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)
Or, as the NLT would have it, how wonderful when brothers live in harmony. Harmony makes me think of music, and as a young musician I learned a wondrous property of harmony. If three notes of a chord are played together, the ear picks up not just those three but a whole set of overtones, creating this incredible rich, vibarant, full sound. This sound is much more than the sum of its parts, it’s a synergy. But if just one of those notes is out of balance, too timid or too loud, or not in tune, the synergy is lost and it’s just a dull noise.
The Psalmist has the same thought in mind but uses a different metaphor – that of the annointing oil reserved for the most holy of purposes. This was the finest olive oil infused with the scents of four of the most expensive and precious spices available: myrrh, cinnamon, aromatic cane, cassia.(1) None were available locally in Israel, all had to be imported from far off places such as India, Sri Lanka and Arabia. Blended by an expert in perfect balance, they complemented and brought out the best in each other so the whole was a beautiful synergy, being greater than the sum of its parts. Get one in the wrong balance and it’s just a smell.
Mount Hermon at 9232 feet above sea level, is the highest mountain in the region. As such it gathers up all the moisture coming in off the coast and was famed for its dew (or drizzle) and therefore was lush and verdant. By contrast Mount Zion was little more than a hill, not even as high as our own Sca Fell Pike, dry and arid. Yet in the mind of the Psalmist, all that life-giving dew of the impressive looking Mount Hermon is given to Mount Zion – the greatest, in our eyes, giving of its best, to the least.
These are powerful pictures of what unity means in the Body of Christ. When we are in unity with one another, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Not that we are all to be the same, rather that our differences in proper balance bring out the best in all of us.
But it is costly. We each must bring the very best of ourselves. Too timid or too loud? There is a reason we can be one or the other, and our own personal reflections on why this may be so can be painful and require some self-adjustment. And how willing are we, to give of what we think of as our best, in order to bless that which we might think of as the least? It may be worth reflecting on the fact that as it turns out, Mount Zion was not the most impressive to look at but it was where God chose to make His dwelling place. The blessing commanded by the Lord is nothing less than His very presence.
Jesus put it this way:
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. John 17:22-23 (ESV).
It seems to me that what Jesus was praying for supersedes our notions of ethnicities or generations or denominations or worship styles or anything else that we allow to prevent us from being as one.
Let’s be blunt. We can be a dull noise or a bad smell. Or we can be where God commands the blessing of His glorious presence so that the world comes to know Him. In the turbulent and divisive times in which we live, it’s vital that we make the right choice.
(1) Exodus 30:22-33