Psalm 133:2: 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!
The psalm from which the focus verse was derived was a celebration of unity. God is against dissension, except when it is about commitment to personal holiness. God warned that we should not follow the multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2). You are permitted to be a lone ranger in following a God-based lifestyle.
However, we should always put at the back of our mind that “who” we are is more important than “what” we know. We (Christians) may be divided by what we know but not in who we are as members of the same body of Christ. In that sense we are one in Christ. If our aim is to pursue Christ-likeness, we would increasingly find fewer things to be divided about.
Once we are focused on representing Christ’s love, power and wisdom; we would find less reason to criticise others, rather we will embrace those who are different from us, seeing them with the eyes of the love of God, and partners in the work of the gospel (Philippians 1:15-18).
The bible says that knowledge puffs up (1Corinthians 8:1). When love does not temper your knowledge, then you will not be able to fit in with other believers, into the space you are meant to be as a stone in God’s spiritual building (1Peter 2:5); the place for the manifestation of God (Ephesians 2:21-22). So what we need is balance: knowledge balanced by love.
If we need to move away from a group of believers, we must ensure that we leave without rancour and that it is for the purpose of the furtherance of the gospel not a reaction based on a bruised pride. (But if there is pervasive spiritual abuse then the decision to depart from the group should be quickly and cleanly done. You should not be injured in the name of church. There are better places for you.)
Remember that Paul and Barnabas parted ways after a sharp argument (Acts 15:39), because of difference in the method for fulfilling the mandate they have from God, and not anything personal.
They were focused on the work of the gospel, they had eternity in view. And it could be argued that it was good that they parted ways. There was no lingering animosity; because both were sure of the passion of the other for Jesus, but also recognising that it was time to move on. They were not bitter as a result of the separation. The breaking up actually helped multiply the previous missionary work into two.
It was the same Paul who wrote what was stated earlier about knowledge puffing up but he added that love edifies. Love is expressed in the context of others, but not knowledge, which is accumulated in isolation, and if knowledge is not accomplished by corresponding building up in the area of love, it is a mere bubble, which will burst; such continued expansion in the knowledge arena is not sustainable if not grounded in love. Such empty knowledge feeds the pride of life (1John 2:15-17) but does not communicate the life of God which is channelled through love.
The oil is a symbol of ease, of grace, and ultimately of the Holy Spirit and there are different operations of the oil in the focus verse that are instructive. It shows that the oil of the Holy Spirit moves on a path: first the head, then the beard; then the skirt.
On the head
The oil is first poured on the head. Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23) and the oil we experience, the Holy Spirit we manifest, is in connection with him. There is no other Holy Spirit for us, except the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9).
The word Christ means the anointed one. There is only one that is anointed with the full embodiment of the Holy Spirit, i.e. Christ. We exist in his context; He does not exist in our context. He was not given the Spirit of God in measure (John 3:34).
And the picture being painted in the focus verse is that of the high priest Aaron, and we know that the high priest we have now is Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), the high priest of the New Testament who lives forever in eternal priesthood. The oil was poured on Jesus after he was baptised by John when the Holy Spirit came bodily as a dove on him (Luke 3:22). It is him who has the identity as the baptiser with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33), no one else. When he went up to heaven he poured out the Holy Spirit on the believers (Acts 2:33), and down the years that has reached us hundreds of years later…
Running down on the beard
While in the last section I defined where we get the Holy Spirit, our gate into the Holy Spirit: Jesus, “running down the beard” explains, among other things, the fact that we get to experience the Holy Spirit through the ministry of other believers who have connected to him.
This comes through various means. For example through the ministration of the words, people contact the Spirit (John 6:63), also through acts of love being the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and even in the impacting of the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit on others.
It is common that when people receive the Holy Spirit in the bible, it is with the assistance of other believers. Paul needed Ananias to minister the baptism of the Holy Spirit to him (Acts 9), which surely is the oil running down the beard. After the people of Samaritans through the ministry of Philip believe in Jesus, Peter and John were sent to minister the Holy Spirit to the whole nation (Acts 8); All the above stands for the impactful transfer of the Holy Spirit among believers.
Running down on the collar of his robes
While the running down of the oil on the beard gives the image of the parts of the body of Christ in contact with each other in the now, the oil running down the robe represents generational transfer of the Holy Spirit down the ages; and the empowerment to reach the unreached, which is transformational transfer of the Holy Spirit to unbelievers.
Generational transfer of the Holy Spirit
The robe down below is far from the head; however it has the same oil on the head. So though it is two thousand years ago that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the earth, the same Holy Spirit is still here today fresh and vital in our lives, the oil has flowed down the years of the church age, defining the experience of the believers, and everyone is called to embrace him fully.
Transformational transfer of the Holy Spirit
The oil on the edge of the robe also stands for us as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), as oil is for light. The edge of the robe stands for those far away, far from Christ, though they are around us. They are around us but they are SYpiritual dead while we are spiritually alive.
The darkened world is blessed because we are around to help many people out of the mess they are in. The anointing, the bible says, break the yoke, i.e. the presence of the oil causing frustrations to go, the life of God to flow.
The Holy Spirit changes you and you bring changes to the deadness around. In the context of the focus verse a united church does better therefore at reaching the world, and facilitating transformation (Psalm 133).