Sermon: Spiritual Leitmotifs: Patterns of Seven
The recurring pattern of seven in both public and private revelation.
David F. Maas
Given 28-May-16; 30 minutes
We are going to look at a number of related scriptures, from which I plan to string together or weave a theme, leading to the specific purpose or thesis. I will be using the Lockman Foundation’s Amplified Bible for all the scriptures cited.
The first scripture is Psalm 49:4, a rather cryptic verse which we will see to be highly significant later in this message:
Psalm 49:4 I will incline my ear and consent to a proverb; on the lyre I will unfold my riddle.
A lyre, incidentally, is a small harp originating in the 7th century BC, having 7 strings. This psalm was embossed upon a book Fred Coulter sent me titled The Music of the Appointed Times by Dwight Blevins, a physicist, mathematician, musician, harp maker, and Bible scholar. Initially, I found this book extremely daunting, loaded to the gills with mathematical or statistical calculations, esoteric scientific terms, and technical language. I left the book on my coffee table for several weeks until after downloading Physics for Dummies to help me comprehend.
Proverbs 8:23-30 “From everlasting I was established and ordained, from the beginning, before the earth existed, [I, godly wisdom, existed]. When there were no ocean depths I was born, when there were no fountains and springs overflowing with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was born; while He had not yet made the earth and the fields, or the first of the dust of the earth. When He established the heavens, I [Wisdom] was there; when He drew a circle upon the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when the fountains and springs of the deep became fixed and strong, when He set for the sea its boundary so that the waters would not transgress [the boundaries set by] His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth—then I was beside Him, as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight; rejoicing before Him always."
What we learn from this colorful poetic language is that before any orbs started to spin in the heavens, the laws of physics, acoustics, music, arithmetic, mathematics, including the seven ascending tones of the diatonic scale (personified as wisdom) already existed in the mind of God.
Dwight Blevins suggests that “we can agree that while heaven (astronomy) and earth may pass away, but the mathematics of time, which also forms music and her rhythms, remains. This is because music and her patterns of rhythm are embodied within the emotion and make up God’s inner being. These attributes of His Spirit, which include music, pre-existed all manifestations of the physical creation.”
Yes, we can agree with the Deists that God is a mechanic, but He is also an engineer, a mathematician, a physicist, a zoologist, a chemist a botanist, a farmer, a gardener, a lover, and a musician.
Romans 1:20-21 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense. For even though they knew God [as the Creator], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.
In several previous sermons, I mentioned that we have both a public revelation and a private revelation—the private revelation given only to God’s called-out ones who respond to His direction. Relying exclusively on the public revelation of the existing creation, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, both practicing Deists, ardently believed in God, demonstrating more faith than some professing Christians. Sadly, many of our secular progressivists, brainwashed in the public schools and universities will not be able to see God’s patterns or signature in either the public or private revelation.
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed and disclosed belong to us and to our children forever, so that we may do all of the words of this law.
I received the speaking schedule for this message back on April 25, 2016. Because I had been immersed in another pressing project, I had not been faithfully tending my sermon garden. As I let my mind mull around thinking about possible topics, I had YouTube on playing Jean Sibelius Symphony #3, a work I never understood nor found appealing because, for over 42 years I could never find any musical theme on which to anchor.
Some of you may know that in my spare time over the years, I served as a classical music DJ for 15 years, hosting the world classics program, “every week featuring a program of the world’s finest music, beginning my tenure in 1983,” taking over for Richard Ames, and Bob Hoops before him, about the same time Richard Ritenbaugh was the news manager of KBAC. I continued the program at KBAU in Big Sandy until its closure in 1996, and resumed the program on KBWC, a hip-hop and R& B station at Wiley College, where I provided an oasis of classical music every Sunday afternoon. During those years, I played the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Dvorak, Prokofiev Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Wagner, and Sibelius.
Back in the fall of 1964, I had taken a music appreciation class from Dr. Howard Van Sickle, who introduced me to the concept of a recurring musical pattern in an orchestral work called a motif or a leitmotif, which is defined as a short succession of notes, or a brief recurring melody, out of which longer passages are developed. For example, when Richard Wagner composed his masterful series of Operas called Der Ring des Nibelung, a spectacle that lasts an entire week, he did it with a handful of motifs that join all the individual operas [Die Valkure/ Das Rheingold/ Siegfried/ and Niebelungenlied] together. The theme “Baruch ata adonay” appears continually in all four operas. Many of you are familiar with Elmer Fudd’s “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit.”
Dr. Van Sickle convinced me that learning the motifs serve as a shortcut to storing, retaining, and accessing prodigious amounts of music. Learning a handful of motifs (recurring melodies and rhythms) made it possible to literally commit to memory hundreds of symphonic works that I played on the air. For example, I could go to all of Sibelius seven symphonies and access it to memory, all except one—Symphony #3, the work I was passively listening to mulling over sermon topics. All of a sudden, the audio-file timer passed 10 minutes and 53 seconds and, for the first time in 42 years I caught the motif, and the entire work that I had never appreciated now became a valuable and treasured work stored permanently in my long term memory.
The vast majority of the crowds that Jesus preached the parables to in Matthew 13:13, Luke 8:10, and Mark 4:12 could not comprehend the mysteries of the seven Kingdom parables because they were oblivious to the leitmotifs motifs of these messages, made understandable only through God’s calling.
My specific purpose today is to focus on a recurring motif—the repeatable numerical pattern of seven which permeates the general revelation of Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19, as well as the special private revelation made available as we yield to God’s calling of John 6:44.
The leitmotif (or ever-recurring pattern) of God is the number seven, metaphorically encompassing an ascending 7 note scale, existing before the foundation of the earth. According to Dwight Blevin, “Seven, the bedrock symbol, the covenant sign and seal, ever used by God from Genesis to Revelation, is the foundation and codex of the appointed times of the Gospel accounts. These times, given to Moses and Aaron, were formalized in Leviticus 23. Through His appointed times (feasts), God reveals the mystery of His plan of salvation in the patterns of the seventh day Sabbath, the 14th Passover, and the seven annual festivals of the calculated Hebrew calendar.
Furthermore, in all that God does, He leaves a beautiful work of art, displaying the majestic evidence of His presence. The music of tones and rhythm, combined with the movements of the heavenly orbs and the swirled wisps of galaxies, are all parts of God’s mechanism of time and motion, and within these patterns are contained the panorama of prophetic events.
As I mentioned in my Feast sermon last fall, “The Thread of Reality,” humans did not invent the laws of science; they merely discovered what God had already placed in motion before the foundation of the world. Whether we focus on laws physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, meteorology, botany, zoology, or musicology, all of these different sciences are the many expressions of the same God.
For example, from the article “The Sevens (7) of the Bible in Time and Nature” we learn the following details from our Creator’s public revelation:
If you pass sunlight through a prism, it produces seven colors—the three primary colors and four secondary ones: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, the same seven colors witnessed by our father Noah as He witnessed the rainbow covenant.
There are seven crystal systems observed in nature:
I was most fascinated by the musical scale. All the music ever produced has been based on a musical system of just seven notes. The seven notes repeat endlessly as the eighth key begins a repetition of these seven notes in a higher octave. Sharps, flats, and minor notes all fit within the basic structure of these seven notes.
God began the creation week in Genesis 1:14 with the beginning of a 7 note musical scale which would cycle into all eternity. The time element (the marking or measurement of time) commenced on the fourth day of creation:
Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be light-bearers (sun, moon, stars) in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be useful for signs (tokens) [of God’s provident care], and for marking seasons, days, and years.
God started two orbs to start spinning—the earth which would rotate in roughly 24 segments moving around the sun in one year, and the moon, orbiting the earth every 27.32 days.
In the creation week, God designated the seventh day Sabbath as the official time keeper, beginning a recurring pattern for determining the occurrence of all the other appointed times such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, The Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day. From Genesis to Revelation, the seventh day Sabbath is bedrock constant, while all other elements of time seem to have a slight wobble or variation from time to time. Interestingly, if we analogize the C major scale to the days of creation, the B below middle C (serving as the anchor of the B octave) 0-7 resonates at 247 Hertz, serving as a mnemonic we all use in daily conversation 24/7 or 24 hours/ 7 days a week.
Seven constitutes the pattern God has laid out through Scripture. The Bible as a whole has seven sections, with three (the Law, Prophets, and writings) unveiling the conditions for the Old Covenant, and four (the Gospels, History, Letters, and Prophecy) completing the 7-part cycle.
If we conflate some of the texts as the Jews have done with the Old Testament, seeing the minor prophets as one book, Chronicles as one book, and Samuel and Kings as one book, we come up to 22 books when combined with the 27 books in the New Testament adds up to 49, a multiple of 7 times 7. My friend Mark Kaplan once pointed out that if we use the present configuration, we should come up with 70 books, because Psalms contain 5 separate books. Consequently, instead of having 66 books, we have 70.
Back in 1809, Russian linguist Ivan Nikolayevitsh Panin, often called the ‘father of Bible numerics,” formerly a rock-solid agnostic, became an ardent believer after having applied the Gematria (assigning numerical values to the Hebrew and Greek alphabets). He discovered an unmistakable “heptadic” structure in the Scriptures (a recurrent phenomenon of the number seven throughout the texts of both the Old and New Testaments.
Patterns of seven saturate or permeate the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation beginning with the weekly Sabbath, seven annual Sabbaths, the Feast of weeks in which we count seven, the Feast of Trumpets in the seventh month, 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine, sevens of the dreams of Pharaoh, Joshua cycles around Jericho seven times, the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel with the mysterious break on the middle of the week, 7 seals of Revelation, seven vials of Revelation, 7 angels with the trumpets, 7 churches of Revelation, just to name a few.
Some biblical scholars, including Dwight Blevins, have speculated the numbering of the chapters and verses in the Geneva Bible of 1560 have similar numerical significance as Panin’s Bible numerics. For example, the first scripture I cited today was Psalm 49:4. On the seven string lyre, I will unfold my riddle, the verse 494 is a double of 247, with the motif 24-7.
The Sea of Galilee, the venue of Christ’s ministry, has two alternate names—the Sea of Tiberius and the Kinnereth Sea. It was called Kinnereth because it resembled a harp or kinnor, presumably having 7 strings. The etymology of Galilee was to complete a circle, or cycle. Interestingly, the name Galilee was also the surname of Galileo Galilei, the 17th century Italian astronomer and physicist, sometimes called the father of observational astronomy, excommunicated by the Catholic Church for suggesting that the earth rotated as an orb around the sun.
The Sea of Galilee serves as a mnemonic that Christ’s ministry would close the circle on the New Covenant, commencing halfway through the prophetic week with His sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan. Kinnereth serves as a mnemonic to focus on the motif of seven, as suggested by the seven string (seven note scale) of the kinnor.
When Jesus was asked for a sign of His Messiahship from the gainsaying, hypocritical Pharisees He rebuked them.
Matthew 12: 38-40 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign (attesting miracle) from You [proving that You are what You claim to be].” But He replied and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation [that is morally unfaithful to God] craves and demands a [miraculous] sign; but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
In this response, Jesus directed His detractors’ attention directly back to the fourth day of creation in Genesis 1:14 and appointed times identified in Leviticus 23.
Within the statement concerning three days and three nights, Christ referenced no less than five out of the nine appointed times of God occurring every year.
The two divisions of night and day
The Wednesday Passover of 30 AD
The first Day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15)
The 17th of Nisan, the third day and sign he gave
The day of the resurrection, the end of the weekly Sabbath
The fourth day of creation God gave us the time-keeping tools to calculate His seventh day Sabbath and appointed times. The fourth commandment, the only commandment connected to keeping time, directs us to keep the seventh day Sabbath, as a mnemonic that looks backward to the dawn of creation and forward to the seventh trump and the resurrection, ushering in the glorious Kingdom of God when the called out saints will reign with Christ in the family of God.
With the recurring cycle of seven, God proves He is sovereign over time all the time.
We used to give the Protestants and evangelicals a bad time about wanting to fly to heaven and play harps all day long. But ever since our calling, we have been metaphorically plucking a seven string harp on a weekly basis. Every successive year as we rehearse God’s appointed holy days, we spiral and ascend to a whole new level of understanding.
Revelation 14:3 And they sang a new song before the throne [of God] and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased (ransomed, redeemed) from the earth.
My humble speculation is that new song will be based on the motifs and spiritual scales we have practicing through the entirety of our sanctification process, motifs to which the rest of the world is currently oblivious.