Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. A Song of Degrees of David. We see no reason
for depriving David of the authorship of this sparkling sonnet. He knew by
experience the bitterness occasioned by divisions in families, and was well
prepared to celebrate in choicest Psalmody the blessing of unity for which he
sighed. Among the "songs of degrees", this hymn has certainly attained unto a
good degree, and even in common literature it is frequently quoted for its
perfume and dew. In this Psalm there is no wry word, all is "sweetness and
light", --a notable ascent from Psalm 110 with which the Pilgrims set out. That
is full of war and lamentation, but this sings of peace and pleasantness. The
visitors to Zion were about to return, and this may have been their hymn of joy
because they had seen such union among the tribes who had gathered at the common
altar. The previous Psalm, which sings o f the covenant, had also reveal ed the
centre of Israel's unity in the Lord's anointed and the promises made to him. No
wonder that brethren dwell in unity when God dwells among them, and finds his
rest in them. Our translators have given to this Psalm an admirable explanatory
heading, "The benefit of the communion of saints." These good men often hit off
the meaning of a passage in a few words.
Verse 1. Behold. It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore
behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints, --
therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and
gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well! God
looks on with approval, therefore consider it with attention. How good and
holy pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! No one
can tell the exceeding excellence of such a condition; and so the Psalmist uses
the word "how" twice; -- Behold how good! and how pleasant! He does not attempt
to measure either the good or the pleasure, but invites us to behold for
ourselves. The combination of the two adjectives "good" and "pleasant", is more
remarkable than the conjunction of two stars of the first magnitude: for a thing
to be "good" is good, but for it also to be pleasant is better. All men love
pleasant things, and yet it frequently happens that the pleasure is evil; but
here the condition is as good as it is pleasant, as pleasant as it is good, for
the same "how" is set before each qualifying word.
For brethren according to the flesh to dwell together is
not always wise; for experience teaches that they are better a little apart, and
it is shameful for them to dwell together in disunion. They had much better part
in peace like Abraham and Lot, than dwell together in envy like Joseph's
brothers. When brethren can and do dwell together in unity, then is their
communion worthy to be gazed upon and sung of in holy Psalmody. Such sights
ought often to be seen among those who are near of kin, for they are brethren,
and therefore should be united in heart and aim; they dwell together, and it is
for their mutual comfort that there should be no strife; and yet how many
families are rent by fierce feuds, and exhibit a spectacle which is neither good
As to brethren in spirit, they ought to dwell together in
church fellowship, and in that fellowship one essential matter is unity. We can
dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way;
oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit --these we must have, or
our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ.
The closer the unity the better; for the more of the good and the pleasant there
will be. Since we are imperfect beings, somewhat of the evil and the unpleasant
is sure to intrude; but this will readily be neutralized and easily ejected by
the true love of the saints, if it really exists. Christian unity is good in
itself, good for ourselves, good for the brethren, good for our converts, good
for the outside world; and for certain it is pleasant; for a loving heart must
have pleasure and give pleasure in associating with others of like nature. A
church united for years m earnest service of the Lord is a well of goodness and
joy to all those who dwell round about it.
Verse 2. It is like the precious ointment upon the head. In
order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a
resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a
sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the
first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and
so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord's
service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an
oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord's high priest alone!
It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his bead the fragrant oil flowed
down upon Aaron's head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem
was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power
and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction
upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest
members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier
because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special
use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the
special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better
fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory
those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them
priests unto the Lord. That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's
beard. This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain
confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest's
hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head
distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon.
That went down to the skirts of his garments. Once set in motion
it would not cease from flowing. It might seem as if it were better not to smear
his garments with oil, but the sacred unguent could not be restrained, it flowed
over his holy robes; even thus does brotherly love not only flow over the hearts
upon which it was first poured out, and descend to those who are an inferior
part of the mystical body of Christ, but it runs where it is not sought for,
asking neither leave nor license to make its way. Christian affection knows no
limits of parish, nation, sect, or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he
is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the
poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the
skirts of the garment, and my heart's love must fall even upon him. Brotherly
love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It "ran
down", and it" went down": love for the brethren condescends to men of low
estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its
excellence: oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would
brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.
Verse 3. As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended
upon the mountains of Zion. From the loftier mountains the moisture
appears to be wafted to the lesser hills: the dews of Hermon fall on Zion. The
Alpine Lebanon ministers to the minor elevation of the city of David; and so
does brotherly love descend from the higher to the lower, refreshing and
enlivening in its course. Holy concord is as dew, mysteriously blessed, full of
life and growth for all plants of grace. It brings with it so much benediction
that it is as no common dew, but As that of Hermon which is specially copious,
and far reaching. The proper rendering is, "As the dew of Hermon that descended
upon the mountains of Zion", and this tallies with the figure which has been
already used; and sets forth by a second simile the sweet descending
diffusiveness of brotherly unity. For there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for
evermore. That is, in Zion, or better still, in the place where brotherly
love abounds. Where love reigns God reigns. Where love wishes blessing, there
God commands the blessing. God has but to command, and it is done. He is so
pleased to see his dear children happy in one another that he fails not to make
them happy in himself. He gives especially his best blessing of eternal life,
for love is life; dwelling together in love we have begun the enjoyments of
eternity, and these shall not be taken from us. Let us love for evermore, and we
shall live for evermore. This makes Christian brotherhood so good and pleasant;
it has Jehovah's blessing resting upon it, and it cannot be otherwise than
sacred like "the precious ointment", and heavenly like "the dew of Hermon."
O for more of this rare virtue! Not the love which comes and
goes, but that which dwells; not that spirit which separates and secludes, but
that which dwells together; not that mind which is all for debate and
difference, but that which dwells together in unity. Never shall we know the
full power of the anointing till we are of one heart and of one spirit; never
will the sacred dew of the Spirit descend in all its fulness till we are
perfectly joined together in the same mind; never will the covenanted and
commanded blessing come forth from the Lord our God till once again we shall
have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Lord, lead us into this most precious
spiritual unity, for thy Son's sake. Amen.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is an effusion of holy joy
occasioned by the sight of the gathering of Israel as one great household at the
yearly feasts...There might likewise be an allusion to the previous jealousies
and alienations in the family of Israel, which seemed to be exchanged for mutual
concord and affection, on David's accession to the, throne of the whole nation.
--Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 1. Behold how good and how pleasant it is, etc. There
are three things wherein it is very pleasant to behold the people of God joining
1. When they join or are one in opinion and judgment,
when they all think the same thing, and are of one mind in the truth.
2. When they join together and are one in affection,
when they are all of one heart, though possibly they are not all of one mind;
or, when they meet in affection, though not in opinion. When David had spoken
admiringly of this goodly sight, he spoke declaratively concerning the goodness
of it (Ps 133:2): "It is like the precious ointment upon the
head." 'Tis so, first, for the sweetness of it; 'tis so, secondly, for the
diffusiveness of it (as followeth), "that ran down even the beard, even
Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments."
3. It is a blessed thing to see them joining together in duty,
either as duty is considered--First, in doing that which is good;
or, when, as the apostle's word is (2Co 6:1), they are, among themselves,
"workers together" in any good work: we say (to fill up the text), "workers
together with God." That's a blessed sight indeed, when we join with God, and
God joins with us in his work. It is also a blessed sight when all the ministers
of Jesus Christ, and many as members of Jesus Christ, join in any good work, in
this especially, to beseech all we have to do with "that they receive not the
grace of God in vain." Secondly, in turning from evil, and putting
iniquity far from them; in praying for the pardon of sin, and making their peace
with God. 'Tis a good work to turn away from evil, especially when all who are
concerned in it join in it...As to join in sin, and to be brethren in iniquity,
is the worst of unions, indeed, a combination against God; so to join as
brethren in mourning for sin and repenting of our iniquities is a blessed union,
and highly pleasing to God. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 1. How good and how pleasant it is, etc. The terms of
this praise and commendation, or the particulars whereof it consists, is taken
from a twofold qualification.
1. Brotherly concord and the improvement of it in all
occasional expressions is a very great good. This is, and will appear to be so
in sundry considerations.
As, First, in regard of the Author and
owner of it, which is God himself, who lays special claim
hereunto. Therefore in Scripture we find him to be from hence denominated and
entitled. 1Co 14:33. "God is not the author of confusion (or of noisiness), but
the author of peace". 2Co 13:11. "The God of peace and love." Peace is called
"the peace of God:" Php 4:7. And God is called the "God of peace; "each of which
expressions does refer it and reduce it to him, and does thereby advance it.
Look, then, how far forth God himself is said to be good, so far forth is this
dwelling in unity good also, as it is commanded and owned by him, as it appears
thus to be.
Secondly. It is good in the nature of it; it is
good, as any grace is good. It is good morally. Love is a fruit of the Spirit:
Ga 5:22. And so to dwell in love and unity one with another is a goodness
reducible thereunto. It is good spiritually; it is not only such a good as is
taught by moral philosophy, and practised by the students thereof, but it is
taught by the Holy Ghost himself, and is a part of the work of
regeneration and of the new creature in us, especially if we take it in the full
latitude and extent of it, as it becomes us to do.
Thirdly. It is good in the effects and
consequences and concomitants of it: it has much good. It is
bonum utile. A great deal of advantage comes by brethren's dwelling
together in unity, especially spiritual advantage, and for the doing and
receiving of good.
2. The second qualification is, the sweetness of it, because it
is "pleasant:" it is not only bonum utile, and bonum
honestum, but it is also bonum jucundum;it has a great deal of
pleasure in it. Pleasure is such a kind of goodness, especially to some kind of
persons, as that they care not almost what they do or part with to obtain it,
and all other good besides is nothing to them, if it be devoid of this.
Therefore for the further commendation of this fraternal unity to us, there is
this also to be considered, that it is "pleasant." Thus it is with
respect to all sorts of persons whatsoever, that are made sensible of it.
First. It is pleasant to God, it is such as is very
acceptable to him; it is that which he much delights in, wheresoever he observes
it; being himself a God of peace, he does therefore so much the more delight in
peaceable Christians, and such as do relate to himself. How much do natural
parents rejoice in the agreement of their children, to see them loving and
friendly and kind and courteous to one another, oh, it pleases them and joys
them at their very heart! and so it is likewise with God to those who are truly
Secondly. This brotherly unity is also pleasant to
ourselves, who accordingly shall have so much the greater pleasure in it
and from it.
Thirdly. It is also pleasing to others, indeed to
all men else besides, that are bystanders and spectators of it. "Behold,
how pleasant it is", etc. It is pleasant to all beholders: "He that
in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men", says
the apostle: Ro 14:18. --Thomas Horton, --1673.
Verse 1. Pleasant. It is a pleasant thing for the saints and
people of God to agree together; for the same word which is used here for
"pleasant", is used also in the Hebrew for a harmony of music, such as
when they rise to the highest strains of the viol, when the strings are all put
in order to make up a harmony; so pleasant is it, such pleasantness is there in
the saints' agreement. The same word is used also in the Hebrew for the
pleasantness of a corn field. When a field is clothed with corn, though it be
cut down, yet it is very pleasant, oh, how pleasant is it; and such is the
saints' agreement. The same word in the Psalmist is used also for the sweetness
of honey, and of sweet things in opposition to bitter things. And thus you see
the pleasantness of it, by its being compared to the harmony of music, to the
corn field, to the sweetness of honey, to the precious ointment that ran down
Aaron's beard, and to the dew that fell upon Hermort and the hills of Zion: and
all this to discover the pleasantness, profitableness, and sweetness of the
saints' agreement. It is a pleasant thing to behold the sun, but it is much more
pleasant to behold the saints' agreement and unity among themselves. --William
Verse 1. Brethren. Abraham made this name,
"brethren", a mediator to keep peace between Lot and him: "Are we not
brethren?" saith Abraham. As if he should say, Shall brethren fall out for
trifles, like infidels? This was enough to pacify Lot, for Abraham to put him in
mind that they were brethren; when he heard the name of brethren, straight his
heart yielded, and the strife was ended. So this should be the lawyer to end
quarrels between Christians, to call to mind that they are brethren. And they
which have spent all at law have wished that they had taken this lawyer, to
think, with Lot, whether it were meet for brethren to strive like enemies.
Verse 1. Brethren. Some critics observe that the Hebrew word
for a brother is of near brotherhood or alliance with two other words, whereof
the first signifies one, and the other alike or together,
to show that "brethren" ought to be as one, and alike, or
together;which latter is by an elegant paranomasia joined with it:
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in
unity", or, as we put it in the margin, "to dwell even together." So
then, the very word whereby "brethren" are expressed notes that there
ought to be a nearness, a similitude, yea, a oneness (if I may so speak)
between them in their affections and actions. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 1. To dwell is a word of residence, and abode, and
continuation. There is also pertaining to the love and concord of brethren a
perseverance and persistency in it; not only to be together, or to come
together, or to meet together for some certain time; but to dwell
together in unity, this is which is here so extolled and commended unto us. It
seems to be no such great matter, nor to carry any such great difficulty in it,
for men to command themselves to some expressions of peace and friendship for
some short space of time (though there are many now and then who are hardly able
to do that); but to hold out in it, and to continue so long, this endurance is
almost impossible to them. Yet this is that which is required of them as
Christians and as "brethren" one to another, even to "dwell
together in unity; "to follow peace, and love, and concord, and mutual
agreement, not only upon some occasional meetings, but all along the whole
course of their lives, while they converse and live together. --Thomas
Verse 1. Together in unity. If there be but one God, as God
is one, so let them that serve him be one. This is what Christ prayed so
heartily for. "That they may be one:" Joh 17:21. Christians should be one, 1.
In judgment. The apostle exhorts to be all of one mind. 1Co 1:10. How sad
is it to see religion wearing a coat of divers colours; to see Christians of so
many opinions, and going so many different ways I It is Satan that has sown
these tares of division. Mt 13:39. He first divided men from God, and then one
man from another. 2. One in affection. They should have one heart. "The
multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul": Ac 4:32. As
in music, though there be several strings of a viol, yet all make one sweet
harmony; so, though there are several Christians, yet there should be one sweet
harmony of affection among them. There is but one God, and they that serve him
should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely,
or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together
with the heart strings of love. If God be one, let all that profess him be of
one mind, and one heart, and thus fulfil Christ's prayer, "that they all may be
one." --Thomas Watson.
Verse 2. Precious ointment upon the head. Though every
priest was anointed, yet only the high priest was anointed on the head, and
there is a tradition that this rite was omitted after the Captivity, so that
there is a special stress on the name of Aaron. --Neale and Littledale.
Verse 2. The precious ointment... that ran down upon the
beard... that went down to the skirts of his garments. Magnificence,
misnamed by churls extravagance and waste, is the invariable attribute of all
true love. David recognized this truth when he selected the profuse anointing of
Aaron with the oil of consecration at his installation into the office of High
Priest as a fit emblem of brotherly love. There was waste in that anointing,
too, as well as in the one which took place at Bethany. For the oil was not
sprinkled on the head of Aaron, though that might have been sufficient
for the purpose of a mere ceremony. The vessel was emptied on the High Priest's
person, so that its contents flowed clown from the head upon the beard, and even
to the skirts of the sacerdotal robes. In that very waste lay the point of the
resemblance for David. It was a feature that was very likely to strike his mind;
for he, too, was a wasteful man in his way. He had loved God in a manner which
exposed him to the charge of extravagance. He had danced before the Lord, for
example, when the ark was brought up from the house of Obededom to Jerusalem,
forgetful of his dignity, exceeding the bounds of decorum, and, as it might
seem, without excuse, as a much less hearty demonstration would have served the
purpose of a religious solemnity. --Alexander Balmain Bruce, in "The Training
of the Twelve," 1877.
Verse 2. The precious ointment...that ran down. Of the
Hebrew perfumes an immense quantity was annually manufactured and consumed, of
which we have a very significant indication in the fact that the holy anointing
oil of the tabernacle and temple was never made in smaller quantities than 750
ounces of solids compounded with five quarts of oil, and was so profusely
employed that when applied to Aaron's head it flowed down over his beard and
breast, to the very skirts of his garments. --Hugh Macmillan, in "The Ministry
of Nature," 1871.
Verse 2. That ran down...that went down, etc. Christ's grace
is so diffusive of itself, that it conveys holiness to us, "running down from
the head to the skirts", to all his members. He was not only anointed himself,
but he is our anointer. Therefore it is called "the oil of gladness", because it
rejoiceth our hearts, by giving us spiritual gladness, and peace of conscience.
Verse 2. Down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down
to the skirts of his garments. Not the extremity of them, as our
version inclines to; for not so great a quantity of oil was poured upon him; nor
would it have been decent to have his clothes thus greased from top to bottom;
but the upper part of his garment, the top of his coat, on which the beard lay,
as Zarchi; the neck or collar of it, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; the hole in which
the head went through when it was put on, about which there was a band, that it
might not be rent: Ex 28:32 39:23; where the Septuagint use the same word as
here. --John Gill.
Verses 2-3. In this prayer and song of the unity of the
church, it is note worthy how, commencing with the fundamental idea of
"brethren", we rise to the realization of the Elder Brother, who is our
common anointed High Priest. It is the bond of his priesthood which joins us
together as brethren. It is the common anointing which flows down even to the
skirts of the garment of our High Priest which marks our being brethren. Whether
we dwell north or south, meeting in Zion, and sharing in the blessings of that
eternal Priesthood of Christ, we form in reality, and before our Father, but one
family-- "the whole family in earth and heaven." Our real bond of union consists
in the "flowing down", the "running down", or "descending" of the common
blessing, which marks the steps in this Psalm of Degrees (Ps 133:2-3). And if
"the dew of Hermon" has descended upon "the mountains of Zion", long after the
sun has risen shall gladsome fruit appear--in some twenty, in some thirty, and in
some a hundred fold. --Alfred Edersheim
Verse 3. As the dew of Hermon, etc. What we read in the
133rd Psalm of the dew of Hermon descending upon the mountains of Zion", says
Van de Velde in his "Travels" (Bd. 1. S. 97), "is now become quite clear to me.
Here as I sat at the foot of Hermon, I understood how the water drops which rose
from its forest mantled heights, and out of the highest ravines, which are
filled the whole year round with snow, after the sun's rays have attenuated them
add moistened the atmosphere with them, descend at evening time as a heavy dew
upon the lower mountains which lie round about as its spurs. One ought to have
seen Hermon with its white golden crown glistening aloft in the blue sky, in
order to be able rightly to understand the figure. Nowhere in the whole country
is so heavy a dew perceptible as in the districts near to Hermon. To this dew
the poet likens brotherly love. This is "as the dew of Hermon": of
such pristine freshness and thus refreshing, possessing such pristine power and
thus quickening, thus born from above (Ps 110:3), and in fact like the dew of
Hermon which comes down upon the mountains of Zion--a feature in the picture
which is taken from the natural reality; for an abundant dew, when warm days
have preceded, might very well be diverted to Jerusalem by the operation of the
cold current of air sweeping down from the north over Hermon. We know, indeed,
from our own experience how far off a cold air coming from the Alps is
perceptible, and produces its effects. The figure of the poet is therefore as
true to nature as it is beautiful. When brethren bound together in love also
meet together in one place, and, in fact, when brethren of the north unite with
brethren in the south in Jerusalem, the city which is the mother of all, at the
great Feasts, it is as when the dew of Mount Hermon, which is covered with deep,
almost eternal snow, descends upon the bare, unfruitful--and therefore longing
for such quickening--mountains round about Zion. In Jerusalem must love and all
that is good meet. --Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 3. As the dew of Hermon, etc. As touching this
similitude, I think the prophet useth the common manner of speaking. For whereas
the mountains oftentimes seem to those that behold them afar off, to reach up
even unto heaven, the dew which cometh from heaven seemeth to fall from the high
mountains unto the hills which are under them. Therefore he saith that the dew
descendeth from Hermon unto the mount Sion, because it so seemeth unto those
that do behold it afar off. --Martin Luther.
Verse 3. As the dew of Hermon. The dews of the mists that
rose from the watery ravines, or of the clouds that rested on the summit of
Hermon, were perpetual witnesses of freshness and coolness--the sources, as it
seemed, of all the moisture, which was to the land of Palestine what the
fragrant oil was to the garments of the High Priest; what the influence of
brotherly love was to the whole community. --Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
(1815-1881), in "Sinai and Palestine."
Verse 3. Dew of Hermon. We had sensible proof at Rasheiya of
the copiousness of the "dew of Hermon", spoken of in Ps 133:3, where
"Zion" is only another name for the same mountain. Unlike most other mountains
which gradually rise from lofty table lands and often at a distance from the
sea, Hermon starts at once to the height of nearly ten thousand feet, from a
platform scarcely above the sea level. This platform, too--the upper Jordan
valley, and marshes of Merom--is for the most part an impenetrable swamp of
unknown depth, whence the seething vapour, under the rays of an almost tropical
sun, is constantly ascending into the upper atmosphere during the day. The
vapour, coming in contact with the snowy sides of the mountain, is rapidly
congealed, and is precipitated in the evening in the form of a dew, the most
copious we ever experienced. It penetrated everywhere, and saturated everything.
The floor of our tent was soaked, our bed was covered with it, our guns were
dripping, and dewdrops hung about everywhere. No wonder that the foot of Hermon
is clad with orchards and gardens of such marvellous fertility in this land of
droughts. --Henry Baker Tristram, 1867.
Verse 3. As the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains
of Zion. --
So the dews on Hermon's hill
Which the summer clouds distil,
Floating southward in the night,
Pearly gems on Zion light.
--William Digby Seymour.
Verse 3. There the Lord commanded the blessing. God commands
his blessing where peace is cultivated; by which is meant, that he testifies how
much he is pleased with concord amongst men, by showering down blessings upon
them. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in other words (2Co 13:11 Php
4:9), "Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you." --John
Verse 3. The LORD commanded the blessing. By a bare word of
command he blesseth: "there he commands the blessing", that blessing of
blessings, "even life for evermore"; like as it is said, "he commanded,
and they were created": Ps 148:5. So "he commands and we are blessed."
Verse 3. The LORD commanded the blessing. It is an allusion
possibly to, great persons, to a general, or an emperor: "Where the word of a
king is, there is power." The centurion said, "I say to one soldier, Go, and he
goeth, to another, Come, and he cometh; to a third, Do this, and he doth it." So
God commandeth one ordinance, "Go and build up such a saint", and it goeth; he
saith to another ordinance, "Come, and call home such a sinner", and it doth it;
God's words and work go together. Men cannot enable others, or give them power
to obey them; they may bid a lame man walk, or a blind man see; but they cannot
enable them to walk or see: God with his word giveth strength to do the thing
commanded; as in the old, so in the new creation, "He spake, and it was done; he
commanded, and it stood fast:" Ps 33:9. But there the Lord commands his
blessing, "even life for evermore." The stream of regeneration, or
a spiritual life, which shall never cease, but still go forward and increase,
till it swell to, and be swallowed up in the ocean of eternal life, "even
life for evermore." --George Swinnock
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Verse 1. Christian unity.
1. Its admirable excellences.
2. The signs of its existence.
3. The causes of its decay.
4. The means of its renewal.
Verse 1. The saints are here contemplated,
1. In their brotherhood.
2. In their concord.
3. In their felicity. --W. J.
Verses 1-3. Six blessings which dwell with unity.
5. God's blessing.
6. Eternal life.
1. The contemplation: brethren dwelling together in unity.
(a) In a family.
(b) In a Christian church.
(c) Brethren of the same denomination.
(d) Of different denominations.
2. Its commendation.
(a) Literally: "good and pleasant."
(b) Figuratively: fragrant as the priestly anointing; fruitful
as the dew on Hermon.
(c) Spiritually, it has a blessing from God, that gives life,
and continues for evermore! --G. R.
Verses 1-3. On Christians dwelling together in unity as a
1. Its propriety, on account of fraternal relationship:
"For brethren." The Christian brotherhood is so unique, sacred and
lasting, that a lack of unity is a disgrace. They are brethren,
a) Because born of God, who is "the God of peace." Their claim
to the brotherhood is dependent upon likeness to Him: Mt 5:9.
b) Because united to Christ, who as elder brother desires
unity: Joh 17:20-21. Not to seek it is virtually to disown Him.
c) Because "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body"
(1Co 12:13), wherein unity must be kept: Eph 4:3.
d) Because destined to "dwell together in unity", for ever in
heaven; therefore we should aim at it here.
2. Its peculiar excellency:both "good and pleasant."
a) Good, in respect of church work and influence; of mutual
edification and growth in grace (2Co 13:11); of the success of prayer (Mt
18:19); of recommending the gospel to others.
b) Pleasant, as productive of happiness: as pleasing to God.
3. Its promotion and maintenance.
a) Seeking the glory of God unites; in opposition to self
honour which divides.
b) Love to Christ as a constraining power unites each to the
other as it binds all closely to Christ.
c) Activity in ministering to others, rather than desiring to
be ministered unto, binds heart to heart. --J. F.
Verse 2. There must have been special reasons why a priestly
anointing should be selected for the comparison, and why that of Aaron, rather
than of any other of the high priests. They are these--
1. The ointment was "holy", prepared in accordance with
the Divine prescription: Ex 30:23-25. Church union is sacred. It must spring
from the love commanded by God; be based on the principles laid down by God; and
exist for the ends appointed of God.
2. The anointing was from God through Moses, who acted
on behalf of God in the matter. Church unity is of the Holy Spirit (1Co 13:13),
through Jesus as mediator. Therefore it should be prayed for, and thankfully
3. By the anointing, Aaron became consecrated, and
officially qualified to act as priest. By unity the Church, as a whole, lives
its life of consecration, and effectively ministers in the priesthood assigned
4. The oil was diffusive;it rested not on Aaron's head,
but flowed down to the skirts of his garments. Unity will, in time, make its way
from a few to the whole, especially from the leaders in a church to the rest of
its members. Hence, it is a personal matter. Each should realize it, and by love
and wise conduct diffuse it. --J. F.
Verses 2-3. Christian love scatters blessing by the way of
coming down: "ran down", "went down", "descended."
1. God to his saints.
2. Saint to saint.
3. Saint to sinner.
Verse 3. The chosen place for blessing. A church; a church
united, a church bedewed of the Spirit. What a blessing for the world that there
is a commanded place of blessing!
Verse 3. (first clause). This should be rendered, "As
the dew of Hermon, that cometh down on the mountains of Zion." From the snows
upon the lofty Hermon, the moisture raised by the sun is carried in the form of
vapour, by the wind towards the lesser elevations of Zion, upon which it falls
as a copious dew. Thus, Christian concord in church fellowship--
1. Despises not the little ones, i.e. the mean, poor, and less
a) Recognises that God is the Father, and Christ is the
Redeemer of all believers alike.
b) Acknowledges oneness of faith as the true basis of
fellowship; not wealth, social position or talent.
c) Believes that the least member is essential to the
completeness of Christ's body.
d) Realises that everything which renders one in any way
superior to another is the gift of God.
2. Distributes of its abundance to the needy: Ac 4:32-37.
a) The wealthy to the poor: 1Jo 3:17.
b) The learned to the ignorant.
c) The joyful to the sorrowing.
d) The steadfast to the erring: Jas 5:19.
3. Displays its value more by loving generosity, than by a
conspicuous appearance before the world. As Hermon was more valuable to Zion for
its dew than for its adornment of the landscape.
a) A generous activity exhibits and requires more real grace
than showy architecture or ornate worship does.
b) Through it, godliness flourishes more than by a vaunted
respectability. Zion was fertilized by the dew, not by the grandeur of Hermon.
c) By it the heart of Christ is touched and his reward secured:
Mr 9:40,42. --J. F.
Verse 3. Commanded Mercy. Elsewhere goodness is
bestowed, but in Zion it is commanded.
1. Commanded mercy implies that it must necessarily be given.
2. Commanded mercy attends commanded unity.
3. Commanded mercy secures life more abundantly, "life for
evermore." --W. B. H.