How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity1
As we come near to the end of our series on the Songs of Ascents, I feel for those who are still trapped in abuse, or who are in the early stages of escaping. We have, in the space of a few weeks, travelled from danger to sanctuary. Life is not that simple for victims of any significant trauma, let alone victims of abuse.
These psalms were gathered together over perhaps 500 years, and I would hazard a guess that few psalms were composed in a single sitting. When we read them, it can be like we are in a time machine skimming through and picking up on just a few details.
We can help that by slowing down, taking our time. That can be hard for some to achieve also – imagine being a single parent holding down multiple jobs and being told to slow down and breath? I feel deeply for those who are juggling so much. They deserve our support.
Many of us can slow down, however. This is part of what “unity” means! To be present with others. Twice in this series I have referred to Hebrews 13:
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.2
Helpful vs unhelpful help
Can you imagine the relief of being out of your depth – giving everything you can – and then help arrives? Real help – what I like to call, “helpful help”. That’s help that is tuned to what you truly need. More than simply good intentions. What a relief when that kind of help turns up! You could say,
It is like precious oil poured on the head.3
In Australia, many people are more familiar with drought, and the relief and joy that comes with rain. Except that again, it must be the right kind of rain, and enough of it, at the right time. Otherwise, we get floods. Or seeds that germinate only to die. Likewise, if we get the right kind of help: such joy! Such relief! That’s like the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion. When farmers complain about rain not being the right type of rain, they aren’t whinging, they are stating facts based on their knowledge of what’s required.
When we stand with each other in this way – when we take the time to be present with and understand each others’ needs, when we listen, respect, act, give – that’s what we are called to, and why this psalmist is so excited. This is not the false unity of pressuring people to agree with someone, of keeping quiet about harmful behaviour that should be revealed, or any of those abusive tactics. This is instead the kind of unity that God loves, that is in keeping with his character. And just as Jesus entered so deeply into our world and our pain, as he incarnated and sacrificed out of his deep empathy and love for us, he calls us to have deep and practical empathy for each other.
How good and pleasant it is to live in a healthy community
This is where Yahweh – the God of all, but the God of exodus, of pilgrimage to places of sanctuary – this is where he bestows his blessing.
As the original pilgrims were now so close to Jerusalem, they sang about healthy community – a goal, and a reminder to care for each other. If we seek to imitate Jesus, practising empathy and action, as best we can, is part of the deal.
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people 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 on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there Yahweh bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.4
Steve WadeJust as Jesus entered so deeply into our world and our pain, as he incarnated and sacrificed out of his deep empathy and love for us, we are called to have deep and practical empathy for each other. Click To Tweet