All freshmen at La Salle College High School in Philadelphia were required to take two mandatory courses: swimming - we had the only indoor pool in the Catholic League - and typing. The thought of myself six foot six, 185 pounds, in a Speedo, still gives me chills to this day. Thank God we were an all-boys school.
The intimidation factor in typing class was different. Presiding over the thirty-six Smith Corona typewriters in our third-floor classroom was Brother Linus. A beefy six-three, he was the antithesis of the stereotypical quiet, milquetoast, meek and mild man of the cloth. Silver-haired and wearing a voluminous black cassock, Brother Linus looked more like President Snow from The Hunger Games. His hands were so big, his fingers so thick, that when he took his ring off he could fit a quarter through it.
Brother Linus ran a tight ship. In fact, instead of dictating the standard "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" for us to practice every letter on the keyboard, Brother Linus would bark out like some demented admiral, "A quick movement of the enemy will jeopardize six gunboats." Typewriters would clack furiously, and God help the man who missed a letter. Who wanted to jeopardize any gunboats?
But Brother Linus's most interesting quirk was his system of remembering our names. Simply put, he renamed us. On the first day of class Brother Linus assigned each student a specific numbered typewriter, and each boy was called by its number. For that entire year Brother Linus addressed me, not as Robert, Bob, or even Mr. Guaglione, but as "#15 Boy."
Why Brother Linus had decided on this system is still unknown to me, as is why I remember it so much. Was he trying to communicate something to us? Was he eccentric? Nuts?
For years after graduation when each birthday and Christmas rolled around, I would receive a card addressed to "#15 Boy," signed by Brother Linus himself. This made me feel pretty special until quite recently, when a fundraising letter from my alma mater - looking to raise money to bring Brother Linus's old classroom up to the latest standards of technology - asked the question, "What number boy were you?" Geez, all those years I thought I was the only "#15 Boy." There were probably dozens of us!
And all of this reminds me of the significance of numbers in Scripture and God's way of naming those who belong to Him, as opposed to Satan's way of labeling his own.
We see in the Book of Revelation during the tribulation period that the Antichrist will rule the world and require all people, small and great, to receive a mark - or number - identifying them with his system. We discover here that Satan's view of man is simple - we are reduced to a number, a simple three-digit number, his number, 666. There is nothing unique or special about us.
Six is the number of man or the number of incompletion. In Genesis we see that God did the work of creating the world in six days, but there was one more day to go. Man, the pinnacle of God's creation but subservient to Him, was created on day six. Jesus took six stone pots full of plain water and turned it into fine wine.
Three sixes, 666, far from being spooky or esoteric, simply designate a consistent falling short, an unholy trinity of man. Solomon, we are told in 1 Kings 10:14, had an annual income of 666 talents of fine gold, an indication of sinful shortcomings within his reign. And of course the number of the Antichrist will be 666 (Rev. 13:18).
Seven, on the other hand, has the connotation of completeness. There are seven days of creation in Genesis, Jesus makes seven "I am" statements in the Gospel of John, and seven churches are spoken of in Revelation.
Jesus used the intricacy of numbers to teach His followers about God's care for each of us when He declared to them that every hair on their heads was numbered. With the discovery of DNA we now have a much better understanding of what this means, with each human being having a mind-boggling 3.5 billion uniquely arranged "letters" (which could just as easily have been labeled as numbers) in each DNA strand in almost every cell in our bodies. That's enough letters to fill all the books in a good-sized library. Even more amazing, the total length of DNA in our bodies (of about 10 trillion cells each) is about 20 trillion yards. I tried to come up with how many football fields that would be, but my math failed me.
This was God's way of saying that though millions upon millions of human beings may be born, we are significant in that each of us is unique. There is no one else like me; there is no one else like you. We each matter and are known intimately by God, our Creator. We are so unique, in fact, that Revelation 2:17 says that when we get to heaven Jesus Himself will give us a new name written on a white stone, a name "which no one knows except him who receives it."