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,
This psalm reflects an ideal that many families can probably only dream of achieving. In reading verse 1, the challenge presents itself immediately: you can either “live together” or you can have “unity.” Asking for both can feel like a lot. Many families I know can only take each other in small doses – a few days or a few hours at a time, max.
The ability to avoid one another is a modern luxury – a choice our ancestors didn’t really have.
In biblical times, when families were likely to live together in larger groups for mutual support and protection, the ability to get along was key. It was literally life-giving – or, at a very minimum, life-sustaining.
The psalmist even goes so far as to say that family unity is an act of worship! In verse 2, the reference is to Aaron, the brother of Moses and the first priest of Israel. The image of the oil running down Aaron’s beard refers to a solemn ceremony of anointing that was part of the process of his ordination, or being set-apart, for the priesthood.
I take this to mean that the way we treat each other in the family can be part of the worship we offer to God. Moses, by anointing his brother, offered him an important role in the life of the people – one perhaps on par with or even greater than his own. The image of Moses doing that, of sparing no expense by dousing him so completely and extravagantly with oil, is one that points to care within the family as an act of love, devotion and worship.
Contrast this with the way we sometimes treat those closest to us: how often do we spend all day putting on a good face to colleagues, co-workers and friends, only to be short with our family members? The psalm illustrates what kind of a difference unity in the family makes not only for us – but for God.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there a family relationship that you need to attend to today? Is there a hurt that needs to be acknowledged, an apology offered, or a connection renewed? Make this your act of worship today.
Prayer: God, we know that sometimes we struggle to love those closest to us with the same care and attention we provide to those who are our friends and neighbors. Today, help us to see ways we are falling short in achieving love, care, and unity in the family. Guide us into deeper relationships with one another and with you. Amen.