Harmony in the House of God

Bible Book: Psalms  133 : 1-3
Subject: Unity; Harmony; Revival
Introduction

The word harmony in our text means the oneness of like-believing people for the purpose of obeying God and accomplishing His will. All human beings know that total unity in every thought, idea, attitude and action is impossible. God made us to be individuals. But, in Christ, believers are unified and are expected to live in harmony with each other. Harmony can be understood as a state of oneness or the state of people being in one accord. Our text today tells us what joy there is when “brothers,” people in the same family, dwell in harmony and unity with each other. Every Christian is a part of God’s family. We have been born into His family through a new birth and we have come into the family by adoption as sons of God.

From this text we can deduce that God wants His family to live in harmony. In fact, unity among God’s people is an oft repeated expectation throughout Scripture. In Job 10:8 we read that Job compares the creation of the body to an act of harmony, whereby God reveals that unity is necessary for human life to exist. It is a part of God’s nature to organize things into harmonious parts. One need only look at the created order of the Universe to see God’s handiwork. In other words, God does not create a mess! In Ephesians 4:3 and 4:13 the Apostle Paul wrote about the unity of the Body of Christ – the Church. He informs us that we must endeavor to keep the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In other words, this is something we have to work at as God’s people. Unity does not come naturally to us, but God desires Harmony in the House of God.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, one of the first things that happened was a barrier arose between them. They immediately began to cover themselves. From that time forward, humans have lived behind a veil. We can project one thing and yet be another. After Adam and Eve sinned they were also detached from God. They hid themselves from Him among the shrubs and plants in the Garden of Eden; or, at least they tried to hide from God. Man has been trying to hide from God since that day. Then, following the sin, they had two sons, and we all remember that Cain killed Abel, his brother. The first family could not remain unified in a fallen world even though the marriage had been arranged in heaven and performed in a paradise.

Maintaining unity is something that requires effort, and calls for humility. Paul wrote, …”till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:13, NKJV). To maintain real harmony means to come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Now, that is a awesome goal! But, God does not ask us to do or be something that is impossible for us. His call for unity and harmony is achievable, practical, respectable and enjoyable. One wonders why there is so much division within so many local churches when unity is God’s desire for us and harmony is so effectual for us and his kingdom work!

One reason unity is difficult, even among Christians, is due to the influence and goal of Satan to create division. He knows that when people are divided, they fail. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 11:17, “But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.'” (NKJV) The devil knows that unity among God’s people means defeat for his evil plans. He also knows that division among God’s people brings about a collapse in the efforts of Christian ministry.

In Psalm 133, we are told that the purpose of the Psalm was to highlight the wonder and glory of God’s people uniting to worship and serve Him. It is believed that this Psalm was written by David in commemoration of the unity of worship in one place by all of God’s people. In their Old Testament commentary on this text, Keil and Delitzsch state, …”the uniting of the people of all parts of the land for the purpose of divine worship in the one place of the sanctuary...” In other words, the text speaks of the heads of all believers turning in one direction – toward God. In reality, this is the only way people can become truly united. In fact, the Church of our Lord was birthed in unity. In Acts 2:1 we read that the people were all in “one accord” on the Day of Pentecost. We should not expect to see the outpouring of God’s Spirit in power upon us if we live as God’s people outside the bonds of unity and harmony.

Sadly, some people have no desire to be truly unified. One man was in a church that was having problems. He became so nervous he could hardly speak. He went to the doctor who gave him some medicine for his nerves. Two weeks later the man called the doctor and asked, “What kind of medicine did you give me for my nerves?” The doctor told him that he had given him some mild tranquilizers. The man replied, “Well, I don’t want any more of them; why, yesterday I even spoke to people at church that I don’t like!”

Actually, God’s tranquilizer for disunity is called the Holy Spirit. He is the One who can unite God’s people and defeat Satan’s attempts at defeating our efforts to live for the Lord and accomplish His will.

Let’s look at this subject today by asking God to speak to us out of Psalm 133. This text has a lot to say to us about harmony and unity, and we will be wise and victorious if we will but apply what we learn here.

I. The Declaration Concerning Harmony

The first thing we note here is a declaration concerning harmony. We are told to “behold” how good and pleasant it is when the family dwells in unity. In this case, the writer is referring to the family of God. “Look,” God tells us, just see how marvelous unity is. One need only observe to see how unified churches bring glory to God, how their members serve in joy, and how they bring the unsaved to encounter the wonderful Savior. Likewise, one need only “behold” the other side of the coin. How many churches are struggling because they will not work together in unity. Look at how they squabble and argue over unimportant issues while the people living around them die with Christ. Look at the lost opportunities the experience and the joy they miss!

A. Allurement

In this text, the Psalmist tells us that harmony is attractive, magnetic and alluring. It is beautiful and lovely. My grandmother used to tell my mother that, “Pretty is as pretty does.” In other words, the beauty of a woman is not seen just in her outward appearance but in her attitude and harmonious nature. The same is true in men and women, and in the kingdom of God, this is a critical fact.

When I began my ministry almost 5 decades ago, I was impressed with a layman in my first interim pastorate. He seemed to have all the qualities of a fine Christian man. After I left that church to lead another interim, I heard that he had become a real problem to the church, mostly due to his dislike for the new pastor. I talked with him one day and I was stunned by the vitriolic words he spoke about the pastor and scowling look he displayed. He was not the same man. I knew the man they had called as pastor, and he was a man who loved the Lord, preached the Word and cared for the church. It was amazing to me how much the layman had changed. He was no longer attractive because he had lost his harmony and unity within the fellowship. Now, don’t get me wrong. No one is called upon to agree with every issue, decision or ministry action of a local church; but, we are required to keep a gentle and kind spirit. It is one thing to disagree, but yet an entirely different thing to become bitter and antagonistic.

When God’s people work together in unity, they are attractive - they lure people toward the Savior. And, most importantly, they are attractive from God’s perspective. It pleases the Lord to look upon His people behaving and serving in harmony.

When people cannot get along in God’s work, it is better for them to part as friends. You well remember that this is exactly what Abraham and Lot did when a dispute arose concerning the feeding of their animals. When there was not enough land for both of their flocks and herds to eat, they decided in an amicable way to simply go in different directions. Even that separation was an attractive thing, and it was attractive because it was done in unity and harmony!

B. Achievement

The word “good” used in this text speaks of achievement. When God made various things during the Creation event, He stated that it was “good.” The same word is used in speaking of Creation as it used here in Psalm 133:1. When God’s people work together, they achieve great things. When God’s people divide, they achieve little or nothing.

Having pastored almost 40 years, I have observed firsthand the power of unity. I have seen the hosts of people that come to know Jesus in a unified church. I have been amazed at the buildings erected and paid for in a harmonious fellowship. I have witnessed the ministries carried out by a cohesive church body. Oh, God be praised for a people willing to work hand in hand for the Savior. And, even more importantly, to work in such unity that it allows the power and purpose of God to flow through the congregation. It has been my joy to work in unified churches through all these years. I don’t mean to say that every decision and every effort was embraced by every single person, but I was blessed not to deal with a divided and split congregation in all my ministerial work. On the other hand, I had many friends who suffered in churches that fought and argued about everything.

I am reminded of a humorous story about a church, whether true or untrue I cannot say, where a business meeting was being held to discuss new lighting for the church. The Properties Committee chairman stood and offered a motion that the church install a new chandelier in the worship center. One man who opposed almost everything the church desired to do, stood and said, “I am opposed to this motion on three counts. First, most of us cannot even spell the word ‘chandelier.’ Second, nobody in this church knows how to play a ‘chandelier.’ Third, what this church really needs is MORE LIGHT!”

Sadly, many people who create division in the church are ill informed about the matters at hand. Once they learn all the facts, they have been so contrary and ornery that they cannot bring themselves to admit they have acted foolish. So, they hang on to their position, even if it means hardship for the entire congregation.

If you want to achieve something worthwhile for Jesus, pull on the same rope and pull in the same direction. Voice your opinion in love and with grace.

When I was a student at Gardner Webb University, then Gardner Webb College, I studied Hebrew under Dr. Thurman Lewis. He was a wonderful professor and a great Christian. He would often begin a class with a very short but poignant devotion. I recall one in particular that he shared. He said, “Now, preacher boys, I am going to give you a great lesson today in being a successful pastor.” He then quoted a portion of Ephesians 4:15, …”speaking the truth in love…” (NKJV) He continued, “First, you must determine if you should speak at all. Sometimes it is best to just keep your mouth shut. Also, make sure what you are saying is true. We must always tell the truth. Never spread rumors and innuendoes. Then, if you must speak, speak the truth in love. Never speak in anger. If love is not in your heart, don’t open your mouth.” I never forgot that advice. I would not say that I always kept it, but any time I failed to honor that lesson, I regretted it!

If you want to achieve things for God, you must maintain harmony and unity. That is a part of what the word “good” means.

C. Astonishment

Note that the Scripture tells us in verse 1 that harmony is “good” and “pleasant.” It is astonishing when these two things go together. For example, it may be good for me to take my medicine, but it may not be pleasant to swallow it. It may be good for me to exercise, but it may not be pleasant for me to go out at 7:00 AM and run 6 miles. Broccoli may be good for me, but I can tell you it is not pleasant – unless it is covered with a bounteous portion of cheese!

How much better you feel when you are harmonious. A smile beats a frown any day. And, when one is in a church fellowship where the people are in unity, there are lots of smiles of joy. It is a good thing, and it is a pleasant thing.

A woman came out of a crowded store at Christmastime dragging her small daughter by the hand. The mother was frazzled and tired. A great scowl was on her face. She looked at her daughter and asked, “Did you see the awful look that clerk gave me back there in the store?” The small daughter replied, “Mom, I don’t think she gave you that look, I think you had it when we went in there.”

For many of us, we create the atmosphere of disunity with our attitude. Much of the disharmony in a church begins with someone who is already upset about other things and brings that into the fellowship. Anger at work, at home or with people and circumstances outside the church, can spill over into the congregation. That is why we are told to “Come into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” (Psalm 100) You must check your attitude at the door of the church. Believe it or not, when we enter God’s House with the right attitude, it can dissolve a lot of issues we have outside of God’s House. It can astonish you what God can do if you simply maintain a joyous, unified heart among God’s people.

God has declared unity and harmony to be attractive, to be able to achieve great things and to be astonishing in its pleasantness. This alone should cause us to re-check our hearts to see that they are in tune with God’s heart of harmony,

II. The Description Characterizing Harmony

This text goes on to describe the nature of harmony. Now, we have to use our minds to understand what the Lord is saying verse 2 of this text. We do not bring people to the front of the church and pour oil over their heads in order to separate them for God’s service, but that was something they did in the days when this passage was written.

This is a very descriptive way to reveal the characteristics of harmony.

A. Harmony Consecrating

To consecrate means to set apart. When a minister is set apart for the ministry, he is ordained. A special service is held and others ordained before him lay hands upon him and pray for him. He is being set apart for the service or the Lord for the rest of his life. I well remember the day I was ordained to the Gospel ministry. What a feeling of responsibility came upon me that day as men gathered around me and laid their hands on my shoulders or my head and prayed for me to be a true minister of Christ. It is an awesome thing to be set apart for God. And, yet, all of us have been set apart to serve God. Every Christian is to be different from the world. Just as the oil was poured on Aaron’s head to separate him to serve God, we are to have the oil of joy on us so we can be separated, consecrated to the service of God. In other words, we will never be truly useful to God unless we have the characteristic of harmony and unity in our lives. We can never fully serve God as we ought unless we keep a unified spirit among God’s people.

B. Harmony is Catching

The oil used to separate someone to service had a sweet aroma about it. When the oil was poured out, it diffused into the entire area. Everyone around it was touched by the sweetness of it. How pleasant indeed to be around people who have the oil of God’s unity flowing over their lives. It is contagious to be around such people.

It can be contagious to be around unruly and antagonistic people as well. In Titus 3:9-11 we are told that a contentious man should be removed from a church fellowship after he has been admonished for the infraction. Why would you wish to remove a member because of his attitude? You would remove him because he is a danger to the unity of the fellowship. His actions can become contagious. I have seen occasions where a genial and kind person is changed simply by being around a person who is negative. A person who is out of harmony with the body in a local church is like someone sowing weed-seed in your garden. The weeds will take root and ruin the good harvest! The same is true in a church. In fact, Paul goes even further when he writes to Titus in chapter 3. He goes on to say that the man who is divisive has gone astray from God and is sinning. Disunity is not just the act of having a bad attitude; disunity is a sin that can lead many astray.

We should desire and work to create a spirit of unity among God’s people. We should work to pour out the fragrant oil of harmony. In Matthew 26:6-13, we read about a woman who brought very expensive oil (perfume) and poured it upon Jesus. Jesus said that wherever the Gospel is preached, this story of her sacrifice and love will be preached. Today we still remember that marvelous event. Oh, that we today might pour out the sweet perfume of unity and harmony for Jesus. It is contagious and many will be drawn to the aroma of love among us.

C. Harmony is Comprehensive

Note that the oil flowed down Aaron’s face, beard and all the way to the hem of his garment. In other words, it went from his head to his toes. When we dwell in unity, it affects every part of our lives. It changes us. It creates an aroma around us. It dispels the things that would drive people away. He influences our daily walk with God and with others. Unity has a comprehensive nature about it.

When we act in harmony, we are brought to love those who would otherwise not be “our kind of people.” We are reminded that Christ loved us even when we were sinners. Unity and harmony are in tune with Jesus!

Some wise guy wrote a poem that reads,

“To live above, with those we love,

Oh, that will be glory;

But, to live below with those we know,

Now that’s another story!”

The real story is finding Christians who can live in unity and harmony with each other. That is what God is telling us we are to do. In 1 Corinthians, chapters 1 through 3, Paul speaks a lot about schisms and disunity. He points out that it is not God’s will for us to live that way. We must allow the oil of unity to flow from our heads (our thinking), across our eyes (our seeing), past our hearts (our emotions), past our hands (our actions) and down to our feet (our daily walk). It must be comprehensive!

III. The Destination Completing Harmony

“Even life everlasting.” The saints are going to spend eternity with Christ and with each other. We should certainly get along here for we are going to be together forever when we get to Heaven.

I heard a preacher recently tell about an experience he had a place of business. A lady asked him if he was the pastor at the local church. He answered, “I am guilty.” The lady went on to tell him that she would not be comfortable in his church. When he asked her why she would not be comfortable in his congregation, she replied, “Well, you’ve got former drug addicts over there, and former criminals who have been in prison, and I’ve heard you have some motorcycle riders in your church. I just would not be comfortable in that crowd.” The pastor, before he could hold his tongue said, “Well, it sounds to me like you are not going to be comfortable in heaven, but you might be very comfortable in hell, since the people in hell will dwell in darkness and be alone forever!”

I’m not sure that his response was the best, but I must say that I like the truth of what he said. There are many so-called Christians who are very particular about the “kind” of people they want to be around. My friend, every child of God is a brother or sister to me.

I preached a trial sermon at First Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia in April of 1990. They called me to that church and I remained there for 12 years as their pastor. Oh, what a delight that was. But, it was that trial sermon that clinched the fact for me that I was to be their pastor. After preaching the early service at 8:30 AM, deacons brought a man back to the pastor’s study to meet me. The man was from Iran and had been a Muslim. In that service that morning, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He was gloriously saved. When the deacons told him that he was brother to all Christians everywhere in the world, he asked if he was a brother of the man that preached the sermon. When they affirmed that, indeed, he was a brother to me, he asked to meet me. He knew very little English, but in a broken style of our language, he threw out his arms to me and said, “Bruther.” Of course, he meant “brother,” but he was doing the best he could. I threw my arms around him and we both wept. We were brothers. Mehti and I are still brothers and always will be. We will rejoice around the throne of God in heaven one day.

My dear Christian friend, dwell in unity with all the saints. Keep harmony in your heart. You are bond for the Promised Land. You are not a citizen of earth but of heaven. This is not your home. Don’t let petty things separate you from other believers. Let the oil of God’s unity flow over your life.

Conclusion

Some years ago, I preached a revival at a church where God did some wonderful things. The church had a tremendous pastor and they had done a remarkable job of getting ready for that meeting. One night I spoke on having the right spirit and being in unity with all the saints. At the conclusion of the service, some people came to express their faith on Christ. Almost all of them had been witnessed to by church members during the previous weeks leading up to the meeting. Some had already accepted Christ at home or at work, but now they were coming to make a public commitment of their faith. It was a marvelous experience.

After the service, the pastor said that one of the members had something he wanted to say to the church. The pastor said, “He did not tell me what he wanted to share but that it was very important.”

The man stood before the church in tears and admitted that he had been critical lately concerning the pastor’s wife. He didn’t like the little sports car she drove and he had talked to people about it. He said, “I am asking God to forgive me. I am asking you as a church to forgive me,” and, then looking at the Pastor’s wife he said, “I am asking the Pastor’s wife to forgive me.”

She stepped out in the aisle and they embraced. The Pastor hugged him and shook his hand. Tears flowed from the church members. No wonder that church was a place where people were getting saved. No wonder the church was so full that there was hardly an empty seat in the entire building. No wonder that church could have a genuine revival. It was happening because people were getting their hearts right with God and one another.

At the conclusion of that service, we asked members to embrace each other and if there were any matters unresolved to settle them. People began to pour out into the aisles and hug in tears, forgiveness and rejoicing. The pastor of that church was Johnny Hunt, who went on to become one of the great preachers of our generation. I was not surprised to see the heights to which he rose because I had observed his sweet wife, Janet, with a forgiving and warm heart toward someone who had been critical of her. I was not surprised to see Dr. Hunt go on to become President of our Southern Baptist Convention because I saw in him a man with a heart of unity and harmony.

When the love of God flows over us in true harmony, we will once again see a movement from God that will bring real revival to our churches, our communities and to our beloved nation! Now, how about you? Is there anything between you and another Christian that needs to be resolved? Are you in harmony with God’s people? You will never be what you should be until you get that matter straightened out. Let the oil of God’s blessings flow from you head to your toes. It is a decision you will never regret and it will lead you to become a blessing to people around you. More importantly, your life will be a blessing to God! Let there be Harmony in the House of God!