The first time it happened to me was at a gathering of believers from all over Israel. Different congregations shared their music with everyone. The Ethiopians started to sing a strange and, to my non-Ethiopian ears, discordant melody with an unfamiliar rhythm. Yet they were clearly singing with their whole hearts to God—oblivious to those of us who were or weren’t listening—or who were walking away. The thought hit me, not all the music of heaven will sound like Handel’s Messiah.

Sometimes the awareness is different, and potentially hurtful. Many years ago someone asked me to get a friend to sing more softly because they were so off-key. Looking at my friend’s closed eyes and joyful heart, singing with love and thankfulness to our mutual Lord, I rebuked the asker. My friend’s voice, I told them, just might be more pleasing to God than my own voice…

I have just returned from spending two days at a national music conference listening to some of the songs that are coming out of the body of Messiah throughout Israel. It was a broad mix of genres, from rock and roll and jazz to country. However one genre was quite predominant in its melody, rhythm and wording—a genre that I sometimes enjoy but will never totally identify with—modern Israeli music. The children that were born when I first came to Israel in the 1980s have grown up. Many of them, and their children as well, are now committed believers in Jesus, and bringing into their faith the culture in which they grew up—Israel.

No, today’s Israel is certainly not the Israel of Biblical days, but Israel still claims the People of the Book… new and creative melodies from the Psalms, Song of Songs, and even Daniel were shared! Throughout the songs a new theme could be heard—salvation, holiness, and a yearning for the return of Yeshua our Messiah.

In a room full of musicians, I also saw the common thread seen so often in artists—struggle, pain, pasts, and longing. Different personalities, voices, accents, haircuts, and styles of dress… Over it all was a marvelous garment of grace visible to the inner eye—our common redemption through our Savior Yeshua.

All of us, whether we listened or performed, are works in progress. Yes, maybe some of the songs were really just a hymn between that musician and the lover of their souls—but for the past two days we all had the opportunity to listen to each other, to accept each other, to encourage each other, and to love each other. Perhaps that is the real music of heaven…