The Number Seven

The Number Seven
 
Do you read the Bible with a twenty-first century American or European viewpoint? The whole Bible is for the church, but the entire Bible is not about the church. As a matter of fact, the entire Bible is really about Israel. Without Israel, the church would not exist. Judaism can explain itself without Christianity, but Christianity cannot explain itself without Judaism. The Bible is about what happens to Israel. It includes blessings for those who bless Israel and curses for those who curse that nation. (Genesis 12:3)
 
Every Word of God
Proverbs 30:5 in the King James Version tells us, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” Another translation says, “Every word of God is flawless.”  Therefore, every word of God is important, including the numbers. God uses numbers throughout His Word to set patterns or to teach certain principles. One of the most significant numbers that God uses in His Word in the number seven.
 
The Number Seven
The number seven is prominently used from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis chapter 2, we read in verse one, “Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” God rested on the seventh day. Throughout the Old Testament, you can read about seven sacrifices (Ezekiel 45:23), seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine (Genesis 41). Joshua had seven priests carry the ark around the wall of Jericho for seven days (Joshua 6:4) Naaman took seven dips in the River Jordan to receive his healing. (2Kings 5:10) In the New Testament, we see Jesus multiply seven loaves, and there were seven basketfuls left over (Matthew 15:36-37). He told Peter to forgive seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22). The book of Revelation addresses the seven churches of Asia Revelation 1:14), mentions seven seals (Revelation 5:1; 5). It refers to the Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God (Revelation 5:6). There are seven seals (Revelation 8:1), seven angels, seven trumpets (Revelation 8:2), and seven plagues (Revelation 15:8).
 
Sevens in God’s Calendar
God directed Moses to institute seven feasts that would remain on Israel’s calendar. They are Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles.
 
There are seven dispensations of God’s dealings with man. They are known as The dispensation of Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace (the one in which we now live), and Millennial Kingdom (yet to come).
 
As you can see, God uses the number seven in setting dates and times. If you read the Bible closely, you will notice that God often does something that changes the course of history every four hundred and ninety years. It is often recorded as, “seventy times seven.”  For example, there were four hundred and ninety years from the birth of Abraham until the Exodus of Israel. Israel was in bondage in Egypt for four hundred and ninety years. The same span of time is recorded from the Exodus to the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. Seven is the number of completion, and our God uses the number seven to measure both time and judgment.
 
The Sabbath and the Number Seven
God also told Moses to institute the Sabbath. Every seventh day was to be a day of rest that was holy to God. Every seventh year was also a Sabbath year that was to be a year of rest that was to be kept above all other years. This year of rest is called the Shemitah. There was to be no sowing, reaping, planting, buying, or selling in the Shemitah year. It was meant to be a year during which the entire nation would turn away from commercial pursuits and turn to God. It was a time during which the Israelites were to proclaim the Lord’s sovereignty over the land; it was to remind them that the property belonged to God and that all blessings flowed from Him.
 
Exodus 23:10 describes the Shemitah: And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner, thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard. During the Sabbath year, or the Shemitah year, the land was to rest. The fields would lie fallow. The vineyards would be unattended. The groves would be un-kept. The land itself would observe its own Sabbath to the Lord, and during the Sabbath year, the people of Israel were to leave their fields, their vineyards, and their groves open for the poor. For the duration of the year, the land in effect simultaneously belonged to everyone and no one.
 
The Last Day of the Shemitah Year
The thought of resting from all agricultural and business dealings for an entire year would be earth-shaking to our twenty-first-century patterns, but something as equally as striking would happen on the last day of the Shemitah year.
 
You can read about it in Deuteronomy 15:1-2: At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.  And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release.
 
Israel’s Calendar
The Hebrew calendar differs from the Gregorian calendar, which we use in the western world. Israel’s New Year is not January 1. The last day of the Sabbath (or Shemitah) year was the last day of the month Elul. There are twenty-nine days in the month of Elul, and that last day was the one on which a sweeping transformation took place in the nation’s financial realm. Everyone who owed a debt was released and every creditor had to discharge the debt owed. The nation’s financial accounts were in effect wiped clean. It was Israel’s day of financial nullification and remission. The word Shemitah is often translated as, “the release or the remission.” The English word remission is defined as, “the cancellation or the reduction of a debt or penalty. The year of the Shemitah would begin with the releasing of the land and end with the day of remission when the people themselves would be released.
 
That last day, which is called Elul 29, is the year’s crescendo. It is the peak. It's the very culmination. Everything about the Shemitah year builds up to that final day when everything is released; everything is remitted and wiped away in one day. It was an act of devotion. It was an act of worship, and it was an act of covenant with God.
 
What this Means for You
Think about it. If an entire nation were taking a financial respite for an entire year, that nation would need to operate by faith. There would be no lending of money, no corner grocery store with food, and no job to pay the bills. The Shemitah required Israel to live by faith. What does this mean for you? God expects you always to live by faith. However, there may come a time when our modern financial systems make corrections that result in a Shemitah adjustment. We have seen this in recent history. After 9/11/2001, there was a shake-up in the world economy. Seven years later, in 2008, there was another major disruption. People lost millions in the stock market and real estate value. However, those who lived by faith and obeyed the Holy Spirit were protected.  
 
Two Sides of the Shemitah
The Shemitah has two edges. For those who obey the Word of God, the ways of God, and the things of God, it will come and go as a time of blessing. Although the financial resources of man may dry up, God’s faithful ones will see supernatural miracles and moves of God like they have never before experienced. However, the other edge of the Shemitah is judgment. When a nation rejects God, His Word, and His ways, the Shemitah results in lack, poverty, and confusion. God will bless His obedient children even in the midst of judgment. Stay with God. Do things His way. Obey His Word and the blessing of the Shemitah will be yours.
 

This article is written by Bishop Keith A. Butler