Numbers, Math, Inequalities and Salvation
Numbers are not a small component of the Bible. Verses are marked by numbers. And within the inspired Script, we see numbers revealing truths of God. The first numbers we might think of are “6” and “7”: there were six days of creation and one day to rest: the seventh. As we read on in Genesis, we are made very aware of the fact that a marriage is between just 2 people: a man and a woman. Farther on, God commands Noah to take into the ark with him pairs of animals – 2 by 2, and groups of 7 clean animals for sacrifices. And what child (and adult) is not amazed at the number of years of life given to the saints of old, the most famous being Methuselah: 969 years!!! In the days of the freed children of Israel, God designates a specific schedule, numbers of days and numbers of years, that His people were to follow when performing commanded duties and sacrifices. By the Psalmist, we are called to realize that our days are numbered (Psalm 90). In the New Testament, Jesus chooses 12 men to be His disciples. The number 3 shows up again and again in the Scriptures: 3 sons of Noah, 3 visitors to Abraham and Sara, 3 crucified together, 3 days in the grave, etc. Numbers in the Scriptures are worth pondering, and there are those who study them and offer perspectives, some more helpful than others. However, there is one truth about the numbers found in the Holy Scriptures we can all understand without being a Biblical numerologist. And here is where we need to use a mathematical equation, but the answer to this math equation is a blessed inequality!
I have been teaching math for several years. As all my students will tell you, I fundamentally want to see one thing: the right answer to a math problem. I teach my students that equations must add up, things have to be equal. And this makes sense, because math is a God-created form of logically communicating information, and yes, God is a God of order, so things SHOULD add up. The world could not exist if there was no mathematical order. Planets would crash into each other, recipes would flop, buildings would fall down, cars would not run, etc. But, still, there is something about some numbers in the Scriptures that seems out of order and doesn’t add up. But it is right. And it is good. And it is mysterious. And it is grace.
God says that the wages of sin is death. We could write it this way: Sin = death. So far, things do look pretty equal. To make this look like an algebraic statement, we could write: A = B, where A is a man who has sinned, and B is the consequence. We can accept that. A person is responsible for their own sin, and they deserve the consequence they get. Where things start to look unbalanced and not equal is when we read words like: “As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice…” John 10:15,16. Here, we read of a repeated theme in Scripture. Jesus laying down His life for His sheep. We are first introduced to this blessed theme in the garden after the fall. Then later, we watch with amazement as God provides a lamb instead of Isaac for the sacrifice on the mountain. And we are reminded again and again of our atonement as we read of the substitutionary sin offerings in the OT ceremonial law. Then, with grief, we read of the actual atonement for our sins, the crucifixion of our Lord, dying for our sins. Is this equal? Don’t I, not Jesus, deserve God’s wrath? How is this equal? And how is it that the Holy One, Who knew no sin, became sin for ME, who was “conceived and born in sin?” Psalm 51. This is not equal. But the wonder of this inequality has not exhausted itself. Not only did Jesus die for ME, but for the rest of all His sheep, a countless multitude. Since when did the sins of a countless multitude (We’ll call it CM in our equation.) equal the death of ONE Man (We’ll call this side of the equation OM.): CM = OM? And this One Man being perfectly Holy, and sinless? This is a great inequality!! How does one explain this imbalance – especially in a world that is created to thrive on order? Here is where the Glory of God shines!! Here is where we learn of the unimaginable Love and Mercy, and the unfathomable Wonder and Mystery of God! God, who requires death for sin, became sin for us – all His sheep – and fulfills the death penalty for our sin. One Man dying for the sins of many! Glory be to God! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Praise God for this Holy inequality!
Lamb image credit: Gabrielle Agrille on Unsplash.com
Mountain scene image credit: Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash.com