Jan 6, 2009

The Mystery of the Number 9 in 2009

For most of us, nothing and no one describes the kick-off of this year 2009 more vividly than does Charles Dickens in his A Tale of two Cities. Dickens captured the contradictions of his time in these amazing words: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." My comparison of our time to that of Dickens does not lie in the historical events. It is rather a paradoxical comparison. It lies in the juxtaposition of belief to incredulity, the season of light to the season of darkness, and the spring of hope to the winter of despair. It is in the contradictions of this, our time, being a season of plenty for some and yet of immense scarcity for others; A season of immense spiritual clarity for many yet of utter spiritual darkness and confusion for a whole host of others. Earlier today while contemplating this article I revisited my Hebrew learning and I thought I would investigate Jewish understanding of the number nine represented in the Hebrew Alpha-Bet by the letter Tet. In classical Hebrew, it is represented by two preceding letters, Vav and Zayin, joined and somewhat resembling a snake. Tet is thus a paradoxical letter and reveals both good and evil. The form of the letter is inverted, suggesting hidden goodness. But sometimes, the potential for goodness is perverted and evil or impurity results. The letter first appears in the Scriptures in Genesis 1:4. Even here, it appears in a paradoxical setting: "And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness." God's separation of the light from the darkness is an intentional distinction between the good and the evil. In God's judgment, the good is not intertwined with the evil. The darkness does not go hand in hand with the light. He separates the two and clearly affirms the goodness of the light. Jewish mystics will tell you that there is a lot of spiritual insight that can be gained from a critical analysis of the letter Tet or number 9. To be brief, however, I will say this: the letter represents the two potentials of man. When humanity (Vav) is bowed before the crowned man (Zayin) and takes upon themselves His yoke of submission (Chet), then their souls are under the discipline of the Lord. They are bound to benefit from the Lord's bounty of blessing in spite of what may be going on in the world around them. On the other hand, when humanity refuses to bow to the Crowned Man and instead rebels, their inner lives take on the characteristics of a serpent (nachash), Satan. Their reliance on their own inner sense of autonomy rather than on the Lord results in the same fate as that of Satan. Here then is where the tale of two cities catches up with us. How the Tet will be represented in 2009 depends on our personal and collective decisions either to give our lives to the Lordship of Christ and submit under His yoke or the rejection of it. Will we choose to surrender our lives to Christ, offering ourselves as living sacrifices, or will we reject Him choosing rather to live in selfish pride and to go the way of the serpent? I believe that 2009 is going to be a year of many cross-roads; A year of incredible potential both for good and for evil. In short, it is going to be a year of change one way or the other; A year of choices with huge consequences for everyone from the individual to the global. We shall see a number of earth shaking happenings. Our response posture to these will define greatly the future before us. Whether one of humility and submission to the Crowned Lord or one of defiance and rebelious demeanor. No doubt, there is no magic wand that is going to wipe away the economic anxieties that have gripped us since the Fall of 2008. There is no quick fix to the crisis of leadership that we are witnessing as companies and corporations collapse. In that sense, 2009 looks bleak and the obvious image is that of a serpent. But hidden in the serpentine image is the presence and possibility of salvation. It is the possibility of fresh choices that will result in a better future of hope and restoration for our personal lives, our families and our nation. By humbling ourselves in submission to Jesus Christ, we affirm once again that God holds the destinies of all things and nations in His hand. He is the one who ultimately controls the affairs of humankind, both the good and the calamitous. For faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear regarding 2009 and the future beyond it. It is the best of times. Whether you lose all of your 401K or not, it is going to be another great year of experiencing God’s providential care and sustenance. Our primary call is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. We are called upon to fight the good fight of faith and to take hold of the eternal life to which we were called (1 Timothy 6:11-12). This is our age of wisdom and our epoch of faith. It is our spring of hope, a season of clarity of vision as we all follow our Redeemer straight to heaven. It is a season of great light and of divine abundance. Our godliness will be our means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. Happy 2009!!!!