The number seven shows up a lot in the Bible. Coincidentally (or maybe not) the number seven is mentioned over 700 times! It is an important number in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Many commentators suggest that seven is the holy number of God and of perfection and completion. It’s often contrasted with the number six, which seems to be the number of incompletion and imperfection. The number six always leaves something undone that number seven fulfills. Six is said to be the number of “man.”  Man was created on the 6th day and he was to do all his work in six days but to stop all his work on the 7th day because God had completed all His work. The children of Israel were to march around Jericho six times. It was on the 7th time that God himself brought the walls down and conquered the city. It’s interesting that 666 becomes the number of the beast and it’s said to be the number of a “man” in Revelation 13 as if to repeat the idea of man’s imperfection three times. Without looking at all 700 uses of the number seven, it appears that the commentators are correct in seeing it as the number of perfection and completion.

John, the Apostle, was fond of the number seven. He features it in the book of Revelation: seven churches, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls and seven stars. These sevens serve to wrap up God’s “work” with mankind in general. In his Gospel, John speaks of seven miracles that Jesus performed and called the miracle of changing the water into wine “the first sign” that Jesus performed. The last one was the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. John also gives us the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. This is what those seven “I AM” statements are:

“I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)  As bread sustains physical life, so Christ offers and sustains spiritual life.

 “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) To a world lost in darkness, Christ offers Himself as a guide.

“I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7,9) Jesus protects His followers as shepherds protect their flocks from predators.

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Death is not the final word for those in Christ.

“I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14) Jesus is committed to caring and watching over those who are His.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the source of all truth and knowledge about God.

“I am the true vine.” (John 15:1) And the 7th great “I AM” statement is from our passage today.

I just finished a study of Hebrews and I neglected to talk about the focus on the sevens. The first chapter gives us 7 reasons Jesus is superior to the Angels and quoted seven Old Testament passages that show this was in the Bible all along.  But we must go back to the very beginning to get the real impact. The first use of “seven” is seen way back in Genesis with the creation account. God created everything in six days and then on the 7th day he rested. The seventh day became known as the “sabbath” or the “rest day.” Literally though, sabbath in Hebrew means “seven.” This creation account became the basis for the “Shabbat shalom,” the day of rest directed by God in the ten commandments.

Genesis 2:2-3 says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Further, in giving Israel the 10 commandments, he wanted them to focus on the finished work that God did and to do no work themselves. Exodus 20:11 says, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Man wasn’t to work because God has done all the work and there is nothing man can add to it. He should not attempt to but rather rest in and celebrate God’s finished work.

The writer of Hebrews attached the idea of “rest” with the idea of the sabbath. In Hebrews 4:3-4 we read, “I swore in my wrath that they will not enter my rest although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’” This is critical in understanding the book of Hebrews because the “rest” is the rest that comes to believers in Jesus the Messiah. That’s God’s rest. On the cross Jesus said It is finished. Just as God finished the work of creation in Genesis and no more was to be added to it but it was only to be enjoyed, so too Jesus finished the work of redemption and no more can be added to it. It remains only to be celebrated! Our “Sabbath Rest” is the rest from wearisome religious observation and rituals as Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” I like the way Eugene Peterson translates this verse in “The Message.” He says, “come to me all you who are weary and burned out on religion and I will give you rest.”