Harmony can be an elusive ideal we spend a lifetime chasing.
But, for me, Harmony is only a mere two and a half hour drive to the California coast. A nice leisurely meandering through farmland and rolling hills will deposit me in a small town consisting of exactly one street.
The city of Harmony, CA was founded by Swiss immigrants in 1869 who started dairy farms and a dairy processing operation. There was much infighting and rivalries that led to the operation changing many hands and even caused a death. In the early 1900's, parties involved agreed to call a truce and changed the name of their town to Harmony as a symbolic gesture of that decision.
Unfortunately, the harmony did not last and the town eventually died out almost completely. There were a few swells in population with the largest occurring in the 1970s by craftsman who had "found" the little town and wanted to create a place that would foster artistry and simple living.
Today Harmony sits all but unoccupied with a small population that sees a handful of tourists and a slew of photographers and engaged couples seeking for a unique photo op.
I was reminded of this place this morning as I read Psalm 133 as part of my morning quiet time. I have heard some of these beautiful verses before but I don't remember ever reading them in context and getting the full picture of what harmony looks like.
"How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony. For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion, and there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting."
- Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT)
The dictionary defines harmony as: agreement or accord, a consistent, orderly or pleasing arrangements of parts, congruity.
The biblical concept of harmony goes back to creation and the Garden of Eden. Upon reading the early chapters of Genesis, we can see that God created the world and humanity to live together in harmony.
Harmony is wonderful and pleasant.
One of the immediate effects of the Original Sin of Eve and Adam eating from the forbidden tree was disharmony, disagreement and discord.
And this continued to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain and throughout the remainder of the Bible, and the struggle for harmony remains to this day.
Being in a room that is filled with disharmony is literally palpable. The air becomes charged with it. You don't have to know the cause to know that it is present in the room. I would not describe that sensation as pleasant or wonderful.
It is awkward and feels...well, wrong because it's not how God designed for us to live. And that's because...
Harmony is precious.
I would argue that harmony is in short supply these days. Everyone seems to have a cause, a stance, a platform or an agenda. People are not afraid to lay waste to others via social media or even face to face.
Things that are in short supply become very rare and therefore, very precious -- much like the anointing oil described in this passage.
And that oil was likely very costly and highly-valued.
After all, we read constantly in the Old Testament that God required the very best to be used for his Temple and in worship.
In fact in Exodus 30:28-33, God gives Moses a recipe for this sacred oil and warns that it should only be used in specific uses and in fact, unauthorized use of it would result in being cut off from God and His people.
I think it's safe to say that God took this process of anointing seriously. It was not a merely symbolic act. And because of this, I see that God takes harmony seriously too. He says that harmony is as precious to Him as that sacred oil and that....
Harmony should completely saturate us.
We should be so full of harmony that it literally saturates our lives from top to bottom. What a beautiful image the psalmist gives us of that saturation in this passage.
"...harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe." (v. 2)
While I have never personally seen someone anointed with oil to this extent (we tend to dab a bit on the forehead in church services these days), I know a little about how oil gets into every nook and cranny when it's poured out.
I searched and was not able to find an estimation of how much oil you would need to pour out upon a person's head in order for it to run down a person's face and into the very bottom hem of a their clothing. But I would imagine it would be quite a bit. Maybe even several gallons.
The person who was anointed would literally spend hours either letting the oil soak in and/or trying to wash it out of clothing and body parts.
That's a lot of oil.
The sheer quantity of oil (an over-abundance one could argue) not only consecrated the owner, but also meant whatever he or she touched would then also become holy.
"You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy." (Ex 30:29)
A modern day picture would be of pouring out so much lotion that you have to share it with someone else because you literally cannot absorb it all into your own skin.
But it's not just about those we come into direct contact with.
Harmony can refresh even those lives whom we don't directly come into contact.
Do you believe that you can live a life so saturated with harmony that it rubs off on other people? And maybe even people you don't know?
In verse 3 of this psalm, it talks about the concept of harmony having indirect affects:
"Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion, and there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting." (v. 3)
As I was reading about this passage, many commentators pointed out that due to distance, it would not have been feasible for the dew from the moisture-rich Mount Hermon to directly fall upon the mountains of the dry and dusty mountains of Zion. However, most agree that the dew would have collected and formed streams and tributaries that would have flowed down and eventually affected Mount Hermon.
I believe this shows us a wonderful picture of the distance harmony can overcome. I also believe it to be a sacred mandate for those who profess to follow Christ. We should always seek to operate out of a place of harmony.
Because it's in this place of harmony where God has "pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting."
And that's precisely where I want to be.