The Number 10

From what I have found so far in the Word, the number 10 appears to be a benchmark  / time element / testing period, for people / places, etc.

The Lord appears to give people a responsibility to do certain faith-related things by a certain time; whether 10 days in prison to be tried (as in the Smyrna church), or 10 years in Canaan as with Sarai’s test of faith, or in Nabal’s test of 10 days.

For instance, Noah, as 10th in line, had the responsibility of remaining righteously faithful so he would have the wherewithal to commence the new world, and become it’s first joint King-Priest; foreshadowing this scripture; 1 Peter 2:9, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; which was a recycling of this one, Ex 19:6, And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. 

For me personally, when I went to prison, I received two and a half years total sentence (including parole) with a fifteen months actual prison sentence. However, at the time, the government was automatically taking a third off sentences.  SO, MY ACTUAL PRISON SENTENCE WAS…….10 months

In the letter to Smyrna, there is an interesting section which reads like this, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;…”

Although this letter was written to one church, the Lord instructs us all to listen to what the spirit is saying“…unto the churches” (plural).

So, let’s listen.

The way this letter was crafted is quite bizarre, for it states that they will be

(1) cast into prison that

(2) they might be tried.

Now, trials generally come before a prison sentence; this much I know! So why has the Lord written it in reverse?

You will see there is a secret sign in here, which helps us through tribulation and trials; and that sign is the number ‘ten’.

There is a subtle fault line in a human’s belief; so subtle in fact, that it may not even be noticeable until a specific event occurs that triggers it.

A fault line is generally attributed to earthquakes or welded steel, however, there is also one within mankind. In biblical records, it is recorded within men and women.

This leads is to our first ‘ten’!   Sarah / Sarai

The book of Genesis furnishes us with the marvellous story of Abraham and his faithfulness to God’s promises. He and his wife Sarah endured much to bring God’s promises to them to pass. They both worked hard at that, and turning aside from those promises or being unfaithful to their Lord was not at all in their vision.

However, there is one instance that highlights this fault line, and it is the second time in scripture.

It happened when, after God’s promise to them of bearing progeny as innumerable as the stars in the sky, that Sarah made a decision to disbelieve God, and then created an action to substantiate that her decision to disbelieve was correct.

Abram and Sarai had lived in Canaan for ten years.  In this story, Canaan is the land promised to them by God: a land that they would not personally inherit, but would be reserved for their progeny to take over in a few hundred years.

After the ten years was up, Sarai made a very serious mistake of unbelief. Sarai threw the towel in on Lord’s promise to her of motherhood — an understandably earnest desire of most women.

For ten years the lord tested her faith on this very promise alone. Not nine years or eleven years, but exactly ten, because to her this was the biggest promise in her life.  it was all hers. Yes, we know the promise was to both of them, however, it also meant different things to both of them.

Abram had the promise of relocating by faith to the Promised Land, and setting down the foundations early, so to speak; but he had to leave that promise to someone!  For Abram, it was about doing the Lord’s will.

For Sarai, the promise was much closer to the other side of the heart; the part that cogitates how we exist within that will: it was all about removing the barrenness of this beautiful, faithful woman’s womb.

It was she who would love and nurture the child within the womb; to Sarai, it was her promise; after all the tears and pleading with her Lord, and the thoughts of not having a child to raise and take on the inheritance. We can hear her desperate internal cries, “Lord, I just want to be a mother…please!”

Sarai, for a moment, turned very human, and thought of her age in relation to that promise. Sarai was seventy-six years old; and women of seventy-six do not have children!  It is as bizarre as a virgin becoming pregnant without a man.

How often have we turned human and lost our expectation of a promise? How often have we simply just got on with life, because what we thought was a promise from God has not eventuated?  It is a simple thing to do, but in Sarai’s case, very costly.

Gen 16:3 “And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.”

After Hagar had conceived, it was evident that the conception problem was not with Abram, so Hagar then despised Sarai and mocked her for being barren, which set off a secondary issue.

Sarai, on seeing Hagar enjoying her pregnancy, attempted to blame Abram, as we see in Gen 16.5 “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.

If her faith were still alive in this promise, Sarai may very well have become pregnant at seventy-six; but because of her unbelief God had now decreed her to wait another fourteen years for her precious child.

Ten years may seem a long time to be tested on a matter, to keep on hoping in a promise; but the Lord, who does not work according to time nor is interested in the length of a test, simply wants that hope to remain alive within us…to the end of the testing period.

Alive, in this sense, means an active belief. Not a swaying belief swinging to and fro like a pendulum of feelings, which was what Sarai was doing over the years with her promise of a child.

Active, means that we light the candlestick of that promise at the time the promise was given, then it remains alight day and night. It means we do not put the candlestick out for a few days (lose our faith in that promise) simply because we are feeling down, and then re-light it when feeling more positive; it means it does not go out. Now, to do that, we must tend that promise every day, like a shepherd tends his sheep.

It is also important for our spiritual walk to recognise that unbelief does not just arise one day when we wake up and think the direct opposite of belief.

If we look into our hearts, we will see that we did not fully believe in the first place; there is doubt; thus allowing the pendulum to commence swinging days, months or even years before the time of testing.

God understands our hearts better than anyone, and he has tried to tell us through scripture that faith in anything is never meant to be on a pendulum.

You see Faith, like love, is based on fidelity. There is no adultery in faith. Faith cannot abide adultery, swinging like a pendulum from our main lover to our short-term lover, then back, depending how our emotions are going.

Faith is a marriage — between our hearts and our God and his promises.

When viewed like this, we can see the importance of removing depression from our lives on a given subject as quickly as we can, and on anything like-minded which contends for our faith and is bent on destroying it.

Had Sarai placed that covenant of promise in her heart as securely as the tablets of the covenant were placed in the Ark, and kept it sealed and alive, her chance of motherhood may have been realised after the ten-year period. Along with the Promised Land may have come the promised son.

The promise of the inheritor should have been as secure in her life as the promise of the inheritance; however, it was not. The doubt was kept alive, not the promise!

Then, when the time came to receive the promise after the ten years was up, Sarai had sown so much unbelief into her thoughts on this issue, and swung back and forth so many times, that her decision that came to pass was exactly the opposite of what either God or herself wanted.

God did not want an Ishmael in the story, and clearly neither did Sarai. God’s design was for Isaac alone!

God could not have permitted a worse child than Ishmael to inflict on the world; Gen 16:12, “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him;”…and so it has been!

  1. How highly do we uphold the promises we believe God had given us?

  2. Are we double-minded on any promises? How securely are they placed in our hearts? 

Think on the covenants tablets hidden in the Ark; which is then hidden in the Holy of Holies; surrounded by special cloth and skins; kept in a place so deep in the heart of Israel that it is only lit by the shekinah glory ( not seen by anybody, but known by everybody); surrounded again by a wall of holy priests; and then again by a curtain of righteousness; and then again by tribes prepared and ready for war to defend the promise within. That is how we look after a promise of God almighty!

Or are they portable, like tents, which can be packed away when we are feeling sad? 

If we think it is too late to change, to have them steadfastly founded, ready for the time of the test, it is not!  

The most serious part of this story is that Sarai’s moment of decision came in the twinkling of an eye, and found her unprepared.

Jesus said he would come in the twinkling of an eye. This alone should get us moving toward the living saviour and his promises.

Our second 10 – Sodom and Gomorrah: The bench mark was 10 righteous souls

Strangely, God appears to have a numerical benchmark for some things, but not everything!

For instance, he tell us in Matt 18:19-20, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Is this a benchmark?  Well, what about the times where one is gathered in his name? There is an answer, but not now!

Gen 18 Sodom & Gomorrah

In the Story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham, as was his nature, attempts to legally represent the righteous of those cities in this short court appearance with the Judge of all the earth (v23) and Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?  This is perhaps a question any of us would legitimately ask at the time. It would be immediately on our mind. Abraham possibly knew some of them, as we might if we were there.

The dialogue takes place between the prosecutorial judge, God, and the defendant’s representative, Abraham, in his earnest desire, within the bounds and courtesies of a court, to save good people:

Gen 18:26-33

And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:

28 Peradventure (perhaps) there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.

29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.

30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.

31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake.

32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten‘s sake.

33 And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

The court was adjourned here at the number ten, so Abraham could go and find those ten righteous people, the benchmark for the life of all the others within those cities.

Interestingly, Abraham stopped there at the number ten. Why? Did he know that the number ten was a benchmark? Surely one would keep going down to one righteous whilst he had the prosecution in retreat. Any lawyer would have!

In this dialogue, we see again, not the brutality of the Lord, as some like to declare, but his abundant mercy. He was prepared to allow all those filthy persons to keep living if a very small amount of people could be found living scripturally righteous lives.

This is important for us to comprehend in these latter days, where scriptural righteousness has become so blurred, with so many believers not understanding it or living it.

Abraham did not find his ten scripturally righteous people. There was only one, and that was his nephew, Lot!

Clearly, there is strength in numbers.

We see that one righteous person was not enough to save the cities. It was barely enough to save one family. In the end, it actually saved only one person, Lot himself: his wife turning into a pillar of salt, and his daughters later turning feral and raping him whilst he was drunk and asleep.

‘Lot’ is an odd name for someone who ended up with nothing but his life.

Abraham, whilst searching, possibly found those who thought they were living righteous lives, but upon examination were not according to scripture.

We may think it unfair for God to judge cities and peoples like that — according to righteousness, seeing the law had not yet been pronounced at Mt Sinai.

However, laws of righteousness have been in place since Adam and Eve commenced their lives on this side of the Angel with the sword, and those laws had been taught through generations; some agreeing with them and some disagreeing.

In Sodom and Gomorrah, we see them not only disagreeing, but loudly denouncing righteousness and any of the usual internal constraints placed within people by God.

Those two cities would have been most likely governed by the wicked, and, as we see with the Lot story, righteousness was forced to stay indoors and keep quiet.

Any similarities to today?

Our third 10 – Nabal

1 Samuel 25, tells us a story of a man named Nabal, a shepherd who had a lovely wife, many servants, an immense flock of sheep and goats, and who had a critical incident with King David and God, that cost him his life. The latter two in very close succession.

When we think of shepherds, we instinctively think of gentleness and bravery, possibly after David the shepherd. We think all shepherds would be gentle, much like the sheep, as looking after sheep requires a gentle nature; otherwise they are very difficult to control.

However, Nabal was more like a wild pig than a gentle sheep. He was surly to everybody, unless he was drunk, and he felt he had that right to act that way, as he was very rich, having three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. Even in today’s language that is quite a sum. The bible puts his nature as, “churlish and evil in his doings”.

As the story goes, King David (still on the run from King Saul at this stage) and his six hundred men came across Nabal’s shepherds as they were shearing the many sheep on Mt Carmel. His men became a wall between them in their necessary operation and any rustlers, who might like a large herd for free, or some meat or wool for their families.

In return, David simply asked for some food and drink to sustain his troops.

With request in hand, the messenger’s approached their master, Nabal, on David’s behalf. As was his nature, he dismissed David as simply a disobedient servant to Saul instead of the righteous would-be king on the run.

At this time in history, the Saul – David story was well known in Israel; with the majority of people understanding that the prophet Samuel had anointed another King (David) in Saul’s place, since Saul was discovered to be untrustworthy in God’s sight.

Not interested in righteousness or who is really the king of the day, Nabal’s dismissal caused a prompt and fierce reaction in David; a reaction we all know and have felt, and that is the quick rise of ‘righteous’ anger when a wrong is done to somebody.  For this dismissal, David was going to personally kill Nabal and all his children and most likely all his servants.

What we need to realise is that, in David’s eyes, and probably in the Lord’s eyes, Nabal wasn’t simply dismissing David; he was dismissing the King of Israel; he was dismissing a righteous man in his time of need; also, he was simply dismissing a person in need who had done him a favour.

We might ask why David got his men to look after the flock in the first place? Why didn’t he simply send a messenger to Nabal, asking him whether he needed his large security team to assist, or not?  This would have solved the issue before it started, wouldn’t you think?

Well, look at it like this: firstly, with immense flocks and herds, a shepherd needs immense paddocks and fields, and therefore a great deal of manpower at certain times of the year.

Operationally, shearing sheep is quite different to shearing goats, but both species in this colossal process needed shearing, so at shearing time everybody is busy in the production of the wool.  This creates a difficult and dangerous environment for those servants looking after flock and herd security.

David, as an experienced shepherd, simply thought, I know the difficulties, so I will help the owner through this short period.

In our own lives, how many times have we seen an urgent need and without wondering whether the person in need should ask for our help first or not, but simply gone to the rescue to support them through the dilemma? Lots of people do it, and David did the same thing on a larger scale.

It is also God’s law to be proactive in assisting others, whether our enemy or neighbour. It is a positive duty borne by all those who follow the Lord. David, knowing the Law so intimately, was also simply carrying it out.

This ‘righteous’ anger David experienced, is something we should be aware of in ourselves. As we grow in our walk, we realise not all of this type of anger that rises within us is righteous, but simply part of the scenario processing as we weigh the issue in preparation for judgment.  It’s something to watch.

What is also important to us if we want to walk with God is the root cause of the issue, the provocation put forward by Nabal. All people like to provoke at some point in their lives. In fact over time we can find it can become a binding habit and we become quite good at it. Nabal thought so, anyhow.

It is not for us to provoke; leave that to the obstinate and disobedient!

Nevertheless, Abigail, the lovely wife, hears about David’s altercation and, being conversant with his righteousness, heroism and battlefield abilities, immediately switches to damage control mode.

Abigail, through her understanding of David’s righteousness and God’s hand upon him, appeals to both the spiritual and natural elements in this action-reaction scenario, and saves both her family from destruction and David from doing something well beneath him that he would probably regret.

What Abigail did not do is merely sit there and pray; but organised her house team swiftly to offset this now challenging and deadly timeframe caused by her husband. I think a few wives can relate to fixing problems caused by their husbands.

As with the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, who was still to come, Abigail, a multi-millionaire many times over, wasted no time neither was she complacent, nor did she procrastinate, but put herself at the forefront of Nabal’s predicament…took the lead role, then led from the front. Abigail ensured there was sufficient food and drink, and would have counted it down to the bread roll; to ensure enough food reached David as quickly as possible. It is a brilliant piece of production and logistics management: and is up there with the best!

Then, as if that wasn’t enough; upon meeting up with David and his fast-paced band of warriors, Abigail made a statement so brave it was identical to that of Rebekah’s in her deception of Isaac with the Jacob-Esau saga. Gen 25 recorded it clearly,” Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.

Now, Abigail may have had an advantage, as she was a beautiful looking woman, and what man is there that could resist? However, Abigail wasn’t to know that David would be taken by her beauty, and merely threw herself at the mercy of the Court: David being the judge.

Abigail also possessed wisdom, and one wonders how Nabal could ever have obtained such a well-rounded woman in the first place, capable of so much efficiency, strategy, foresight and persuasiveness, and who favoured righteousness. Maybe an arranged marriage?

At the same time that Abigail was saving his life; Nabal was customarily getting drunk with his servants.  Abigail thought not to inform him of his close call with death until he was sober.

In the morning, Abigail approached Nabal who by this time was hung over, and informed him of the issue and how close the entire family came to being wiped out.

1 Sam 25.37 states, But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.

Yes, it states his heart died within him! Now this is not to be read as if he died, for he didn’t die until some days later.

Here though, he appears to have entered a deep state of depression. His heart had died within him. He had no more vitality. He was struck down and could not see any hope. Sometimes we have been like that. We know the feeling.

But, why would a person like Nabal, with everything he had, be struck down so severely simply because of a near-miss?

Surely he would have thought, “well, that was close”, and got on with his business. With a mouth like his, he would have experienced close calls before.

This issue buried itself deep within him. He had gone from being on top of the world last night to being in an unspeakable state of morbidity this morning, stunned through the fear and reality of what could have happened. E.g. I’ve gone too far this time”.

Some of us might know what that’s like?  You know, you just push the boundary once too often or once too far, and you are confronted with something much bigger or more frightening than you ever expected.

The positive side of when we feel like there is no hope is that the Lord can deal with us more easily; or at least that should be the case. However, some who are down, or depressed, for whatever reason, still find enough pride within them to keep the Lord at bay.

The Holy Spirit, like water, takes the path of least resistance; and yet, even in the heart of some of the severely depressed, he cannot penetrate. Nabal was of this ilk.

A state was created to allow Nabal’s heart to be softened — to remove all the barriers and ego that time and success had brought him; and God had decreed it to remain in that state for approximately ten days, giving Nabal much time to repent of his life and follow the Lord.

However, as we read, Nabal remained resistant to the door knocking of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord took his life in the state it was.

Another person who found himself in a similar situation years after this story was Nebuchadnezzar. Much richer, more servants, more well known, more brutal, and far greater in his own mind, Nebuchadnezzar was also given time-out by the Lord to come to his senses; and he did, and there arose one of the shortest but greatest written testimonies in the Bible (Daniel 4:34-37).

A heart that could be softened was the founding principle with Nebuchadnezzar; and yet Nabal, big in his own mind, could not be sufficiently softened despite having ten days and nights to cogitate over his situation.

There is a high price to pay for having a heart that won’t soften under the right conditions.  Nabal will be in Hell, whilst his wife will be in Heaven; and yet, he had her by his side as a witness for so long.

He could have learnt from the faithful expert beside him, and yet through his arrogance, thinking he does not need God, he developed a determinedly resistant state within him that ensured he would not learn anything from her in his life, or from God in his 10 day sabbatical.

Often we see this, where a spouse can be resistant to the Godly beauty of the partner.

We see the Lord trying to tell us something in 1 Cor 7, about this issue, which sadly does not always come to pass.

As we come to a close in this Nabal saga, notice that God does not mention how he was reared, or what was the root cause of his resistance. He does not mention that Nabal may have been bullied at school, or beaten by his father, or grown up poor, or anything else like that; but simply that when the time came and the Lord was knocking, he was resistant to the end and would not open.

When we look at all the stories in the Bible, we see the same thing. God does not mention our past in relation to giving our hearts to Him, regardless of what it was. God does not excuse us for being resistant. When the softest, most beautiful person, the Holy Spirit, seeks to enter our lives, and transform us from the beasts we are presently into the creation we should be, all God judges us on is whether we opened the door at the time!

God gave Nabal 10 special days to repent. He doesn’t do it for everyone.

Duty calls

How many of us have visited those with strokes or heart attacks who seem to stay in hospital for a few days before they die?

Is that their 10 days? You know what to do!

Side note

A side note: all the food items that Abigail brought out to David numbered 512, which is divisible by 8, the number of resurrection. 8 x 8 x 8 = 512

We see the trinity in these numbers as well resurrected favour with her Lord and master.

————————————–

I would like you to read all of Daniel chapter 1, and find the TEN in that story.

Then, I want you to ask yourself some questions about faithfulness under trial, whether that trial has been brought on by yourself or through other means.

Faithfulness in the TEN is of course fundamental to the success of the trial; that is what it’s all about.

Ask yourself at least five questions, other than those below, about the challenge Daniel gave to the Eunuch.

What was the meat? How bad can food be? Why was Daniel so negative? Surely a bit of food and drink won’t hurt.

The bible made a clear distinction of clean and unclean meats, and maybe he was simply doing what he always did — eat clean!

However, what if Daniel saw this as communion, and eating and drinking as a sign of acceptation of the king as a God?

How do you think you would fare under a similar regime?

Would you be brave and knowledgeable enough to challenge your kings of the day on what and whom you should accept as clean?

10 days

  1. ASA: the land was quiet 10 years

  2. Jer 42:7 After 10 days the word of the lord came to him

  3. Dan 1:12 prove thy servants 10 days (pulse)

  4. Dan 1:15 at the end of 10 days the countenance was fairer and fuller in flesh

Finish……………………….

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