As the holidays approach, I am reminded of the importance of family. Beloved, I have a real, live family. We don’t live in Stepford. We live in Realville. We still have some fights and hurt feelings at our house. We love passionately and can tangle passionately. Read the words of tiny Psalm 133-David penned these three verses about unity and family.
“How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony. For harmony is as precious as the fragrant anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls in the mountains of Zion. And the Lord has pronounced His blessing, even life forevermore.” (NLT)
Psalms are for real people-not robots. We are creatures with all kinds of hang-ups and emotional needs. Bible-time dads probably got upset with their kids just the same as daddies in our day. Did Bible mommies get PMS? Of course! Family feuds and irritating relationships are timeless.
Psalm 133 was written as a collection of psalms called the Psalms of Ascents. These succinct poems were spoken or sung by pilgrims as they journeyed to the Temple in Jerusalem for feast days. Have you ever taken a road trip with your extended family? Jewish relatives relished such reunions. But as the journey continued, they probably remembered how annoying some of their kinfolks’ personal habits could be to the others of their clan.
They forgot that Uncle Hosea spits, or that cousin Jedediah eats with his mouth open, And how Gran-Bethlebigma takes her wooden teeth out after dinner. Journeying in a caravan over long distances only exacerbates relational challenges.
David taught in this psalm that unity is hard-won, but totally worth it. Unity-oneness intimacy-allows the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit to fill hearts and homes. There’s nothing like it.
We probably have no say about the kin God gave us. Even the challenges they pose can be effective motivation to seek His throne, His help and His healing. Friends are family you got to choose, but you may not grow spiritually and emotionally if you refuse to face the tests of family life. We can choose our companions according to affinity and common interests. We can drop friends more easily if the relationship becomes awkward, painful or inconvenient. But we may not be the better for it. Where would our prayer lives be? Where would we learn tolerance, unselfishness, and flexibility? Who in our lives would motivate us to change?
Family members quickly learn that a fight need not be a fatality. Conflict may be healthy. Forgiveness is a learned art all should practice. God often uses other people as the chisel to carve true integrity into our rough personalities. A chisel that never scrapes the stone is useless.
The New Interpreter’s Bible commentary says,
“The family is a crucial institution. If affects everyone, for good or ill. By its very nature, it can be the place where one experiences and learns intimacy, love and growth, or it can be the place where one experiences and learns resentment, abuse and destructive behaviors.”
Having a close family requires a dose of humility, a lot of patience, and a lot of unconditional love. But at the conclusion of Psalm 133 God promises that His refreshing blessing, His Divine presence and long life will result when we choose to be family peacemakers! May you be filled with His Spirit this wonderful Christmas season!
Excerpts from Stepping Up: A Journey through the Psalms of Ascents by Beth Moore. Nashville: Lifeway Press, 2007, pp. 154-156.