Soul Food 4 U

It addresses itself to every day issues of life from a Christian perspective. You'll be challenged. You'll be rebuked. You'll be encouraged. You'll grow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

NUMBERS – BARRICADES OR BRIDGES?

REFLECTIONS:
Numbers –the science of statistics that represent people with
tears wiped off (A doctor).
Perhaps you may not be a star but you do not have to be a cloud.
New ideas bring revolutionary possibilities for growth or decay of
all societies.


TEXT:
Ps 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of
wisdom. NIV
Revelation 13:18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him
calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is
666

One of the greatest challenges that confronted me was in my third year of
learning. Somehow my knowledge base was challenged as what I had known was
given different meaning. The word ‘one’ which means ‘look’ in my language
became a number. Letter ‘e’ became i, o became u, etc. and the world
ceased to make sense and somehow that trend has continued. When the
knowledge base shifts, new information has to be acquired if we are to
remain effective and relevant. The fact that a signal is familiar does not
necessarily mean the same thing to everybody. Symbols such as ‘lake’
could mean a mass of water but it could also mean his/hers in Kiswahili
(Jina lake). Mistaken advice, however sincere, may be serious in many
effects.
As messengers of the Gospel message we need to be aware of differing
cultural interpretation of signal systems. Think of numbers that carry
meaning as well as express relationships. Statistics express relationships
and communicate information with a combination of numbers and symbols.
From the very beginning, the numeric system of communication is used. For
example, the creation took seven days, Jacob served Laban for seven years
in order to marry, Pharaoh dream had seven thin cows that ate seven fat
cows, Jesus talked of seven spirit, seven loaves, forgiving others seven
times, The Sadducees gave an example of a woman who had seven husbands,
while the woman at Samaria had had five husbands. Daniel waited for an
answer to his prayer for 21 days (Daniel 10:13) while Jeremiah waited for
10 days(Jeremiah 42:7 Ten days later the word of the LORD came to
Jeremiah).
Numbers carry an agreed- upon meaning that is accepted within a cultural
grouping as conveying specific information in a precise manner. You
cannot assume that the meaning your community attaches to a number is the
same as that another community attaches. To understand the meaning
attached to numbers that are used in the bible one has to have some
understanding of the cultural meaning attached by the people of that day.

SOME TRAPS THAT WE NEED TO CONSCIOUS OF WHEN USING NUMERIC SYSTEM

1. Superstition - False notion. Many cultures have some beliefs about
some numbers having bad spell. Such numbers may not be pronounced without
some caution and in some cultures the ‘earmarked’ numbers are skipped when
following a sequence. How the numbers are selected and why, is not clear
but the belief is passed on from one generation to another. In some
cultures wealth and children are not expected to be counted verbally. For
a Christian to propagate beliefs that have no worthwhile foundation is
irresponsible. It is worse when some people ‘import’ superstitious beliefs
of other cultures and integrate them into their own belief system.
Superstition cultivates insecurity and sends a legion of structural cracks
through peoples’ disposition. It feeds on exaggerated, self made lies and
fears that grow so thick that the branches hide common sense –and worse,
God. To declare that a number means perfection, restoration, prosperity,
completeness, etc. may not communicate effectively. Some more information
is needed that would explain what it is about the number that makes it
carry that given message.
2. Syncretism – ‘The union of two opposite forces, beliefs, systems or
tenets so that the united form a new thing, neither one nor the other’
David Burnett). Syncretism may take the form of taking new ideas and
retaining the old meaning. Adding more value to numbers and expressing
the mixing of the old and new ideas in an indigenous system of belief.
Cultures have a system of dividing time and using numbers to express the
various divisions. Just as it happens in language, there are cultures that
become dominant and so their language is learned by others, use of English
is an example. Similarly in dividing time into manageable combination such
as weeks, months and years, there are dominant cultures whose divisions
have been adapted by others and that may explain existence of different
calendars. We have Julian calendar/ Ethiopian, Gregorian (that is the one
we use), Jewish, etc. New Year according to Gregorian calendar is not the
same day as expressed in other calendars. While God understand our
calendars it is not fair to speak to a congregation that has people from
various cultures as if they used one type of calendar. Is June 6, 2006
according to Gregorian calendar the same as it is in Ethiopian Calendar?
Which calendar does God use? Using one type of calendar to instil fear
and insecurity in people is mixing belief systems that do not arise from
the bible. That is not one way of lighting the world.

3. Witch-hunting - Christians can set themselves in a way that they find
Satan in every thing and blame as the subtle force behind all bad events
and encounters. The number 666 appear four times in the bible according to
NIV
The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, (1
Kings 10:14, 2 Chronicles 9:113); The list of the men of the people of
Israel. . . : of Adonikam 666 (Ezra 2: 2;13). The verse in Revelation
is the one that has attracted a lot of interpretation particularly as we
approached AD 2000.
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number
of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666 (Revelation 13:18)
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says, ‘The concluding verse of this chapter,
in which the number of the beast is revealed as 666, has given rise to a
multitude of interpretations’.
Looking for the mark of the beast in people’s names, birthdays (My
friend’s sister was born on 6.6.1966), car number plates, calendar dates,
estate house numbers may be a combination of superstition and witch
hunting. Almost anybody can be made antichrist by attaching value to the
letters that make his name, count the numbers backwards and the devil code
will be revealed. Charles Swindoll says of the search for meaning of 666,
‘Christians let’s wise up. We look foolish enough in the eyes of the lost
without giving them fuel for the fire’.

Numerical systems of communication provide us with a precise way of
presenting figures and summaries and should not be abused through
ignorance. When the numbers are misused they become barricades that create
fear and paralyse the people from making reasonable choice to follow the
Lord. Any communication that does not provide a bridge into greater
insights and discoveries of the kingdom is a hindrance that should be
avoided. Like any language has to be learned so are the numeric systems.
As the Psalmist said we need the Lord to teach us to number our days and
to interpret numbers in a way that makes us gain and increase wisdom in
the land.

Count your blessings name them by one and it will surprise you to see what
God has done.