In Psalm 133, King David praises the beautiful gift and sacred duty of unity among God’s people: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (verse 1). As one of the pilgrimage psalms or songs of ascent (Psalms 120—134), Psalm 133 was aptly incorporated into the annual religious festivals in which all the families of Israel joined in Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
The word translated “good” in the original Hebrew means “excellent, choice, select, having desirable qualities, agreeable to the senses.” The word for “pleasant” further suggests “sweetness,” a quality that affords pleasure and delight. It is good and pleasant for God’s people to live together in unity because our harmonious and loving interactions please the Lord. Jesus prayed for us to be united as one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:11, 21–22). If we live in unity, we reflect the integral, triune relationship among God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Likewise, unity brings fulfillment and happiness to those who experience it (Ephesians 4:1–13; Colossians 3:14). Our accord brings glory to God (Romans 15:5–6).
David compared unity to “precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe” (Psalm 133:2). This association with the consecration and anointing of Aaron relates to the blessing of God’s presence, which enables His people to dwell together in harmony (see Exodus 29:1–46; 30:22–38; Leviticus 8:12). As high priest over all the tribes of Israel, Aaron entered the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle each year as a representative, offering sacrifices of atonement for the sins of all the people. His priestly ministry provided spiritual unification for the entire nation.
Just as the oil ran down Aaron’s head and beard and onto his robes, love and harmony among Christian brothers and sisters flows down and out and spreads blessings to the entire body of Christ. The pleasant fragrance of unity also causes believers to become appealing witnesses of Christ’s love to the unbelieving world (John 13:35; 17:11, 20–23).
Unity among God’s people is life-producing. David likens unity to the dew of Hermon “falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133:3). The northern slopes of Mount Hermon are known for producing copious amounts of refreshing, life-giving dew. God causes the fresh, nourishing, revitalizing blessing of harmony to rest on His people, like cool mist falling on the mountains of Zion. As is true of all good gifts, brotherly unity comes from God above (James 1:17).
It is good and pleasant for God’s people to be united because together we possess great strength to stand against and overcome our enemy, the devil (1 Peter 5:9). Our unity allows us to support one another in the spiritual battle (Galatians 6:1).
God designed His church to operate as a cohesive body and to use our gifts to complement and build one another up (1 Corinthians 12:14–27). When we pursue unity, we no longer live according to our old, self-serving desires but instead follow the apostle Paul’s recommendation: “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future” (Ephesians 4:1–4, NLT).
It is good and pleasant for God’s people to be united because unity helps us remain humble, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). When we sacrifice our desires for the benefit of others, we cultivate the kind of unity Paul advocated for: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:2–3, NLT).
Unity is both the great blessing of God and the great call of God on our lives. Ultimately, God’s purpose—“the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure”—is to unite all people under His rule and “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9–10; see also Philippians 2:9–11).