What’s in a Number?

Numbers. We use them all the time. Almost everything has something to do with a number or set of numbers. Some numbers have special meaning, and some are more significant than others. Let me give you a number of examples (sorry, I just couldn’t resist!).

Sometimes, numbers are personal:

  • Your birthday is represented by a certain sequence of numbers that is special to you. For example, 2/4/1923 stands for February 4, 1923, which was my dad’s birthday. Birthdays and other special family occasions are marked by numbers, such as wedding
    anniversaries, engagement anniversaries, and the like.
  • You have a Social Security number. This 9-digit number is unique to you, and sets you
    apart from every other person in the United States.
  • When we begin to drive, we are issued a driver’s license number by the state’s department of motor vehicles. Every driver’s license in America, regardless of the state in which it is issued, has a number that represents a specific driver.
  • You have one or more phone numbers, a street address, maybe an apartment number,
    and a zip code. Each of these is personally linked to you.

Sometimes, numbers are held dear or celebrated by society. For example:

  • 12/25 stands for Christmas Day, regardless of the year. The numbered dates 12/24, 12/31, 1/1, and 2/14 also represent special days each year. The e-Newsletter for Families and Friends of Alta Loma Christian School From the Eagle’s Nest.
  • In America, 7/4 represents July 4, our celebration of Independence Day; it is tied to the original 7/4, which was 7/4/1776—July 4, 1776—the day America declared its independence from England.
  • Some celebrated holidays have numbers (dates) that change annually, and we always check with the new calendar each year to see when they are. Easter and Thanksgiving are like this. The month Thanksgiving occurs in always starts with an 11 (November), but the number of the Thursday on which it occurs is different year to year; Easter can start with either a 3 (March) or a 4 (April), with the number of the Sunday on which it occurs also changing annually. Mother’s Day (5 = May) and Father’s Day (6 = June) are always the same month and the same Sunday of the month (Mother’s Day the second Sunday; Father’s Day the third Sunday), but change the number of the day on the calendar.

Sometimes, numbers can be hurtful or exhilarating, especially in sports. For example:

  • Hurtful: The number 0 represents the number of times the San Diego Padres have won the World Series and the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers have won the Super Bowl. A related number, the number 1, represents the number of major league professional sports franchises left in San Diego. (Yep, those are the tears of a native San Diegan.)
  • Exhilarating: The number 11, which represents the number of national college football championships won (thus far) by the University of Southern California, and the number 6, which represents the number of Heisman Trophies won (thus far) by Trojan football players. (I’m thinking that number might change to 7 later this year…is that the USC fight song I hear growing louder in the background?!)

Sometimes, numbers change, which changes the meaning of something, which leads to confusion or questioning. For example:

  • The number 9 use to represent the number of planets in our solar system, until uh, well, poor Pluto was declared disqualified to be counted as a planet. Now we’re down to 8. (But there may be a movement to restore Pluto to its place in the solar system, which would be welcome news to Baby Boomers like me who were having fits dealing with such an astronomical loss.)

Sometimes, numbers have somber meaning tied to dates in history. For example:

  • 12/7/1941. It stands for December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, “a day that will live in infamy,” the day the United States was attacked without warning by Japan, leading America into World War II and changing the course of history.
  • 9/11. We simply call it “Nine Eleven.” It stands for September 11, 2001, the day America was attacked without warning and suffered the worst terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history.

Sometimes, numbers can be seen in the Bible as having special meaning or recurring in Scripture. For example:

  • There is only 1 God, a number and an absolute truth that appear throughout the Bible.
  • There is only 1 way to the Father and 1 way to be forgiven and spend eternity in heaven, and that is through the 1 Savior and 1 Messiah and 1 Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
  • 3 represents the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit; this actually requires two numbers, completing the phrase “the 3 in 1” to describe the Trinity.
  • 3 represents the number of days Jonah was in the belly of the great fish.
  • 3 represents the number of days Jesus was in the grave before He rose from the dead; Jesus referenced the 3 days as “the sign of Jonah” in prophesying of His own death on the cross.
  • 7 is often referred to as God’s number of completion or God’s perfect number, and was the number of days of creation. 7 established the week, patterned after Creation week, with a day of rest. The number 7 is also referred to in other books of the Bible, including the book of Revelation (7 churches, 7 seals, 7 angels, 7 plagues, 7 bowls, etc.).
  • 12 is the number of the tribes of Israel, and the number of disciples called by Jesus.
  • 40 is the number of days and nights it rained during the Flood, and the number of years the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

Sometimes, numbers are related to what we do at ALCS. For example:

  • 1980 represents the year that Alta Loma Christian School began, and the number 37 stands for the number of years we have been serving the children and families of our community.
  • 226 represents the number of students we currently have in seats attending ALCS, preschool through 8th grade.
  • 17 represents the average number of students in kindergarten through 8th grade needed to maintain a balanced budget at ALCS, based solely on tuition and fees (our school receives no government funds).
  • And then there’s the number 268.

You may have seen 268 posted in the school office, on our doorframes and cabinets and mailboxes. It does not represent a hard and fast number like most or all of the numbers I’ve already mentioned.

At least, not yet.

268 represents an envisioned number of students we are praying for at ALCS, a number we believe that the Lord has given us to pray for—and prepare for—for the future. It is our faith number. 268.

In January, I shared this number with my administrative colleagues. Then we shared it with our office staff. Then we posted it in the office. Then we shared it with our Parent Prayer Group. Our faith number. 268.

Now I’m sharing it with you, all of our families and friends, everyone connected with ALCS. 268.

Please understand that our budget is not based on this number. We have a smaller number of students upon which the budget is constructed. Our business operations and student services department, leadership team, and school board are fiscally conservative, carefully crafting each year’s financial blueprint for the school.

And yet the Lord continues to bring 268 to our mind. There is a peace that has come, an excitement that is building, an anticipation that is growing. 268. It is not a number that can be accomplished by human means alone. It is beyond our ability. It would take—it will take—God to make it happen.


I’d like to ask you to join with us in prayer as we seek the realization of our faith number. The reason I’m asking you to pray with us is not because this number would represent the highest enrollment in our history, which it would.

No, the reason I’m asking you to pray with us is because this number represents children, God-created souls, students who are made in the image of God and who can grow to give God glory and make a difference in the world. Every child at our school is a boy or girl that can enrich our nation’s soul. Our country needs them. Our culture needs them. And our Father loves them.


Thank you for joining us in prayer. As we move toward the conclusion of the school year, may we continually be aware of God’s presence and His moving in our lives and in the lives of our children.

Have a great week ahead, and we’ll see you around campus.

Dr. Vance Nichols
Head of School
Alta Loma Christian School

Dr. Nichols (BS, MS, EdD) also serves as Commissioner and Chair of the ACSI Southern California Regional Accreditation Commission, and was an educational researcher, organizational leadership theorist, and 2015 Innovation Scholar at the University of Southern California. His most recent published research may be accessed online at: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll40/id/294584/rec/82