Did you ever notice how the number “40” shows up in the Bible history lessons we learned when we were young?
40 days and 40 nights of rain ushered in the worldwide flood of Noah’s day.
Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the law. He spent an additional 40 days and 40 nights praying for the rebellious children of Israel after they had thrown God over for a golden calf.
Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. The spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan spent 40 days on their mission behind enemy lines.
The Bible says that Goliath came forward every morning and evening for 40 days to taunt the armies of Israel before young David took him down.
Elijah staggered about for 40 days and 40 nights in the same wilderness where Israel wandered before hearing the gentle, gospel whisper of God.
The prophet Jonah walked the streets of Assyria’s capital preaching: “40 more days and Nineveh will be destroyed!”
Ezekiel lay on his side for 40 days as an object lesson for Judah.
Our Savior was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness.
The apostles had 40 days after Easter to absorb the reality of the Lord’s resurrection before He ascended.
In the Bible the number 40 seems associated with great trial or testing.
Something along these lines seems to play out in the life of Moses. In his speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7) Stephen makes it clear that Moses’ life was divinely divided into 3 periods of 40 years each – 40 years in Egypt, plus 40 years exiled in Midian, plus 40 years leading God’s people forth from Egypt and through the wilderness. God designed it this way.
Certainly these chapters of Moses’ life were chapters of great trial and testing. Moses was tempted in blind impatience to run ahead of God. He killed an Egyptian because he presumed too quickly upon God’s hour of deliverance and assumed a mantle of leadership that was not yet his. Only after 40 years of obscurity in Midian would he be ready for 40 years as the greatest deliverer on the pages of the Old Testament.
God first takes us through the “40’s” of trials and testing to make us ready for His purpose and our blessing. But the “40’s” of God also remind us that God has placed limits on our trials and tests in life. The trials and tests will not last forever. But the promised land surely will! So as Churchill would have put it, “Never, never, never give up!”