How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.
Psalm 133 (The Message)
Imagine David’s world as he wrote out this song of praise. Shepherd, hero, musician, King. He was all of these. But he was also a son, a brother, a father, and a friend. He lived loud – his successes were famous, as were his failures. He felt deeply. When glad, he was exuberant, dancing and singing without a care of any watching. He bared his heart when he was troubled, crying out for forgiveness and restitution.
Imagine David, as an older man, maybe even a tired king, looking back on his life and writing about family. Imagine him watching children at play. Imagine his memories of a simpler life with his brothers when he was a child. This is what I see…
“Come on, David, we’re leaving.”
Nitzevet threw the ends of her scarf over her shoulder impatiently. Her sons were always scrapping, always into something or other, roughhousing… and David, the youngest, was the worst! He never backed down from the older, bigger boys. Even when the teasing and tumbling went beyond play. He was a wonder, though. What a sense of humor and spirit of joy. She and Jesse had finally made the decision that David was to go with the sheep this season. She had argued that he wasn’t old enough – her husband had countered that she was spoiling him, keeping him home too long. Hmmph, she thought as she finished packing the leftover bread and olives from noon meal, rolling her eyes at the thought. Spoiled, indeed. Her youngest was not rotten fruit! She smiled, even as she turned to call him again.
David was not as prepared to leave as his mother wanted. His tunic was muddy again - and his hair… a tangled mass of curls that she knew would take more patience than she had. Oh well, too late to change; at least he’d arrived at the temple in a presentable state. Her smile broadened. Nothing would spoil this holiday. The trip to the temple, seeing friends and relatives. Honestly, she had enjoyed the company of women in their separate worship; sometimes she was too surrounded by men. Nitzevet whispered a quick prayer of thanksgiving for her husband and sons. She knew she had been blessed with seven sons, but still….
Jesse, Abinadab, and Eliab walked ahead. It had been a rewarding day and Nitzevet watched as they threaded their way among the groups of people heading back to Bethlehem. She was proud of her husband and oldest sons. Talking animatedly, hands in motion, they were greeted with smiles and manly backslapping, and forearm grasping. They were popular and their opinions were sought after. Yes, she was proud.
David and Nathaniel stayed closer. Not because they weren’t allowed to wander through the throngs, but because they were more intent on fun. Mischievous boys. They were finding amusement by subtle parody. Starting with the caged doves, the boys stepped and cooed, flapping imaginary wings. Encouraged by the reactions of walkers around them, they had moved from birds, to sheep, to donkeys, and now, people. Nitzevet considered stepping in, there was the issue of respect that concerned her – but they were managing to walk the fine line between mimicking and mocking. Even Old Alishab smiled when they slowed their steps and began limping along with him. It was a gift, to spread joy, and Nitzevet whispered another prayer of thanksgiving.
She was awakened from her reverie by laughter. Of course, it was her sons. Again. They had somehow managed to gather and arrange tunics and robes about David in a manner that recalled the priests at the temple. Nathaniel was pouring water over David’s head – the way the priests sometimes used the sacred oil. The water was spilling through his curls and down his face onto the fabric of his tunic. She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry.
It was a funny sight – David was working to keep his face solemn and holy while the water dripped into his eyes and off the end of his nose. She could just imagine the sight of the oil in the priest’s beard – the priests her sons were now mimicking. The priests with the serious expressions and dour behavior. Even she had, on occasion, in secret contemplation, thought they looked like wrinkled old olives dressed in linens and gold. Trust those boys of hers to ignore the position of the Levites and enjoy their plight. Imagine having to stay solemn with oil dripping on your head, through your hair, into your beard and onto your tunic. Oh dear! She was sure, by the mixed emotions on the faces of those around her, that she would be chastised about her sons’ behavior.
Nitzevet thought about the nature of God. He had to have a sense of humor, too. Like her boys. Hadn’t He created them, after all. Eyes to the heavens, Nitzevet spoke this prayer of thanksgiving out loud, for her family, for her boys, and for the joy that bound them together. And for God's humor that sustained them. Then she pulled her shoulders back, straightened her scarf, and called out:
“David, Nathaniel, come.”
I think David mentions the priestly oil of Aaron because he was remembering the fellowship of family – joking and playing with his brothers – through all of the comings and goings of his daily life. Even through the sacred ceremonies of the temple. Especially through the sacred ceremonies of the temple. David was so connected to God that he couldn’t imagine any aspect of his life without Him. Humor, joy, fellowship were all entwined in his Maker, Creator, and King.
In the very next lines, David uses the image of dew on Hebron. I have read that this dew is so abundant, it might as well have been rain. Abundant family – overflowing into all of God’s people – down the slopes of Zion. What a precious image – as the Message says – of ‘getting along’.
It is then, no surprise to me at all, that David closes this psalm by reminding us that this ‘getting along’, this family, is the root of God’s blessing. He is, after all, our Father. What a wonderful thing – to be a child of God!
Thank you, Father, for family – physical and spiritual. Thank you for humor, joy, and fellowship. Help us to stay close to one another, even in this world of distance.
Linking with TellHisStory
from the Archives - March 2, 2013
Linking with TellHisStory
from the Archives - March 2, 2013