26. Bible Arithmetic.

A little consideration may show you that the elementary operations in arithmetic are suggestive of some very profitable passages of scripture. I purpose just to point out a few instances, and to leave you to follow the idea further, as you may be inclined.


Take first, simple addition. This is a very easy operation; you start with 1 and you increase it to 2 by adding another 1. Now we find a similar principle in spiritual things: "To him that has shall be given." Another scripture that has, no doubt, already occurred to many of you is found in Matthew 6:33: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." This is an important principle indeed, which you will do well ever to bear in mind. Consider first of all things else the rights of God. Our general tendency is to seek first, food, raiment, with all that are considered the necessities and comforts of this life. But the Lord puts these latter things altogether beyond the range of our anxious concern. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness;" and the assurance is that all these things shall be added — that is, that God will add them.

You recollect that in the time of the great famine in the days of Elijah, the prophet was sent to the widow of Zarephath. He found her about to prepare her last tiny meal, and bade her to make for him, as Jehovah's prophet, a cake first, promising that God would so add to her meal and her oil, that her barrel of meal should not waste, nor her cruse of oil fail until the famine was passed (1 Kings 17:8-16). This is one, and there are many other instances of God's "additions" to those who honour Him by the exercises of faith in Him.

But there also additions that you yourself must make. The apostle Peter sets one such problem before you in his second Epistle. Here is what you have to perform, with all diligence, commencing from the lower line:

Add together:
Brotherly kindness

Result: You will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).

To do this sevenfold addition you must exercise a great deal of perseverance. You have to proceed step by step. And you know that in long "tots" if you forget yourself when near the top you have to start afresh from the bottom. Be watchful and prayerful in your Christian life, lest you undo much of what you have been doing.


Coming to subtraction, we think of the great act of taking away our sins. "Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins" (1 John 3:5). This the Lord Jesus Christ has done so completely that God says to us: "Your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). In the Old Testament ritual, on the Great Day of Atonement, the scapegoat had confessed over him, and laid upon him by the high priest, all the sins and transgressions of the children of Israel. The goat was then led away into the wilderness to an uninhabited place, so that Israel by this ceremony might learn that their sins were gone altogether. Our sins, too, have been removed by Him Who came into this world for that purpose.


Multiplication increases figures far more largely than addition. If you add 10 and 10 together you make 20, but if you multiply them you make 100. So God promised to Abraham: "In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply [not simply add to] thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore" (Genesis 22:17). Our God and Father ever delights to make His blessings abound towards His own. And we are so needy that we require them all. Hence the apostle desires that mercy, peace, and love may be multiplied towards the saints (Jude 2).

We see an instance of rapid increase in the numbers of believers at the beginning of the church's history. To the apostolic band there were added in one day three thousand souls (Acts 2:41). And the Lord kept adding to them daily (Acts 2:47). But later on we read that the churches "walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied" (Acts 9:31). This greater rate of increase we may be sure was because the word of God grew and multiplied (Acts 12:24; Acts 6:7; Acts 19:20).


Division is the operation of distributing into smaller portions. It was an operation that the rich young ruler could not perform when the Lord invited him to sell all that he had and distribute to the poor. He did not understand what it was to do so for Christ's sake. So he went away very sorrowful, for he was very rich. But there were many in Jerusalem, after Pentecost, who did so. They gladly "sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need (Acts 2:45). They were fully imbued with the spirit of their Master.

You should do likewise. Be ever ready to share what you have with others, especially with those who have need. This kind of division does not always result in leaving you with less than you had at first. "There is that scatters, and yet increases" (Prov. 11:24). As the Lord said, "There is no man that has left house or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the kingdom of God's sake who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting" (Luke 18:29-30).

The Lord divided five barley loaves and two small fishes among five thousand men. They were all filled, yet the fragments that remained over and above what was eaten filled twelve baskets. This is an example of divine, in contrast with human, multiplication and division.

But there are many other instances that will occur to you. Jot them down and meditate upon them.