Jehovah, The God of Arithmetic

Before these lines of this typewriter are reset by linotype and appear upon the printed page which you have taken from your mailbox, another school year will have begun. 

Already your children and my children find themselves in the weekly routine of going to school, applying themselves to the lessons at hand and then returning with their home work. The one child delights in it and drinks in the added knowledge with joy. The other child finds it boring. And for him it is hard to keep his mind on the matter at hand. For the one it comes “naturally.” For the other it comes: only with hard labor. 

There is a far more important difference of which we can speak between the instruction the one child receives and that which is given to another child. The one child is taught all things in the fear of the Lord. To the other child the things of God’s creation and the works which He performs therein are taught in bold denial of God and of His glory. However, when He is ruled out of His own creation and the creature is examined as though it stood apart from the Creator, that which is taught is utter folly. Since “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” that which is taught outside of His fear cannot be wisdom but must be utter folly. Even though the things presented may be factually correct, it is folly that is taught when the God Who stands behind these facts and causes them to be realities is ignored and denied. For that reason we have decided to write a few lines at this beginning of this school season concerning this matter of instruction in His fear. 

It is a fact, well-known to all who have given even a superficial consideration to the matter, that the one subject does lend itself more easily to a truly Christian presentation to the mind of the child than another. It is unhesitatingly conceded that in the subject of history it is a comparatively easy task to trace the finger of God as He “turns the hearts of kings as the rivers of water” (Proverbs 21:1). But it must also be conceded that without tracing His finger in all historical events the child is deceived and taught utter folly. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity also in the realm of history unless in it we begin and end in God. History repeats itself. But it gets nowhere when it is viewed in any other way than in His fear. The world passes through one cycle after another with boring monotony. War follows peace; and peace follows war. But where do these wars and periods of peace bring us? Only to more dreadful wars. Both war and peace serve that same dreadful end. It brings one to vanity. A war to end war has only set the wheels turning more rapidly in motion towards a war to end peace. And without seeing the kingdom of God, without seeing the stone cut out of the mountain without hands of Daniel 2 all history brings the world no advancement, no deliverance outside that evil circle of vanity of vanities. Who would ever expect to teach history by taking a few chapters out of the textbook, somewhere in the middle and utterly disregard the first chapters and the last? Who would ever read a novel that way? Why you might find yourself taking sides against the principal character and hero of the book and cheering the villain. It might make interesting reading, those chapters in the center of the book which you have lifted out of the book itself. But could you expect a child who was told to do that to give a good and correct book report on that novel? Much less, indeed, very much less can you take a piece of that which transpired in. ancient, medieval, European or American history and understand it when you have first ruled out God and His work of creation and God and His Kingdom of Christ for which all the other kingdoms exist that they may—though unconsciously and very unwillingly—serve the purpose of its final and glorious realization in the day of Christ. 

We confess, do we not, that we believe that there is “an holy catholic church”? And we believe also, do we not, that this church will one day inherit the new creation and that all her enemies shall be cast into the lake of fire? We believe that this church is the salt of the earth, the apple of God’s eye, the bride of Christ. And shall we then explain world history as though this church does not exist and does not amount to anything? Shall we have our children taught in the history class in such away that the kingdoms of the world are the important groups of people and that the church serves their good? Of course not! But it certainly is the other way. The church is engraven in the palms of God’s hands (Isaiah 49:16), and not the kingdoms of the world. Do we really understand the things that transpire in this world and among the nations of this world, then, if our viewpoint is not exactly that viewpoint of the God Who with these hands turns the hearts of kings and causes every single historical event to take place? Surely in the history class there is abundant opportunity found and a God-given calling to be recognized to explain and to teach all history in His fear. 

But at the moment we wish to speak about the subject of arithmetic, which does not lend itself as easily to a presentation that clearly breathes the fear of God. And yet there are some beautiful truths that even this abstract subject teaches us and that ought not be kept from the covenant child. The child ought early to learn and to know that his God, Jehovah, is the God of arithmetic as well as of history and geography. 

And first of all we would have you consider with us that the whole field of arithmetic or of numbers reveals Him to be an All-Wise God. What wisdom, what unsearchable wisdom is displayed in the whole world of numbers! The inner beauty and harmony between the numbers speaks of the Creator’s everlasting praise. This we wish to make plain to you at this time. But first of all let us note how that Jehovah, the God of arithmetic uses these numbers Himself in the works of His hands. 

First of all, then, we have reference to those numbers which He set aside and used to symbolize various truths of Himself, His creation and His covenant. These numbers are the numbers one, three, four, six, seven, ten, twelve and the multiples of these numbers by the number ten, such as forty, seventy, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred forty-four thousand and the like. God Himself is one; and the number one symbolizes God in His oneness. He reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures as a triune God, Father, Son and Spirit dwelling in that one divine essence. And therefore the number three is symbolic of God in His triune existence. Gothic architecture has made much use of this as well as of the symbolic number four—which is the number of this earth in its extent: four corners, four winds of heaven, four seasons: The gothic arch has characteristically its three distinct parts; and its circular windows have their four distinct inner arts. The number six has been reserved and designated by God as the number of man. See Revelation 13:18. Seven is the covenant number, ten the number of completion or perfectness and twelve the number of God’s people. It is not, therefore, a mere coincidence that when Israel comes to Elim that this oasis has exactly twelve wells and seventy palm trees. It is not a mere cold, mathematical fact that God gave Jacob twelve sons in whom he would inherit the land of Canaan and that Jesus chose exactly twelve apostles. Jehovah as the God whose wisdom brought forth the wonderful world of numbers makes use of these numbers to speak His Own message to His Church. 

Nor is it only in the sphere of these spiritual things that He makes use of the numbers His wisdom has produced. In every earthly thing, we may say in every creature, He makes use of numbers; and these creatures exist according to a definite numerical scheme. All are, no doubt, acquainted with the most popular of chemical formulas: H2O. Spelled out in the letters of the alphabet this is water. To the mind of the chemist who deals with the elements in this world it spells two parts of hydrogen combined with one part of oxygen. To the common man that is water. But the point we make is that so God has made all things according to such a mathematical formula. H2O2 represents another work of God. When two parts of hydrogen are combined with two parts—instead of one part—of oxygen, God has made not the refreshing, life giving water which we crave, but a deadly poison called hydrogen peroxide. With that very little difference of composition God has made the one material to differ so very greatly in taste, effect and power. We are in no position, nor is it needful to continue, to show how all that which God has made can be expressed according to some such formula with its mathematical equation. All we need to do is to remind the reader that so God works in all the things which He has made and which He upholds by the word of His power. 

There are, however, other ways in which the wisdom of God is displayed in His employment of the system of numbers which have come forth from His infinite mind. Examine His snow flake. The number six is so noticeable here. There is an endless variety to the shapes of these little pieces of divine artistry. Yet the number six is so plainly evident. Or again think of those numbers with which the scientist has learned to deal in recent centuries but wherewith God has been dealing ever since He spoke those momentous words, “Let there be light!” Indeed, we have in mind the speed of light and the speed of sound. These are expressed by cold, definite, exact numbers; but they speak the praise of Him Whose wisdom determined their exact speed. You have likewise the exact numbers which express that degree of temperature at which water, at sea level, will freeze and will boil. And so one could continue. It all adds up to this that Jehovah is, indeed, the God of arithmetic as well as the God of history and that our children should not be taught His numbers, His arithmetic and mathematics as divorced from and in ignorance of Him but as that which He designed and as that wherewith He still works today in all that which is round about us. 

Surely there is room, much room in the arithmetic class to speak of God’s wisdom and praises as well as in the chemistry room, the science room and the Bible class. Let your child—in a Christian school, a school wherein the instruction is based upon the word of God—understand that these numbers are designed by an all-wise God. What folly to present these numbers as though they assembled themselves in the order in which they come. This will become abundantly plain—this folly—when one considers nothing more than that which we call the “time tables.” There is an inner harmony and beauty to be seen just in the numbers themselves. For this we have no room at present; but the Lord willing we shall treat this matter next that we may marvel at the wisdom of our God and may see the beauty of the truth expressed by the psalmist. Speaking his word of thanks to God he declares of Him, “That thy name is near thy wondrous works declare,” Psalm 75:1

J.A.H.