We hear the number 40 quite a few times in the Bible:
- It rained for 40 days and 40 nights when the entire world was flooded
- The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years
- Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai, on three separate occasions
- Jesus was presented in the Temple 40 days after he was born
- Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days
What is so special about this number?
Some numbers in the Bible are meant to be taken literally. But, there are others that are meant to be symbols. The number 40 is a good example of a symbolic number.
Generally, 40 represents a longer period of time. For example, when we say that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, that really means they wandered in the desert for a really long time. When it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, that really means it rained for a really long time.
But that’s not the important part of the number 40. The importance of this number is what it symbolizes – a time of preparation for some special action of God. This has been shown time and time again throughout the Bible. After the Flood, a new creation begins. After Moses talks with God on Mt. Sinai, the covenant is renewed. After Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, they enter the Promised Land. After Jesus is tempted, he begins his public ministry of healing and performing miracles.
This is why the season of Lent is 40 days long. During this season, which begins on Ash Wednesday, we spend the next 40 days in a time of preparation to celebrate God’s mighty act in the Resurrection at Easter. We spend time focusing on our relationship with God, to ignore all other distractions and grow closer to the God who created us and loves us.
We do this by giving up something that separates us from God. We grow in our relationship with God by serving others in our families, our church, and our communities. We strengthen our relationship with God by spending more time talking with God through prayer.
By growing in our relationship with God, we will understand more fully the love God has for us, God’s beloved children. As we begin the journey through Lent, let us have open hearts and minds to serve our neighbors in new and different ways, spend more time talking with our God through prayer, and forgetting the things in this world that distract us from what God wants for our lives.
Peace & Blessings,