Numbers or Words

Learning the twelve-times-table as a child in fourth grade, I wasn’t only discovering about a dozen eggs, a quarter being three, and half being six, I was imbibing a truth that God put in place for us to learn about himself.

When I learnt the piano, I didn’t realise how much of God’s personality was involved in the music. What multiplication! Every melody has a pattern.

Right now in our State, we’re being inundated with numbers: how many new cases of COVID-19 have occurred since yesterday, and sadly, the total deaths, with the age of each deceased person. We can choose to hear God’s voice in all of this, or allow our lives to descend into chaos.

Take the game of cricket for instance. It’s full of statistics: how many runs in a short period of time, how many balls bowled, the number of overs. Followers of the game love them! The ABC sports writer, Geoff Lemon, wrote: ‘For all the apparent immutability of mathematics, words may yet explore places that numbers cannot’.

The Bible is full of lists. God had a reason for each of them, but I like to think the words are the most important! Moses wrote: God created the earth by what he said. And John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, said, In the beginning was The Word. He was talking about Jesus, who was present at creation, participating in it all.

I’ve always loved the 55th chapter of Isaiah. (Read it and enjoy it for yourself!) I especially hang onto these words about what God would do for his people:

So you’ll go out in joy,
    you’ll be led into a whole and complete life

~ Isaiah 55: 12 (The Message Bible)

In other translations that last phrase is ‘be led forth in peace’. That’s what peace is: a whole and complete life! In everything God does, there’s abundance and integrity! 

In our Bible, the dramas, the parables, the letters, the gospels all speak to us. That’s what words do for me. Perhaps it’s calculus that grabs you. I don’t get excited about numbers like I do about ideas, but I need to accept that God does speak to us through numbers. He has more than one way of communicating with us; he’s a speaker and a multiplier. We shouldn’t limit him. Depending on the way he’s made us to be like him, he reveals himself, his personality, his wonderful attributes, through his innate character. Whether he’s speaking through numbers or words, or any other way, he’s always in control, producing an amazing harmony in our lives.

Our part is to listen. Whenever we begin to comprehend that it’s his voice bringing good news, we need to turn from our busy activities, and wait. Whether they’re facts in the form of numbers, or coming to our inner ear by means of words, God is showing himself to us.

I’d like to finish with some more of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway … everything’s free! …  listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you … sure, solid, enduring love… Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand …

I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work… the words that come out of my mouth (will) not come back empty-handed … they’ll complete the assignment I gave them …  

The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song’ … a living and lasting evidence of God.

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