Psalms For Life
Looking for content on a specific topic?
Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 133

The beauty of unity

David saw unity as of the utmost importance. Jesus, likewise, prayed that his people might be truly one. Yet Christians and churches today are so often no less divided than godless society around them.

A song of ascents. A David song.

How good and beautiful it is
when brothers and sisters
live together in unity!
2 It’s like costly anointing oil
poured onto the head so freely
that it streams down the beard—
down the beard of Aaron
till it flows onto the collar of his robe.
3 It’s like Mount Hermon’s massive dew
descending on Mount Zion’s slopes.
For that’s where YHWH has promised
to bless humankind
with life unending.

David knew that a person’s enemies can be members of their own family, whether envious older brothers, a jealous father-in-law, or an ego-maniacal son. But the unity this psalm praises extends well beyond family to the nation and the world.

David likens such unity to the oil Israelites anointed guests with. But surprisingly, it’s poured so liberally that it streams down the man’s face and beard. Then we’re told it’s the sacred anointing oil that empowered Israel’s high priest Aaron to represent the nation to God and God to the nation.

Our third surprise comes in the psalm’s over-the-top comparison of unity to dew from the region’s tallest mountain descending on little Mount Zion. Every Israelite knew this was geographically impossible. However, the image beautifully pictures national unity: as Israel’s northernmost mountain blesses southerly Zion with its superlative dew, Zion in return blesses all its pilgrims from wherever, with its unparalleled blessing of endless life. As pilgrims climbed successively higher hills on their way to Zion, they sang of God’s blessing descending on them, like holy oil and heavenly dew, to refresh and renew.

Aided by Internet algorithms, our hyper-individualistic culture has lately embraced the disunity of tribalism with gusto, rejecting anything that might moderate our “personal” viewpoint, however impersonally it’s come to us. Christians tragically sucked into such a vortex of social disintegration forget what David prayed: God has made Zion’s unity the source of eternal blessing for humankind. They also forget what Jesus prayed: the unity of God’s people was the longing of his heart. Allowing secondary issues to break us apart breaks the heart of God.

Jesus, your death on Mount Zion declared all humanity at once unworthy and yet welcomed to sit at your table. Though egotism and gracelessness divide your people, your Spirit longs to bind us together as one. Spirit of Unity, descend on us today like anointing oil and refreshing dew. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

How good and beautiful it is
when brothers and sisters
live together in unity!


Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.