Text: Psalm 133

Unity is important in every organisation. A divided body will surely fall. The same is true for the church. When there is no unity, little can be accomplished in the work of the Lord.

How wonderful it is to read of unity in this short but sweet psalm. This unity is both “good” (in contrast with that which does evil) and “pleasant” (i.e. delightful and thus to be desired). It is a unity that was present among brethren. These “brethren” were not just David’s brothers in the same family, but those who shared the same spirit as him. They were those who were united with David in seeking to glorify God in everything that they did.

In his commentary on the Psalms, Rev. Timothy Tow astutely notes that David’s three elder brothers (Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah) treated him roughly when David watched the battle against the Philistines and Goliath. Instead of supporting him in the godly cause, they spoke against him in-stead. “So often, brothers in the same family are not as close as they should be.”

On the other hand, you have the example of loyal captains of David, who were willing to risk their lives so that David may perform well in his duty as chief commander. “And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink there-of, but poured it out unto the LORD. And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.” (2 Sam. 23:14-17)

We must, however, understand what true unity is. True unity can only be found in Christ (Eph. 4:4-7). Interestingly, David says in verse 3 that the LORD commands his blessing from Zion. Zion was the location of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle represents the presence of God. Thus, here is a reminder that true unity can only come from God and His Word. There is no unity outside the truth of the Scriptures. When the church departs from God’s Word, and embraces worldly philosophies and attitudes, it will lead to the splitting of God’s people. Note Paul’s assessment when he learned about the abuse of the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian Church: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Cor. 11:19)

Alas, people often mistake those who stand for the truth as troublemakers. Thus, we have the example of Ahab accusing Elijah as the troubler of Israel (1 Ki. 18:17). We thank God for Elijah, who courageously and righteously replied, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.” (1 Ki. 18:18)

In the Lord’s work, it is important to have the same mind of Christ, in humility preferring one another. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Rom. 12:10). Understand that each of us plays a role in the building of the body of Christ. We are but servants and instruments in the hands of God. The increase and glory belong to God (1 Cor. 3:1-9). When we get jealous one against the other, we lose. The name of Christ is brought down, and the flock of God is hurt.

The sad end of jealousy among God’s people can be seen in two incidents in the Exodus. The first was the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron against their own brother Moses. “And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.” (Num. 12:2) Later on, the sons of Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron in jealousy. “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?” (Num. 16:3) Moses answered, “Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?” (Num. 16:9) The LORD judged the sons of Korah, but in his mercy preserved some from that line. How wonderful then it is to see that some of the Psalms (Pss. 42; 44; 46-49; 84-88) were penned by the sons of Korah. They stood in unity in serving the Lord in the Temple. We can savour the sweet fruit of it even till today.

My prayer for Tabernacle BPC is that we will be united people in Christ. United in God’s Word. United in God’s Love. United in the same mind, with honour, preferring one another. It first starts with a united Session which is wholly devoted in following Christ and helping one another fulfil their roles in leading God’s people in the work for Christ’s kingdom. The pastor cannot do it alone. He needs the support of godly and capable men. Pray for a united Session. When the Session is united, we pray that God’s people will also learn from this good example and fight the Lord’s battle together. Since we have newly moved in to Jackson Square, is it not time to work together to seek new avenues to serve Christ? When we are united in Christ, we can do much for the Lord. When we are divided, we fall.

When unity is present among God’s people. It is like the precious oil that flows down Aaron’s beard, and the life-giving water that flows from Hermon. Let us preserve this unity in Christ in Tabernacle BPC by “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3)

Yours lovingly,
Pastor Clement Chew



(First Published in Life BPC Weekly, 12 Jan 2003,
Republished True Life BPC Weekly, 7 Oct 2018)
Text: Psalm 133

It is observed that the higher a man climbs up the ladder of success, the more enemies he makes. So, there is a Chinese saying, “Talking bad of the king behind his back.” Some of David’s enemies were Shimei, Ahithophel and even Absalom his own son.

But God also raised up loyal followers for King David. They supported David to make him king. Of 30 captains who stood with David there were three who heard David say, “Oh, how I’d like a drink of cool, fresh water from the well of my hometown Bethlehem.” Now at that time Bethlehem was occupied by the Philistines. The three captains taking their lives into their own hands broke through the ranks of the Philistines and brought back the cool, refreshing water to their king. But David said, “This is the blood of the three captains. I cannot drink it.” Then he poured it on the ground as an offering to the Lord.

The goodness and pleasantness of brotherly love David is talking about, is not that of natural brothers but rather of the spiritual. If it is also of natural brothers, it will be doubly pleasant.

Nevertheless, David has so admonished his friends to live by his injunctions as follows, “I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing be-fore mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faith-ful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.” (Ps 101). As St Augustine puts it succinctly to his students, “I will not allow anyone of you to talk bad of others behind their back.”

Now the Church is a Gospel centre, but we have made it a gossip centre. Twisted reports of man or things are often repeated. Watch your tongue and watch your lips. But rather say things that edify. A senior’s word of commendation on a junior goes a long way to build up the younger person. By way of illustration, a new lecturer took over the homiletics class I used to teach. Every student, even the best, was torn to shreds, after the sermon he preached. Everyone almost became a nervous wreck. Knowing that a learner needs encouragement than destructive criticism, my method is, “Please say a kind word on the sermon.” In this way his confidence is built up, and slowly he improves to be a good speaker. In our association with one another let us be kindly affectioned one to another.

The power of brotherly love, of mutual love and respect, is like sweet perfume, like the special ointment that anoints the high priest, most precious. Every drop of it that flows from the head to the beard and that flows down the garment is fragrant. How it pleases not only men but also Almighty God. When men hear of brotherly love in the leadership of the Church they praise the Lord and bless His Name, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” (Prov 29:2).

The power of brotherly love is likened to the dew of Mount Hermon that brings life-giving moisture to the hills of Zion, from high to low. Mount Hermon in the north is 9,000 ft and the Hills of Zion 2,700 ft. This causes the parched grass of Zion, after a night’s descent of Hermon’s dew to spring up to life. From brown to green in one night. The power of brotherly love transforms the dying to exuberant life even in the famous saying, “One shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight” (Deut 32:30).

There were twelve spies sent by Moses into Canaan to spy out the land. Ten returned with a dismal report, comparing themselves to grasshoppers in a land of giants. This so discouraged the children of Israel that they would return to Egypt.

Two were of a different mind, Joshua and Caleb. Full of faith, they urged, “If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not” (Num 14:8–9).

What was the result? The ten spies who brought an evil report died in the plague before the Lord, but Joshua and Caleb lived through the 40 years of wilderness journey even to 110 years and beyond 85 years respectively.

God will give you long life because of your faith, and good health and strength, even like Moses who lived to 120. The power of brotherly love, the like-mindedness of brethren who dwell together in unity, is the love of David for his followers. This is the same unity of the Apostles serving their Saviour who exhorted them, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:12–14).