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What’s in a Number?

I am writing this letter on July 12th… There’s nothing uniquely significant about this date. It is just another Monday in a summer that is moving along faster than I would like. Yet, that number- 12- is very significant. Think of how many times we see the number 12:
12 hours in a day times two
12 in a dozen
12 months in a year
12 inches in a foot
12 pairs of ribs in the human body
12 Face cards in a deck of cards
12 Knights at King Arthur’s Round Table
12 keys on a digital phone 360 degrees in a complete circle- 30 x 12
Again, and again, we see the appearance of the number 12 in our daily lives. Is there happenstance to the appearance of 12 or is there a more fundamental significance? The flag for the European Union has 12 stars. In their description of the symbolism the founder’s state: “Twelve is the symbol of completeness and perfection.” Perhaps there is more to the number 12 than just a number.
The number 12 appears with great regularity in the Bible- 187 times to be exact.
12 Sons of Jacob
12 Tribes of Israel
12 Disciples (and when Judas betrays Jesus, Matthias is chosen to complete the 12)
Jesus spoke in the Temple at 12
12 spies sent into the Promised Land
12 baskets of leftovers when Jesus fed the 5000
The design of the Temple is a study in 12 (Numbers 7):
12 oxen, 12 days of offering, 12 silver plates, 12 sprinkling bowls, 12 gold dishes, 12 goats, 12 bulls, 12 rams, 12 lambs… and on and on…
Revelation 7- the saved are 144,000 (12 x 12,000)
Revelation 21- The New Jerusalem- a study in 12:
12 foundations, 12 gates, 12 angels, 12 gems, 12 pearls… and on and on…
12 Fruits on the Tree of Life- Revelation 22
Throughout the Bible, the number 12 symbolizes completeness, wholeness, perfection.
One day Jesus was walking through Capernaum when a distraught father rushed up to him begging Jesus to save his 12-year-old daughter. Jesus healed her in that moment. While they were talking, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak and was healed. (Luke 9:40-56) Luke is careful with the details, knowing that what we might think insignificant often holds importance. The age of the child, the length of the woman’s illness bearing the number 12 once again points us to this work of Jesus to bring wholeness into a broken world. It is by intention that Jesus chooses 12 disciples, his first step to build the New Jerusalem we see promised in Revelation 21. “Behold I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5) That promise rings forth from the prophets of old, calling us to “see” the new thing that God is doing. (Isaiah 43:18, Isaiah 65:17) Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he brings wholeness- healing for the sick, comfort for the grieving, food for the hungry, a voice for those long silenced. Finally, Jesus brings the promise of wholeness through the ultimate sign of brokennessthe cross. That symbol of violence, cruelty, power, and injustice becomes the instrument of God’s healing grace!
While the world seems “hell-bent” on spiraling into chaos, Jesus is actively working to bring wholeness and renewal. This past year, it has been easy to focus on the chaos- a nation battling against itself, a political system struggling to live the ideals of our founders, a pandemic that has stolen over 600,000 lives, families separated, people lonely, children struggling to keep up with their educational goals, prices rising, parents struggling to keep a roof over the heads of their children and food on their table, Afghanistan rapidly sinking into the dark ages, Haiti in chaos, fires, tornadoes, draught, floods … should I go on? We cannot miss the evidence of a broken world, no matter how hard we close our eyes and cover our ears. Yet, I am wondering if we are also attuned to the work of the Savior. Front line workers risking their own lives to care for the sick and protect the vulnerable, rescue workers working 24-7 on a pile of rubble to find precious loved ones, educators working tirelessly to reach their students, generous doners at LVC who pours resources into our community to feed the hungry, gracious outreach to the lonely in cards and flowers and calls, and week after week the bold declaration in the worship of the people of God that our God is not finished with us yet. “Behold, I am making all things new!”
On this 12th day of the month of July, I choose to look for the hand of the Savior, to yearn for the wholeness that He is bringing to our broken world, and to commit myself to be one of God’s instruments in that healing work. Will you join me?
With you on the mission field, eager and ready to serve,
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