Today, reading Proverbs 24:16, I found it interesting that it says, “though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” The number seven is found more than any other number in Scripture, so I went a little deeper to examine its meaning.
Seven: The Number of Completion
In one of my favorite books, Numbers in the Bible, author Robert D. Johnston explains that seven is the number of spiritual perfection. It’s the tipping point, the pinnacle, and the completion of those things in the Bible that it references. The most obvious example of this is in the book of Revelation, where good and evil climax. Revelation includes seven letters to the seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven lamps, seven angels, seven spirits, seven seals, and seven plagues. In the book of Revelation alone, the number seven is mentioned more than 50 times.
There are also more subtle instances of the use of seven in Scripture, such as God’s sevenfold promise to Israel (Ex. 6:6¬–8), many worship and cleansing rituals using seven in procedure or in duration of celebration/fasting days, and Jesus’ reference to seventy times seven to illustrate the unlimited forgiveness we’re to extend (Matt. 18:22). And who could forget the account in Joshua Chapter 6 in which seven priests carried the seven trumpets. On the seventh circuit around the city on the seventh day, the people of God watched the walls of Jericho crumble under God’s mighty hand. Our God is awesome and purposeful in every detail.
Called to Rise, Called to Completion
I realized that in Proverbs 24:16 God wasn’t just saying “if you fall, get back up again”, as I may have originally read it. It’s actually referring to His process of completion that “righteous” people (those redeemed by the blood of Christ) undergo. In man’s eyes, falling seven times is a result of weakness, perhaps not only physical weakness, but a weakness of character or willpower. But from God’s perspective, the number seven is about His work of completion, and rising a seventh time indicates a completion that He has brought about.
While I’m not advocating falling due to carelessness, I’m grateful to know that it’s not just His grace that I’m receiving when I do fall, but His purposeful process of working out my completion as He empowers me to stand once more. When I eventually rise again in the presence of my Savior Jesus Christ, I can be assured that my completion will indeed have taken place (Phil. 1:6) despite my multiple falls, and that this will not be attributed to my own strength, but His gift in raising me, just as He did, His own son, in accordance with His great purpose.