“. . . and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord . . .” 2 Chronicles 5:13
Solomon has just completed the construction of Israel’s first, permanent temple. This passage is one sentence from many that describe the grateful king’s dedication ceremony. As a musician, I notice passages like this, and they stop me in my tracks. In this scene, there were 120 priests participating, each with a trumpet. That’s an impressive ensemble if only for scale, but what stuns me here is not the size of the group but what they were doing: they are playing in unison – all together – same notes, same rhythms, same volume. They are one.
How did they do that?
Doing anything in unison is one of the most difficult challenges for a musician. Whether singing or playing an instrument, it takes a special and unique effort to unify around one, musical idea.
This is not the same when playing or singing in harmony. When producing harmony, all of the varying shades of pitch that individuals may produce with their unique, personal style or their instruments’ designs can be advantages that add to the beauty of differences among the ensemble.
But playing or singing in unison? The slightest variation away from the center of the pitch by just one participant, and the beauty of oneness is lost.
It is a challenge to do it well. It requires a unique and willing intentionality to make it real. But when it’s real, there’s a special beauty in the music: there’s no other sound quite like it.
. . . and in this case, it was the musician’s duty to do so.
Their charge was to subordinate their personal ideas about the music of the hour and align themselves around an idea not their own. With high energy and high focus, they had to listen as much (or more) as play, and they had to make personal adjustments in their approach continuously to say in line with the music, with their fellow musicians and, especially, with their leader.
All of these are choices, deeply personal choices.
One sound. One way. One purpose. . . One.
Our self-centered culture rails against this kind of oneness, believing that a group’s advantage in unity is powerfully outweighed by an individual’s “right” to self-express. In self-absorbed addictions, many have become willingly deaf to the discord in their lives and to the rising din and chaos in the streets.
Jesus warns against this. With an unapologetic call to unify only around Him and His way of life, he says things like this:
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46
“That is why I told you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am who I am, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 9 (emphasis mine)
Jesus doesn’t seek to make us copies of each other in our unity. He seeks to make us copies of Himself, to share His life with us. God’s great love compels us to live in unison with Him and others. We live in unison with others by choosing to live in unison with God. His ways must become our ways; His mind our mind; His voice our voice.
How are you with your personal choices to stay “in tune” with God and with others? What’s the status of your willingness to subordinate your need to be heard over your team’s need to be “one?” Are you listening and hearing well? Are you playing or singing in unison?
It is a challenge to do it well. It requires a unique and willing intentionality to make it real. But when it’s real, there’s a special beauty in the music:
There’s no other sound quite like it.
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19