The numbers around CoVid 19
There is a message in them
How fast time flies! The fact that we have spent 7-8 weeks of this year tied down to home for those who can call their dwelling so, or shelter for those who have no such dwelling, has not slowed down this unidirectional dimension for many of us. Either we are engaged in the work of salvaging the lost opportunities at work or home, indulging in pure pleasure – whether violent or peaceful, seeking opportunities to extend the helping hands to those in needy or simply learning to survive. The pyramid of activities is emerging. One thing is sure, the sense of knowing that our days are numbered is deeper than before.
I believe God loves numbers and he communicates using them. If you want to convince yourself more, the fourth book in the Bible is called Numbers and for an exposition of the design significance of numbers in the scriptures, please listen to Chuck Missler’s YouTube videos. God even designed the shape of the camp of Israel in the wilderness according to their numbers to draw a cross!
And in a country like India, where numbers are more than you can actually truly count, the science of numbers through astrology has been consulted to provide supernatural guidance.
But what does the Bible say of the numbers around CoViD 19? Here I present meditations on two numbers: 40 and 14.
Our ordeal began with the first instalment of a lockdown of 40 days. Enough messages have gone around the world many times on the significance of 40. Let me share some of my thoughts.
Isaiah 40 – the Waiting point
I am reminded of Isaiah 40 – the turning point in the prophecy which switches from damnation and judgment to comfort and hope.
Turn with me to the closing of the glorious passage in the chapter.
28 Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.
29. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30. Even the youth shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail:
31. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
In the midst of the calamities around us – yes, CoViD is in addition to the ones which are already ravaging the human race, the Word of Promise shines forth with authority and paints the glory of God in his understanding and strength. There is no limit to his understanding! Which points to the reason Him coaxing His prophet to speak tenderly to his people at the beginning of the same chapter. There is no limit to his strength! Millions become one and one become millions. That is the power of the numbers in God’s hands!
And we have unlimited access to his understanding and strength according to the measure of how our physical appropriation of the spiritual allows us through the instruments of grace and faith. The requisite is WAIT. There are many waitings which the Scriptures refer to but I want to highlight just one here.
WAIT on him for his timing.
There is a principle which the discerning and the mature have learnt to exercise in their lives. Rather than reacting to situations, they have learnt to respond to situations. The response is most often not immediate, which is always the case with reactions. There is a pause in collecting thoughts. In the spiritual realm and for those where there are no boundaries between the spiritual and secular, there is a pause which is not related to collecting human thinking prowess but primarily devoted to prayer.
If there is one thing that CoViD 19 has taught the church, it is the principle of prayer, that involves self-judgment, commitment, love, worship and supplication. This comprehensive consultation with the Lord God Almighty transforms your answers. And when you exercise this continually, Matthew 10:19 becomes a reality. It shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak.
Your response defines your waiting time.
Psalm 40 – do great Works
Psalm 40 is next.Your waiting is worth everything because the Author of Life, Faith & Liberty had presented himself before the foundation of the world was laid as its Redeemer. See, I have come; in the scroll it is written about me. I delight to do your will, my God, and your instruction is deep within me.
WORK out your salvation with fear and trembling.
The price of your salvation cannot be measured. It is proportionate to the preciousness of your soul. It costed the life and blood of the Son of God and Son of Man. That is your beginning. Time is being catapulted now to the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the 19th chapter of that book: (The bride) was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.
Your righteous acts on earth are your clothing on that day. The work of faith birthing works of faith whether little, some or great will determine your name or shame on that day.
Psalm 40 reminds us of the great work so that we are able to do greater works! Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
Ezekiel 40 – need to Watch
Ezekiel 40 wraps our first series. The final, great vision of Ezekiel is recorded in chapters 40 through 48. It is almost the last prophecy dated, and many years after the fall of Jerusalem.
Ezekiel is taken to the top of a very high mountain. From the description, it is most probably Jerusalem. Contrasting to the earlier visions, here Ezekiel saw an actual temple and the glory of God restored in a real and powerful way. These were visions of God, but described real things. Ezekiel was given clear instructions in v 4 when he was set there.
WATCH. Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.
These are determined times. The same instructions are echoed in the New Testament scriptures. We are reminded a number of times to watch and pray and set our mind on things above. And declare the salvation of God. It is a choice that we make. Do we allow the times to determine our thoughts, words and actions? Or do we allow the visions of God to determine them and how we deal with our environment?
The loving Lord has designed us to be observant people. We are the dry bones come back to abundant life. We are the keen watchers and waiters, the Daniels and Josephs of our times.
I am reminded here of Daniel 4:17 where God reveals his counsel to Daniel. The righteous Judge has signed an edict and the decree had gone forth. There were angels involved who approved and applauded it. But there were the holy ones of the earth, the saints, who petitioned it. God’s suffering people, that had long groaned under the heavy yoke of Nebuchadnezzar’s tyranny, cried to him for vengeance. God lived up to Exodus 22:27 and He still lives up to it in the name of Jesus His Son!
Watching and praying has globe-changing impact. But it does not stop there: the declaration has to come also from the saints. Observe the times and release the word of wisdom and knowledge in love to the perishing souls.
Incidentally, the year of the vision of Ezekiel bridges us to the next series: 14. It was the fourteenth year after the fall of Jerusalem, into the captivity.
God measured the fullness of time in sets of 14 as recorded by Matthew. The times from Abraham to David to the deportation to Babylon to the Christ were 14 generation intervals. The fullness of time for God to send His Son had the 14 involved, a number which signifies a Double Perfection, twice seven. While this reiterates what we considered earlier in waiting for His time, it also throws light on the fact that the Scriptures must be fulfilled.
Beloved, it was the joy of Jesus that the Scriptures were to be fulfilled in and through Him. We have the greater joy now that we are part of the Scriptures being fulfilled in these times, even as He has gone to the Father.
Paul takes us to the aspects of this number in two instances, both remarkable highlights in his own life:
He first mentions a gap of 14 years when he revisits Jerusalem along with Barnabas and Titus. They include a part of his ministry which are called the silent years. In all likelihood he was ministering to the saints in Syria and Cilicia, away from the limelight.
These silent years were crucial to the life and ministry of Paul subsequently. These were years when God was training him before releasing him with power and glory into the mission field which was in reality the whole of the civilised world at that time.
The Lord was preparing His chosen vessel for the magnificent work that He wanted to accomplish in and through him. There was no other way than He had to take him apart and prepare him for the suffering and the glory. Paul was subject to this discipleship training and that determined his power which was not in word but in deed, as befit the Kingdom of God and His Master. I do not mean formal training in a School of Mission, which has its own value, but a hidden unseen life with God that shapes the rest of your ministry.
Many of today’s leaders miss this subjection in time and discipleship. There has to be in every leader’s life those silent years which furnish the crucible grinding and granulation of the spirit of the old man. This releases the power and glory of God mightily.
Perhaps the labourers in the Lord’s parable who came to work at the last hour had more silent years before entering the field. Was that the reason they received the same reward as their seniors?
There is one more 14 in Paul’s life which brings us to the end of this essay. In Acts 27, Paul stands up in the to-be-wrecked ship as the paradoxical prisoner-leader and reminds the troubled travelling companions that this was the fourteenth day of their fasting and fainting.
When it was about daylight, Paul urged them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting and going without food, having eaten nothing.’
Fourteen days under a lockdown-on-sea was a terrifying time for all of the 273 travellers on that ship. We have experienced on land and know its burden. How much more when on the violent sea? But the presence of the angel of God whom Paul belonged to and served stood by Paul and said: “Don’t be afraid, Paul. It is necessary for you to appear before Caesar. I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me.”
You may like to call it faith. But I would like to call it Worship, as it is in alignment with his own words which he wrote to the Romans in chapter 12:1-2. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We are very familiar with this verse. But do we really understand its impact? As Jesus chose to keep his focus on the cross and took the road to Jerusalem, this man followed Him and took the road to Rome, where he saw his own cross. It is a troubling time personally for Paul but that was no deterrent to his being the living epistle. Body, soul and spirit were united in worship, in total surrender and in ultimate hope.
How many of us have learned to accept the word of the angel of God who stands by us and says “It is necessary for you to suffer this disease” or “It is necessary for you to suffer this loss” and then stand up at the end of our fourteen days and say “I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me”?
The times and seasons – It is not for you to know them that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
The times and seasons – God changes them; he removes kings and sets up kings.
The times and seasons – you have no need to have anything written to you.