Psalm 133: 1How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
Some of our family had the opportunity to visit our daughter in Israel who was studying at the University of Tel Aviv. What a privilege to spend time with her and visit some very special Holy Land sites. There is something very powerful about walking the grounds of Caesarea where Herod’s palace stood and where Paul spent time behind bars, or floating in the Dead Sea not far from the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, or most poignant of all, walking the Via Dolorosa in Old Jerusalem, tracing the steps that Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion.
While far less meaningful, there is another memory of Israel that stood out. Tel Aviv is a beautiful beachside city on the Mediterranean Sea. Our Jewish tour guide said: “In Haifa they work, in Jerusalem they pray, and in Tel Aviv they play.” And he was right. When we walked to the beach on the Sabbath it was packed with people playing. Some were playing soccer, some playing a version of volleyball where you only use your head and feet, but most were playing something far more unique. As we walked to the beach it sounded like steel drums, but as we got closer two people would be facing each other hitting a ball back and forth with a racquet. I found out later that the game is called matkot (Hebrew for raquet). My wife’s comment was: “what’s the purpose; how do you win?”. Apparently, that’s a common question and the response is: “none, other than having fun”. One of the recognized matkot kings in Tel Aviv is 66-year-old Morris Zadok who says: “There is no competition. It is all about cooperation, harmony, love,”[i] And it’s true, as I watched them play, one would be on the offensive smashing the ball to the other player while the defender just tried to keep the rally going, and then it would just as quickly reverse. The only time the game stopped is if the ball evaded someone’s racquet and they would have to run off to retrieve it.
As a self-confessed family of competitive people (starting with my wife and I), having a game with no real way of winning is a stretch. It does however remind me of games I played as a kid where we would pass a soccer ball back and forth in the air using only our feet, legs, chest or head and we’d try to set a record of touches before it fell to the ground. There was something very cooperative and special about that playing.
There is a beautiful Psalm (part of David’s Song of Ascents) that says: “1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1-3). And when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he said: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10). It is a significant thing when we can cooperate with our Christian brothers and sisters, when we can live in unity. It is a very difficult thing to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and experiences and expect them to cooperate in local churches and abroad, but if we make a commitment to living our lives in that way, God will provide his supernatural power to live lives of cooperative community. Are you a person of unity or division?