it is a very good and pleasant then when kindred live together in unity.
Here is a wonderful version of psalm 133 by John Michael Trotta - with great photography. Trotta is becoming one of the most prominent choral composers in the United States.
Art: "Psalm 133: Together in Unity" by Melanie Pyke: www.melpyke.com