Sermons on the Psalms | Brotherhood | Psalm 133

Brotherhood (Psalm 133)

Eleven years ago, I interviewed for a preaching position. I presented the lesson on Sunday morning, and then the elders took the family and me to lunch. After we ate, the elders and I talked business. When the elders asked me about salary, I replied something like: “What were you doing for the previous preacher?”

The face of one of the elders melted, and I knew I’d hit a nerve. Joe said, “Justin, we can’t do what we we did for him. When we let him go, half the church left with him, and they’ve formed another church.”

A couple weeks later, the elders called and offered me the position, and the Imel’s were off to Roanoke. The entire three years I preached there, the black cloud of that split hung over the congregation. About a year into my tenure, our elders and I met with the ringleader of the group that caused the split. In tears, he repented and said he wanted to do the right thing. That Sunday evening, our elders had me announce to the congregation that the tension was over and our congregations were in full fellowship.

However, many in the congregation didn’t like that. They were angry, and they felt our elders let the ringleader off too easily. I even met with a guy who said that this gentleman could never be forgiven for splitting the church. There were weeks I listened to people moan for hours on end that the two congregations were now in fellowship.

Yes, those folks who left were as wrong as they could be. But folks were also wrong not to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

I pray that you’ve never been involved in a church split, but you might have been. Maybe you witnessed a church split from afar, but your heart still grieved. Maybe there is a Christian who will not speak to you. Maybe you hold a grudge against a fellow believer.

The way of Jesus is the way of unity. Jesus Christ prayed for unity the night he was betrayed: John 17:20-21; with the world’s sins weighing on his soul, Jesus prayed for the church’s unity. This morning’s text—written centuries before Jesus’s prayer—extols the blessings of unity and declares: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Scripture (Psalm 133)

verse 1:

It is good and pleasant when brothers dwell in unity. The idea of brothers’ dwelling in unity occurs twice in Genesis, and both times brothers could not dwell in unity. In Genesis 13:6, the land could not support Abram and Lot’s dwelling together with their many herds. In Genesis 36:6-7, Esau went away from Jacob because “their possessions were too great for them to dwell together.” If those passages stand behind Psalm 133:1, the idea is likely that God had richly blessed Canaan—just as he had promised—and all of his children could dwell together.

It’s also important to notice that Psalm 133 is what’s called a Song of Ascents. The Songs of Ascents were psalms that pilgrims sang as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the required festivals. Thus, the children of Israel sang this psalm as they were literally together with their fellow Israelites headed for worship.

verse 2:

Brothers’ dwelling in unity “is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes.” Special oil, of course, was poured on the heads of Aaron and his sons (and their future descendants) to consecrate them as priests.

This simile connects unity with Aaron’s consecration. There is also likely a connection between unity and the perfume’s pleasant aroma.

verse 3:

Brothers’ dwelling in unity is also “like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!” This simile is a bit baffling, for Hermon is a high, snowcapped mountain at the northern end of Israel, and Zion—Jerusalem—is at the southern end. So how does the dew from Hermon fall on the mountains of Zion? That’s not at all clear, but what is clear is that Jerusalem is in an arid climate, so vegetation relies far more on dew than it does rainfall. Thus, God is seen as blessing the land and giving food to his people.

David concluded this psalm with that very thought: “For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”


This psalm’s two similes are difficult to grasp; David knew what he meant, and certainly the Israelites of his day understood the similes. However, the overall truth of this psalm shines through: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

God intends for his people to dwell in unity. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10). “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11). Be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Pet 3:8).

How can this congregation fulfill the biblical command to be unified?

One: Adoration.

Because Psalm 133 is a Song of Ascents, the ancient Israelites literally sang this psalm in unity as they traveled to worship.

Adoration—worship—provides a unique opportunity for unity. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat [the Lord’s Supper], wait for one another” (1 Cor 11:33).

Worshipers uniquely experience the unity for which Jesus prayed. They sing the same hymns to one another. They hear the same message from the same Word. They pray together to the same God. They take the Lord’s Supper in unison. They contribute cheerfully toward the same work.

You cannot experience that unity unless you adore God when the saints meet. Sitting home and simply watching on the couch doesn’t cut it; that’s not what God intended (yes, I know that’s sometimes necessary). When you can physically be in the assembly and don’t come, you’re not participating in the unity of the body of Christ. How is your Adoration?

Two: Attitude.

You need to check your Attitude. Nothing harms the unity of the church more than someone who does not check his Attitude and is self-important. “By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Rom 12:3). Philippians 2:1-4.

Look at your heart. How important do you feel you are? How much love and attention do you give your brothers and sisters? How much do you insist that things go your own way? How gentle and kind are you with others? Just what is your Attitude?

Three: Amends

If you have wronged a brother or sister, you need to make Amends and make things right. That’s what Jesus himself said: Matthew 5:23-24. Is there someone whom you have harmed? By a thoughtless word? By a careless deed? By some forgetfulness? By an intentional act?

Look at your heart and ask if you have harmed a brother or sister with your actions. If you have harmed someone, you need to set things right and make Amends today. Go to that person and ask what you can do to make things right. Go to that person and seek forgiveness. Go to that person and seek reconciliation.


Unity with your brethren is vitally important, but so is unity with your Lord: “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5). Are you truly united with Christ? Are you reconciled to him? Are you living in him?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

Share with Friends: