In a conversation the other day a friend quoted a scripture in Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” (New Living Translation)
I pointed out that if they went down a bit further in verse 12 that real strength was found in the binding together of three.
And if one person is vulnerable to attack, two can drive the attacker away. As the saying goes, “A rope made of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This got me thinking about how there are so many references to three’s in the bible and how this seems to be a special value to us. The first and immediate association to three would of course be the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But I wanted to explore this further so I thought perhaps that I would share it with you here what I found.
I will say that I have skipped several references to the number three that are not somehow related to God in general, so there are other references, we are just looking at a subset. We’ll begin in the beginning (Genesis) and go right through the New Testament. I’m anticipating something rewarding we’ll find along the way. Let’s go!
Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.
I hesitated ever so much about including this reference in this article because it isn’t talking about a collection that totals 3 but rather 3rd in a sequence of days. But then I caught onto the fact that the 3rd day of creation was the day that God separated the water and the land; more importantly it is the day that he placed life here on earth. Was it coincidence or does this carry an insight? I don’t have an answer for that but I find it intriguing to say the least.
Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.
The visitation of Abraham by three strangers. As it turns out these three were the Lord and two companions. In a number of commentaries this reference to the Lord is considered to be Jesus Christ himself. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John he indicates that Jesus coexisted with God the Father at the time of creation and in fact that Jesus IS the creator.
This event records the foretelling to Abraham that from him a great nation will arise through his wife Sarah. It also is the precursor to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra.
“The elders of Israel will accept your message. Then you and the elders must go to the king of Egypt and tell him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So please let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord, our God.’
What was the significance of the Israelites going out into the wilderness for a three day journey so they could offer sacrifices? I’m certain there must be some.
Each year you must celebrate three festivals in my honor.
God telling Moses the regulations for the people of Israel includes 3 annual celebrations. The first the Festival of Unleavened bread then two related to harvest (beginning and end).
Makes me consider that the 3rd day of creation was when plants were spread across the earth. Plants from which we gain our sustenance from. Each of these festivals were to honor God and each involved sustenance.
When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, leave the fruit unharvested for the first three years and consider it forbidden. Do not eat it.
I am again seeing a correlation to three and sustenance. Here the Lord is setting a three year period that no one should eat fruit from these trees that they were to plant. (I’m going to keep an eye out for this sustenance theme)
Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years.
The sustenance theme continues around three here when the Lord points out a furlough of the land in 7 year cycles.
three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan.
The Lord designates three cities of refuge (where people who accidentally kill someone can flee to for safety from the deceased family).
He divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it.
So the Lord instructs Gideon’s to divide up his army into 3 groups of 100 men each do defeat the Midianite encampment. (Reflects back to the 3 strands in Ecclesiastes here the Lord has Gideon coordinate 3 groups as one attack force.)
But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; the three young men tossed in to the fire by Nebuchadnezzar. Note that they were ‘sustained’ in spite of the fire.
Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
The Transfiguration; The three person meeting observed by the three apostils (Peter, James, and John) of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.
Peter denies Jesus three times. Not directly related to sustenance however, I mention it here because even though Peter denied the Lord, Jesus declared ‘Upon this rock (Peter) I will build my church’. Thus ‘sustained’ Peter despite his denial.
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
The death of Jesus on the cross 3PM. When I wrap this up I’m going to come back to this but this was about sustenance as well. Big time sustenance!
We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive!
As the prophets foretold, and Jesus declared in three days after his crucifixion on the cross he arose from the dead.
Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’
“‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’
“But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.
Yet again, we see this image of sustenance depicted 3 times in Peter’s vision.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Three things that last forever. Gives me a rush of excitement to consider the abiding faith God implants in us, the hope for a life in His presents, and the Love that is imparted on us; all of which are gifts of God to sustain us.
1 John 5:7-8
So we have these three witnesses — 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.
A reference to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit being the ultimate testimony. The Trinity as mentioned earlier on.
While there are a number of references to three throughout the Bible, there does seem to be a strong focus on sustenance. So many so that you can see a correlation of Jesus giving his life for us in order to sustain us for eternity. Pair that with the three things that last forever (faith, hope, and love) and you have a beautiful story of love, providence, and sustenance provided by our Lord and Savior.
So I would say that we could say that ‘Three’s A Charm’ and thank you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!