“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” Psalm 133:1 (NLT)
That was the first thing I read this morning in my devotion time, and it sparks thousands of memories and pictures in my mind. Beginning around age 14 my life has been involved in the listening to, and the making of music. I picked up a guitar and learned a few chords and started singing with my best friend. I sang in the youth choir at church, I joined the choir at school, and was part of a select small singing group as well. I spent over six years getting two degrees in music, and over the next several years I traveled and sang in churches with a musical group. I have enjoyed over 50 years of leading choirs and congregations in singing together.
So when I read that it is “wonderful and pleasant when brothers live together in harmony” I naturally think about what it takes to make musical harmony. To make beautiful harmony every singer has to cooperate with each other and sing along matching the rhythm and notes of the melody. And when they do it can produce some of the most beautiful and pleasing sounds imaginable. But if one singer is singing notes that are wrong it spoils the beautiful effect of the whole song.
Some translations of the Bible use the word “unity” instead of “harmony”. “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” That is not a mis-translation, but I believe the word “harmony” is more appropriate. In musical terms the word for unity would be “unison”; which means everyone sings the exact same note — everyone sings the melody. “Harmony” however means there are several choices of notes that go along with the melody, but not just any note at random. Harmony is more difficult; it requires more refined skill and ability, listening, and cooperating.
I was thinking about how this applies to us today. Currently with social distancing and quarantine, we are hardly living in unity or harmony, we are all singing solos! I don’t know about you but I am tired of going solo. I am so looking forward to being back with the church and to normal life, though that may take more time. But what does it mean for the church today to live in Harmony?
The things that make beautiful musical harmony in singing are:
1) Each person singing their assigned notes accurately. There can be just two parts, but it is possible to have as many as six to eight different parts being sung at the same time, and it all fits together. In the church we don’t all do the same things, but we do our separate jobs and ministries, cooperating with each other in love, and doing our best for one purpose: to bring glory to God.
2) The singers keep in time with each other by following the conductor. The church submits to the leadership of Christ by His Word and the Holy Spirit, and also to the human leadership He puts in place for each local Body. The Pastors and other leaders have greater responsibility to seek God’s guidance for the church’s ministries and direction, as a conductor follows the musical score. Then the singers follow their leadership
The following verses of Psalm 133 give two illustrations. One is of the fragrant anointing oil that was poured on Aaron that symbolized God’s anointing presence and power to lead the children of Israel through the wilderness. The other illustration is of the morning dew on Mt. Hermon which brings refreshment and life to everything that lives on the mountain.
The simple message of this beautiful Psalm is this: When the people of God are willing to follow His leadership, and live and work together in harmony, loving and cooperating with each other, God will be greatly glorified. He will bless those people with His presence and they will produce fruit. Others will see how they love each other and their God, and they will desire to know this God who can produce this kind of a loving people.