Behold! Harmony

Behold! Harmony

Behold! Harmony.

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another.   And maybe some words are: AmenHallelujahBlessedAbba. Come.  The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

Behold! Look, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing – Life forevermore.” 

How precious life is when people live together in harmony. This psalm reflects a warm, quiet joy as we imagine anointing oil coming down over the head, over the beard and onto the robe, a sustained blessing by the Lord. People living together in peace and unity is also a sustained blessing and the high point of Christian community, the sign that the Lord is present in the community. The oil that Moses used to anoint Aaron as high priest (Ex. 29:7) was costly, pure, scented, sacred, and purposeful. Living in harmony with others is just as precious, pleasant, life-giving and meaningful. Oil is what set apart Aaron and made him holy. Oil is what consecrated Aaron. In the same way, harmony is what sets the Christian apart from the world. Harmony is what is distinctive and makes the believers sacred. To live in harmony, brothers and sisters see each other as priests, with the unifying oil of love flowing down each believer, saturating the whole body to the hem of the robe.

Anointing Oil. Harmony, like fragrantly scented oil, spreads its perfume outwardly. When Christians love each other and are of the same mind and working together, that love spreads to all who can see it. The anointing oil of harmony spreads the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15). The early church leader Origen once said that the perfume of the knowledge of God is pervasive in the world, thanks to “the mystery of the anointing in which all Christians share; Jesus received the anointing with the oil of gladness in all its fullness. Those who are partakers in Jesus, each according to his own measure, partake also in His anointing. Since Christ is in fact the Head of the Church which forms one single body with Him, the precious oil poured upon the Head, runs down to Aaron’s beard and all the way to the very fringes of His garment.” Fr. Cantalamessa follows up that idea with this thought: “The Holy Spirit is the precious ointment that is poured out on the head of the new High Priest who is Christ Jesus; from Him, the Head, it spreads like a soaking oil down through His body, the Church, to the very hem of its garment, there where the Church touches the world.” (R. Cantalamessa, Come, Creator Spirit).

One Another. What does it look like to dwell in unity, to live together with harmony? It might be helpful to look at the “one anothers” in Scripture and find a glimpse of what it takes to live in harmony. With the transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can indeed enjoy a life together that reflects the eternal Kingdom of God, a community that has a heart for one another.

  1. Bear One Another’s Burdens:  To lift up and carry; to take up and walk with; to intercede for someone else, whether through prayer or caregiving, whether tangible or intangible; to relieve someone of something that weighs heavily on them.
  2. Build Up One Another: To edify; to strengthen; to empower; to affirm certain qualities; to help someone or a group to grow to maturity; to construct a building, an edifice, of faith and character in another person or group.
  3. Warn One Another: To admonish; to caution; to place into someone’s awareness; to reprove gently; to call attention to; to alert another person’s thinking; to offer sound advice and guidance.
  4. Encourage One Another: To “paraclete” each other: Called to come alongside someone in need, in order to help and bear burdens by Pointing to God, Advising, Reminding, Advocating for, Comforting, Listening, Exhorting, Teaching and Encouraging.
  5. Restore One Another: To set right; to repair; to refit; to mend; to rejoin; to bring back to its original state; to heal.
  6. Honor One Another: To show deference to; to prefer over one’s self; to highly esteem; to greatly respect; to revere; to focus on the importance of another.
  7. Bear With One Another: To put up with; to make allowances for; to willingly endure; forbearance; to tolerate; to have patience with; to accept someone despite their weaknesses.
  8. Exhort One Another: To urge to continue in the Faith; to beseech in strong terms; to come alongside to offer encouraging guidance; to inspire courage and hope; to call upon someone to act; to give affirming words that strengthens others.
  9. Confess to One Another: To acknowledge openly; to freely admit to wrongdoing; to announce one’s guilt; to concede one’s shortcomings; to repent of sins; to agree with God that one’s sin is a sin.
  10. Wash One Another’s Feet: A simple act of hospitality; a house servant’s task; involves placing someone else’s dirty, smelly feet into a bowl of water and carefully using one’s hands to cleanse those feet of all dirt, grime and sweat, and then drying the feet with a clean towel; a common, menial act of service and humility; exercising the ministry of touch to the untouchable; the powerful sacrament of servanthood.
  11. Harmonize with One Another. When separate parts intentionally combine into a beautiful whole; to reconcile apparent differences into a combined unity; to adjust in order to fit together; to be of the same mind; to unite in the same direction in will, affection and conscience; to join together in unity of spirit and purpose, with one heart and one passion; to be agreeable and get along; mutual understanding.

Pouring the Oil of the Spirit. In Scripture, the oil of anointing symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and in fact is used by the Holy Spirit. So the anointing of oil on Aaron’s head lends itself to a spiritual application. When the Spirit is applied to each of us, when we are anointed, it is never sprinkled or dribbled… The Spirit is always poured, just like in Psalm 133. The oil is poured until we are drenched to overflowing, reaching down to the very bottom of our robes.

a. ...till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.” (Isaiah 32:15);

b. “Exalted to the right hand of God He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.‘ (Acts 2:33);

c. “They were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (Acts 10:45);

d. “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5);

e. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5-6).

f. “Then Moses took the anointing oil and poured some of the oil on Aaron’s head and anointed Him.” (Lev. 8:10-12); “Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head.” (Exodus 29:7).

Garments of Splendor. What was Aaron wearing at his consecration, when his clothes were saturated with the anointing oil? ‘Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me as priest. And you shall make sacred garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to me as priest.” (Exodus 28:1-3). Yahweh wanted Aaron to be distinctive in his role of high priest. Aaron’s identity was firmly established in the minds of the people whenever they saw him because of his holy garments. Aaron wore a set of clothing that distinguished him as high priest. His sacred garments set him apart from the people, and it reinforced in his own mind that he was called to a serious business with God and with the people. Aaron’s high priestly uniform pieces were made to be “glorious and beautiful.” Rabbinic sources state that the garments were not intended to be merely attractive in their own right, but instead made for “the glory of God and for the beauty of His presence.” His holy garments were made to reflect the very glory and beauty of Yahweh. So nothing but the finest of materials were used, and even the tailors producing these garments were specially gifted for this project by the Lord Himself.

High Priest. “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testing we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16).  As the designated high priest for Israel, Aaron was the only person in the world who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. He would enter this Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat, the Atonement Cover, for the forgiveness of all the sins of the people. The Mercy Seat sat on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred gold-covered box that contained the original stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, a golden jar of manna, and Aaron’s blossoming staff. But now Jesus Christ is the new high priest. “He has entered that greater, more perfect tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:11-12). Because of His sacrifice that satisfied the demands of a holy and sinless God, Jesus brought an end to the old sacrifice system, which only was a hint of Christ’s sacrifice in the first place. As our high priest, Jesus is our advocate before God, our everyday intercessor in God’s presence. Aaron’s role as high priest, his job in securing the forgiveness of the people, was only a foreshadowing of Jesus. Aaron’s high priesthood was merely in anticipation of Jesus’ high priesthood.