Originally appearing in Gates of Eden Magazine, Vol. 12 (Jul.-Aug. 2006).
הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טֹּ֭וב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
The Hebrew text of this verse provides the words for the well-known tune Hineh Mah Tov. The first word ofthis psalm, hineh, is usually translated “behold.” When I was in Hebrew class many years ago in Jerusalem, our teacher told us that hineh means “here.” We had learned two other Hebrew words for “here,” namely poh and kan. What is different about hineh, our teacher told us, is that it means “right here.” It can be a way of saying, “Hey! Look here! Check this out.” So, hey! Check this out: How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
There exists a type of goodness and pleasantness which can only be experienced where brethren dwell together in unity. This type of goodness and pleasantness is impossible to experience alone. It is something that hermits never experience. The stereotypical cranky lone prophet never tastes this goodness and pleasantness of which the psalmist speaks.
Notice, though, that it is not enough to merely dwell together. Brethren must dwell together in unity in order to know this particular goodness and pleasantness. Many brethren know from past experience that the converse of this psalm’s opening statement is also true: Behold, how bad and how unpleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in disunity.
The oneness of believers is so important that Yeshua spoke of it as being proof to the world that He was sent by the Father. When praying for His disciples of His own generation and of future generations, He prayed “that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:21). Unfortunately, the world looks at all the professing believers today and sees disunity instead of oneness.
Believers usually do realize that oneness is important, and they have made well-intentioned attempts to establish unity. One way that has been tried and found wanting is to appoint an old bachelor in Rome as the Vicar of Christ and invest him with papal infallibility. This Roman Catholic method does create a sort of “unity,” but it leads to many problems that are far more serious than disunity.
The Protestant method of attempting to achieve unity is to hammer out creeds and doctrinal statements to which everyone can agree. Doctrinal statements are sometimes necessary to clarify a congregation’s position on certain issues, but it is next to impossible to write a doctrinal statement that covers everything and pleases every one. Most written creeds and doctrinal statements are either so general, so bland and watered down, that they are too inclusive; or they are so detailed and so nit-picky that they are too exclusive.
Creeds and doctrinal statements are sometimes needed for clarification, but they are not the source of unity. The source of unity is hinted at in the second verse of Psalm 133, where the goodness and pleasantness of brethren dwelling together in unity is described: “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.”
The source of unity in the Body of Messiah is the Head of the Body, our High Priest Yeshua, of whom Aaron was a picture. More specifically, the source of unity is the anointing that flows down. Notice that it flows down first from the Head, secondly to the beard, and then all the way down to the skirts of the garments.
We know that the Head of the Body is Yeshua. Who does the beard represent? The Hebrew word for beard is ZaKaN (זקן). This is spelled with the same three letters as ZaKeN (זקן), which means “elder” (presumably because a man who is qualified to be an elder is at least old enough to have a beard). So we can think of the beard in this psalm as representing elders, i.e., those who function as leaders in the Body.
That leaves the skirts of the garment, which would be those people who are not part of the beard, i.e., those who are in the Body but do not function as leaders in the Body. These members are in no way inferior to leaders, nor are they less beloved. Every member of the body is important. The Body of Messiah would be incomplete and lacking without every member.
A man with low self-esteem (what we used to call an inferiority complex) may think that he is an unimportant member. The Lord has no use for me,” he says. “I’m no more important than the little finger of the left hand.” The little finger of the left hand may not seem important to some people, but my little finger on my left hand is very important to me. When I play a guitar, there are certain chords that would be impossible to play without the little finger of my left hand.
Every member of the Body is important, and the unity of all those members is important. Unity brings the anointing, and the anointing brings unity. The anointing of the Holy Spirit flowing down – from the Head, to the elders, and all the way down to those who are the least in the Body – brings about a unity that is good and pleasant.
Even in my pre-Messianic, pork-eating days, I experienced this goodness and pleasantness with two close friends, Mike and John. We tasted the goodness and pleasantness of this psalm because we dwelt together in unity. We were able to dwell together in unity because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon us. We prayed together a lot and we labored for the Lord together a lot. Our families even lived together in the same house at various times. We functioned as one in spite of doctrinal differences or personality differences. Whenever we assembled together for prayer, the Holy Spirit would fall upon us and the glory of the Lord would flood our souls. Our fire-baptized Pentecostal prayer meetings melted away any differences we had, and we yielded to the law of love.
The key to unity is letting the glory of the Lord flood our souls. How do I know this? Partly from my own past personal experience, but even more importantly because of what Yeshua said in John 17:22: “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” He gives us a taste of His glory so that we may be one, He says. How does His glory enable us to be one? By gradually bringing us all into conformity to His image. As we all focus on the glory of the Lord, the anointing flows and brings each individual more and more into conformity to His image, His will, His desires. The Apostle Paul described it this way: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
A. W. Tozer wrote a lot about the importance of the individual experiencing the glory of the Lord in a close, intimate walk with God. In The Pursuit of God, Tozer shows the connection between the glory and unity:
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
Yeshua gave us the glory so that we may be one. The glory brings unity without demanding uniformity. On a guitar all the strings have a very similar sound, yet each individual string has its own distinct sound. Each individual disciple is like a string on a musical instrument. A disciple gets “in tune” by letting the Lord adjust his life so that he will produce the exact sound which he was created to produce. When every individual is in tune to the Holy Spirit, the Lord can strum the strings together and play beautiful chords.
As we gaze on the glory, we are transfigured from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord, Paul said. As we become more like the Lord, we become more like one another, yet without losing our individual distinctiveness. As we draw closer to the Lord, we automatically are drawn closer to one another, just as the spokes of a wheel get closer together as they approach the center hub of the wheel.
A few years ago a vision formed in my mind. I saw a circle of short, burning candles. They were all circled around one larger, higher candle that was burning in the center. As the little candles burned down, their wax melted and flowed toward the big candle in the center, like spokes attached to the center hub of a wheel. As the wax flowed to the center, it was absorbed by this big candle. As the center candle absorbed the molten wax, it grew higher and higher, while the small candles on the perimeter of the circle grew lower and lower.
As we gather around our Lord, focus on Him, and let ourselves be melted like wax in His presence, our individual lives will flow into Him, and we will become one in Him. Like the center candle, He will be elevated and exalted. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John the Baptist said (John 3:30). As we all humble ourselves and focus on the glory of the Lord, we decrease like the candles on the outer perimeter of the circle, and He increases like the candle in the center.