THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SEVEN
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As we enter our seventh year in South Africa I (Phil) took the opportunity to go away with my family for a few days for some rest and reflection. Well, that was the plan, but with so much happening work-wise, I spent much of the time emailing and event planning – an advert for work / life balance, I am not. Having said that, we did enjoy some new experiences together as a family, and I had chance to read up on the significance of 7.
Biblical mathematicians disagree on the exact number of ‘sevens’ in the Bible, but the first of between 300 and 700 involves God resting in Genesis 2:2, which the last involves seven lots of churches, letters, spirits, lampstands, stars, seals, horns, eyes, angels, trumpets, heads, crowns, plagues, bowls, hills and visions in Revelation. In between Genesis and Revelation, the seventh year is the year Hebrew slaves are meant to be freed (Ex 21:2), sabbaticals happen (Lev 25:4), and every seventh seven year is when all the land is meant to be returned to its original owners as part of the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:10). Imagine that! There are some in South Africa who do!! Apparently NT references to “Seventy times seven” in Mt 18:22 is not how many times we’re meant to forgive someone, but a picture of limitless or complete forgiveness. Anderson (2011) concludes,“In Scripture, seven symbolizes completeness or perfection.”
So what does all this mean?
Well, if we’re not careful looking for direction in this kind of thing can become almost superstitious, and so at the risk of sounding ‘unbiblical,’ I’ve concluded it means nothing!
But then again, on reflection I have to admit that Sabbath-like opportunities to reflect on how we’re loving God, ourselves and others has become part and parcel of Soul Action, and, after reading some of what God’s being doing around Human Trafficking, you may feel that He is doing something significant about slavery in South Africa.
But I am struggling with the words like ‘completeness’ and ‘perfection,’ since our experience of the past six years is that it is only as we trust and take the next steps that our journey becomes clearer…but never ‘complete’. Occasionally God is good enough positions us so we can see the bigger picture, i.e. what He’s been doing or going to do – you’ll see some of this from visiting some of the pages of our website – but most of the time the Soul Action team and the organisations we work with, have to settle for simple obedience; looking and listening for signs of God activity and His invitations to join in.
This is kind of what life has become like for us, living on the edge of something we generally see quite dimly (1 Cor 13:12). If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way…