Psalm 133: How Good and Pleasant

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

–Psalm 133 (ESV)

It’s entirely likely that no three verses anywhere in Scripture speak so clearly of the blessings of Christian unity as Psalm 133.  Among the sinful human race, like-mindedness is rare and precious, both among blood brethren and among the brethren of the church.  Of the latter kind of unity, Charles Spurgeon says:

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 in earnest service of the Lord is a well of goodness and joy to all those who dwell round about it.

With these wise words in mind, Psalm 133 is perfect for singing at any occasion where Christians gather—corporate worship, prayer meetings, evangelism projects, synod meetings.  In these cases and in many more, we would do well to remind ourselves of the goodness and the pleasantness of brothers dwelling in unity.

Brotherly unity being put into practice at Synod 2012.

Brotherly unity being put into practice at Synod 2012.

278, “How Good and Pleasant Is the Sight”

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, and West Sayville URC on Long Island, NY)

Compared to the Psalter Hymnal’s other versification of Psalm 133 just across the page, “How Good and Pleasant Is the Sight” is definitely the more popular song.  Truthfully, neither one is terribly accurate, but number 278 has the upper hand when it comes to a simple text and a memorable tune.  The first and second stanzas contain the entirety of Psalm 133; the third stanza combines the first half of the first stanza with the other half of the second, presumably in an attempt to “wrap things up” a bit.  The tune PRESSLY, composed by Charles Gabriel specifically for this psalm in the 1912 Psalter, is perky and full of joy—perfect for these uplifting words.  A nice bright organ registration, combined with care not to play too fast, will complement this setting beautifully.

279, “Behold, How Pleasant and How Good”

“Behold, How Pleasant and How Good” is a little sibling of sorts to number 278.  The text is much more summarized, with these lines at the beginning of both stanzas:

Behold, how pleasant and how good
That we, one Lord confessing,
Together dwell in brotherhood,
Our unity expressing.

The familiar tune SUCH A FRIEND lends a freer, more gospel-style sense to this psalm setting.  (The same caution—Not too fast—applies to this music as well.)  All in all, both of these versifications are standard Psalter Hymnal fare, but personally I think number 278 is the better of the two.

As we reflect on how Psalm 133 applies to the Christian life, Jesus’ words from John 17 inevitably come to mind:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

–John 17:20-26

Indeed, it is only through the gracious work of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Friend who sticks closer than a brother, that we can sing of the unity we now enjoy in him.  And while that like-mindedness can only be perfect in eternity, may we never cease to pray for it to increase here on earth!

How good and pleasant is the sight
When brethren make it their delight
To dwell in blest accord;
The Lord commands His blessing there,
And they that walk in love shall share
In life that never ends.

–MRK

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1 Response to “Psalm 133: How Good and Pleasant”



  1. 1 Psalm 134: Two-Way Blessings « URC Psalmody Trackback on January 28, 2013 at 7:05 am

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