"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled..." ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands..." ~ II Tim. 1:6

Why & How Does God Use the Number 40 in the Bible? 

The lens of periods of 40 in the bible & what God is accomplishing on our wilderness journey

We recently explored the theme of wilderness in the bible, and how—for God’s people—the wilderness symbolizes the spiritual challenges we face as we do our best to navigate life in this carnal world.

Specifically, we talked about how people often associate the idea of a spiritual wilderness only with harsh, debilitating times of trial—but instead we should view our entire journey through this life as a journey through the wilderness.  Sometimes it’s lush pasture, other times barren desert, but always a place where God is guiding us with a purpose.

In fact, the only way to reach the Promised Land lies through the wilderness.  It’s where God calls His people to begin their journey, out of this present carnal world (represented by Egypt) to a place of preparation for the world to come.  It’s also where He reveals more of Himself and His ways, and teaches us how to fully rely on Him to provide.

And while our focus is on reaching the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom, we must remember that the experiences we have on the way are critical to our spiritual growth, key to reaching the destination itself.  Even the Hebrew word for wilderness (midbar) implies momentum, driving forward, and a journey with a purpose.

God is accomplishing something in us as we journey through the wilderness, and we have to surrender to Him fully, and trust that He is leading us in the right direction.  And this brings us to one really interesting thematic connection to the wilderness that I couldn’t dig into in the other study, but did want to explore further—how God uses the number 40 in the bible.

This isn’t getting into mystical numerology or anything like that, but God does use certain numbers symbolically throughout His word, and we’d be wise to pause and consider what lessons we can glean.  This study may seem quite long, but each of the examples can be read on their own, a little at a time.

What is the significance of the number 40 in the bible?

The number “40” in the bible appears to be connected to many of the same themes as we saw with the idea of wilderness, and the more I dig into the nuances, I really see the wilderness and the number 40 as two sides of the same coin.  We often see wilderness experiences (literal or symbolic) timebound by periods of 40…days, years, etc.

These shared themes include periods of significant trial or testing, or sometimes punishment for rebelling against God.  Some examples focus on the teaching and preparation of God’s chosen leaders.  And in many examples the number 40 shows how God is redeeming His people from the world, bringing a time of restoration and renewal.

In other words, these are all facets of how God is bringing His people out of (spiritual) bondage, through the wilderness (of this physical life), and eventually into the (eternal) Promised Land.  They showcase examples of God’s intent and direction in His people’s lives.

The number 40 in the bible appears to symbolize completion and accomplishment of God’s purpose, but in more of a physical sense (whereas the number 7 is more about Godly perfection and completion).  It is sometimes 40 years, though often a period of 40 days and nights—a person’s or nation’s success in completing the 40 days/years requires humility, trust in God’s promises, and reliance on Him to sustain.

Here are many of the examples connected to the number 40 in the bible:

  • The Flood and Noah in the ark, with rain for 40 days and nights
  • Moses 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in the desert, before being called to lead Israel out of bondage
  • Moses 40 days on Mt. Sinai twice
  • 40 days the spies were in land of Canaan
  • Israelites wandered 40 years (and ate manna 40 years)
  • Israel was delivered into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1)
  • Many 40-year good leaders…Kings David, Solomon, Joash (but also Saul) reigned for 40 years; Gideon, Othniel, Barak, Deborah, and Eli were all judges who judged 40 years
  • Goliath taunted the Israelite army 40 days before David fought him
  • Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all fasted in the wilderness 40 days without food & water
  • Jonah in Ninevah (40 days given to Ninevah to repent)
  • Jesus on earth after the resurrection 40 days before ascending (Acts 1)

As you can see, there are a lot!  And almost all of them directly connect TO or take place IN the wilderness.  We can’t dive into every single example, but below we’re going to dig deeper into some of the bigger themes from the list above, which can illustrate and deepen our understanding of different aspects of our own journey through the wilderness.

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Being set apart and redeemed from the world, salvation through faith and action

Noah and the flood (Genesis 6-8)

The story of Noah’s journey begins with a description of how corrupt and evil the world had become.  God tells us He was sorry he’d ever made man and decides to destroy the earth and most of humanity, and start anew.

But, we’re told, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).  God explains His plans, tells Noah that He will establish a covenant with him, and gives him detailed instructions to build the ark.  And then the bible simply tells us, “Thus Noah did according to all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22).

God required Noah (who was 600 years old at the time) and his family to physically do all the work on the ark…to find and gather the wood, hammer it together, heat the pitch to seal things, and provision the boat.  We don’t know how long this took, but for a boat that size it was a major undertaking.  Noah definitely had to work for this!

Finally God came to Noah and gave him a seven-day warning to gather the animals (I have to imagine God made this possible), and then get his family into the ark.  Noah (and his family) had to take all these actions on faith.  They couldn’t just pray and *believe* that God would save them—God required them to put that faith into ACTION.

However, their actions alone could not fully accomplish their salvation.  Now it was God’s turn.

God had to initially call Noah and set him apart from the world for him to be redeemed.  From there, Noah was required to not only have faith in God’s promises, but to actually obey all of His instructions.  But at that last moment, only God could close the ark’s door as the floodwaters began rising, just like it is only God who can bring us into His kingdom.

Once He closed the ark’s door (Gen. 7:16), God poured out His judgment on the earth for 40 days and nights:

“On that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights…The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth” (Gen. 7:11-17)

It’s important to remember that God’s judgment was poured out on the entirety of the earth—both on the inhabitants of the ark as well as on the wicked people of the world.  Though Noah’s family was redeemed by God, they still had to endure the 40 days and nights of the flood, and then basically a full year waiting to see dry land again.

But the same waters that were a judgment intended to destroy society caused Noah’s family to be “lifted up” and saved.  It’s an important lesson for us to remember—God doesn’t promise His people that they’ll never go through the same trials as those in the world, but rather that He will carry them through.

God provided a means of survival for His chosen people, a way of leading them through a watery wilderness (a type of baptism).  They were shepherded through desolation, fully sustained by God.

“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7)

When we think about Noah’s experience in the 40 days and nights of the flood, we can see how God accomplishes the salvation of His people and leads them through trials.  We also can clearly see that God’s elect must exhibit faith through works (James 2:17-18).

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Punishment for rebellion, yet nourished by manna (spiritual food) and water (God’s spirit)

The Israelites (Exodus 16, Numbers 14)

The book we today call Numbers is actually called “Bemidbar” in Hebrew, translated to “in the wilderness”.  And as we discussed in the other study, this word gives the sense of pushing out, of forward momentum…of moving FROM something TO something else with purpose.

But…I’m guessing if you asked the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years, it probably didn’t *feel* like that.

The fact that the Israelites had to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness rather than the two weeks the journey should have taken shows us that, even when we go through trials of our own making—tests we fail—God remains with us, to lead and sustain us through that experience.

Throughout the first five books of the bible, the idea of the wilderness is consistently shown in contrast with the land of Egypt.  God, through Moses, shows us how Egypt represents the carnal world and living in bondage to sin.

The Israelites, conversely, kept looking back toward Egypt whenever they ran into the slightest trial, retroactively painting it as this lush, bountiful life rather than the reality of the toil and hardship they’d endured.  Instead they complained to Moses—and by extension, God—“You have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill us with hunger” (Num. 16:3).

We know, of course, that nothing could be further from the truth.  Their extra trials in the wilderness were of their own making, but God provided the miracle of manna for them, their daily bread.  He sustained them through the heat of the desert with water.  Even their shoes did not fall apart and need replaced over 40 years (Deut 8, 29).

The thing is, when God first sent them manna, the Israelites were probably amazed by it and thankful for it.  Honestly the scripture doesn’t really indicate anything other than them being perplexed by it, but we have to assume that there was some awe when it first showed up.

But after about a year of seeing the manna appear every morning, they started to lose sight of how amazing God’s sustenance in the wilderness was.  They stopped valuing it, and eventually even came to despise it.  Again, they complained against God and Moses:

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless [insubstantial, disgusting] bread” (Num. 21:5)

The Israelites were scornful of the nourishment God was providing.  God provided an omer per person per day, symbolic of the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ).  It was exactly enough to satisfy each Israelite every day, and sustained the Israelites through 40 years in the wilderness.

And He likewise promises to provide for us today, both physically and spiritually.  We’re told to pray for our “daily bread”, asking God to help us use His spirit and provide spiritual food from His word (Matt. 6:11).

But are we just as guilty as the Israelites of losing sight of how God provides for and sustains us? 

Do we, like the Israelites, focus only on the trials or complaints right in front of us (including the ones of our own making)?  Do we spurn His word as spiritual food, looking constantly for something new and exciting to fulfill us?  Do we trust in Him to bring us safely through the wilderness in His way and in His time?

Just because we’re not trudging through a LITERAL desert, doesn’t mean we’re not at risk of losing sight of how God has brought us out of bondage/slavery, through a wilderness of testing, to possess an eternal land.

At the end of their 40 years of wandering, Moses gives a series of farewell messages to the new generation who would inherit the Promised Land (which together we know as Deuteronomy).  A few of the Cliff’s Notes:

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the works of your hand.  He knows your trudging through this great wilderness.  These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing” (Deut. 2:7)

“…when you have eaten and are full [i.e. no major trials, physically provided for]—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut. 6:11-12)

“The Lord, He is the One who goes before you.  He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).

Though the Israelites had time and again failed to trust in Him, God reminded them that He had never forsaken them, had always provided for them, and that He would remain with them.  He cautioned them to still look to Him for their sustenance even once the physical bounty of the Promised Land was in their grasp.

God knew that despite 40 years of punishment and testing, their hearts would be easily distracted by daily life.  But for us today with His spirit, we must consider this warning and ensure we don’t fall into the same trap.

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Testing whether we trust & look to God; learning to rely on God to fight our battles

The spies in Canaan (Numbers 13-14); Goliath taunts the army of Israel (I Sam. 17)

Let’s look at how the Israelites ended up in that situation in the first place, the event that caused them to wander for 40 years in the wilderness.

God tells Moses to choose a man from each of the 12 tribes to go into the land of Canaan and bring back a report, along with some of the fruit of the land.  It’s important to note that the spies who went were LEADERS of their tribes (Num. 13:1).  These weren’t just random Joes.

The men spent 40 days exploring the land, and when they came back most of them relayed that, sure, God was right about the bounty and beauty of the land.  But they sowed fear among the people about the strength and size of the inhabitants of the land, and the Israelites’ ability to conquer them.

“It truly flows with milk and honey…nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong…We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we…a land that devours its inhabitants” (Num. 13:27-28, 31-32)

The Israelites were terrified, complained bitterly against Moses and Aaron, and talked about returning to Egypt.  Only Caleb and Joshua had an appropriate perspective:

“The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us…Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread [we will devour them]; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us” (Num. 14:6-9)

Out of 12 tribal leaders, only 2 of them passed this test at the end of the 40 days.  They had all seen the amazing miracles God performed to bring them out of Egypt, how He sustained them in the desert, protected and guided them.  And yet despite God telling them repeatedly that He would give them this land, they balked when it counted.

Because of their rejection of Him (and after Moses pleads with Him not to destroy the people), God tells the Israelites that they will wander in the desert one year for every day the spies were in the land—40 years in all.  And devastatingly, everyone above 20 years of age except the faithful Joshua and Caleb would die during that time.

Of course *then* the people panicked and tried to enter the Promised Land themselves, and failed.  Thus began 40 years of wandering, until “their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (I Cor. 10:5).

We’re told that these stories were written down “for our examples and…admonition” (I Cor. 10:6, 11).  It’s easy to judge the Israelites, thinking, “They tangibly saw God’s power and miracles every day, how were they so blind?!”  And that’s fair and certainly true.  But it’s also missing the things that WE should be learning from this.

When God shows us the way to the Promised Land, do we instead focus on our own fears and inadequacies, or what we have to give up in order to get there?  Do we hesitate when He shows us what we must do to enter His kingdom, ignoring His ability to bring it about?

When God opens a door for us that we weren’t expecting, do we, too, reject His gift because it wasn’t what we had pictured for ourselves?  Sometimes we’re not that far off from the ancient Israelites when it comes to our reaction to God’s navigation in our lives—we are the ultimate annoying backseat drivers.

We’re shown another interesting look at this theme connected to the number 40 in the bible.  In I Samuel 17 we’re told that the Philistines had arrayed themselves against the Israelites for battle and were relying on the fear that their giant champion, Goliath, instilled in Israel’s army.

For 40 days he taunted Israel, challenging them to send out a champion of their own to fight him one-on-one, and ridiculing the power of their God.  And the Israelites were scared!  From a purely human perspective, any person who volunteered or was chosen to fight Goliath was on a surefire suicide mission that would also topple the kingdom.

And it shows how Israel (King Saul included) had completely lost touch with God as a tangible, meaningful presence in their lives.  They just sat there, day by day, paralyzed by fear and wondering what to do.  I’ll bet some of us can relate.

Enter the teenage David, who saw the situation clearly.  He saw Goliath’s challenge as a “reproach”, and asked, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Even as a youth, David realized that this was not the Philistines vs. the Israelites.  It was the Philistines vs. God’s chosen people. 

He immediately volunteered to fight Goliath, which caused the heads of everyone around him to explode.  But he was clear:

“This uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them [the lion and bear], seeing he has defied the armies of the living God…The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:37).

What clarity of purpose David had!  This type of faith does not appear out of thin air.  As you can see from David’s comments, he was already following God’s way and looking to Him for protection and provision.

He had seen how God was faithful to guide and protect him in smaller matters, and fully trusted Him to handle this big one.

David knew that his own strength and experience meant nothing when facing a veteran soldier like Goliath, but also knew that didn’t matter one bit—God was with him.

“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin.  But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel…the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (I Sam. 17:45-47).

Both of these examples of a period of 40 in the bible (years or days) show us how God expects His people to rely on Him and fully trust Him to fight our battles and bring about what He has promised us.

He is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, and He is fully able to bring His people to salvation—in His chosen way and time. 

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A time of spiritual preparation for a future role

Moses (Ex. 24 & 34); Jesus (Matt. 4)

The last few examples of 40 in the bible largely dealt with an entire nation or the whole world, but God also uses periods of 40 in His work with individuals.

It seems like Moses’s whole life was defined by “40s”…he spent 40 years in Egypt as a prince, then 40 years in the desert as a nobody shepherd (Acts 7).  In both of these periods God was grooming him for his future role in distinct ways.  Then God called him to lead Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, and he spent 40 years shepherding the Israelites through the desert after their rebellion.

He was their intermediary with God, national leader, judge, and nanny.  He denounced them in-person but pleaded with God to have mercy.  The bible even tells us that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3).  Each of those 40-year periods gave God the chance to prepare Moses for the role He had in mind, to build specific qualities and forge godly character through specific circumstances.

We also know that twice Moses spent 40 days and nights fasting and spending time with God on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24 & 34).  The second 40 days also included Moses interceding with God to forgive the people and not destroy them after the sin of the golden calf (Deut. 9:18-25).

God used both of these 40-day periods of fasting in the wilderness to reveal His truth—His law, commandments, and the instructions for the tabernacle (God’s temporary physical dwelling)—as well as a time of testing and prayer for Moses.  In the second fast, it was also an outward sign of mourning and acknowledging the need for mercy and reconciliation to God.

It’s also interesting to think about how God used a period of 40 in the bible in relation to our Savior.  Because Jesus Christ is unquestionably the most famous person to head into the wilderness and fast for 40 days and nights.

We don’t know this for sure, but it feels fair to assume that Jesus Christ wasn’t in need of reconciliation or revelation.  But right after His baptism, He *was* specifically led by God’s spirit into the wilderness “to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1).

After 40 days and nights, when His physical body was at its weakest and we’re told that He was hungry (understatement!), Satan came to Him.  And the first thing that the devil tempted Jesus with was to prove that He was the Son of God by creating physical food.  I’m guessing the devil really sold it, wafting the scent of freshly-baked bread in front of the absolutely famished and weak Jesus.

But Jesus rebuked Him and quoted Moses, who had been reminding the Israelites about the miracle of manna that God provided for them (Deut. 8:3).  The One who would later be called the Bread of Life reiterated that it’s God’s word and the spiritual food it provides that sustains us (Matt. 4:4).

Satan continued to throw temptations at Jesus…questioning His identity, offering easier alternatives to God’s plan, and compromises that would satisfy natural human desires.  With each, Jesus threw God’s word back at the devil.

It’s extremely revealing that in every instance, Jesus chose to quote established scripture rather than speak new truth or instructions, as He would subsequently do during His ministry.  When we are in times of testing during our wilderness journey, our Savior shows us that we should look to God’s word to guide us—rather than our own reasoning or some kind of “new truth” we think only we have been given.

When Israel was in the wilderness, the people consistently put comfort above obedience, complaining about hardships and failing to trust in God.  With the three specific temptations at the end of the 40-day period, Jesus showed His mastery over the frailties of human nature and the physical body He temporarily inhabited—overcoming the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life (I John 2:16).

He proved that He was qualified for the job He’d been sent to do (coming as a physical human being and living a perfect, sinless life), and demonstrated His preparation and reliance on God’s spirit to lead and guide Him.

For both Moses and Jesus, their 40-day fasts in the wilderness deprived them of physical sustenance and forced them to rely on God for both physical and spiritual nourishment.  The Father used these periods to prepare each of them for their future roles, allowing them to be tested and tempered into valuable tools.

We should consider how each of us, as a spiritual firstfruit, may be going through our own testing, refining, and preparation for our coming roles in God’s kingdom.

What testing is God allowing us to undergo, to strengthen and hone us?  Is He trying to show us how we need to rely on Him to provide, rather than clinging to the world?  What does His word tell us about the godly character He expects us to be building in this life?

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Comfort & encouragement through weakness; a reminder to persevere

Elijah (I Kings 19)

You may have noticed we skipped one of the three bible figures who are known for a 40-day fast.  And that’s because the prophet Elijah’s story has a different focus, with different lessons for us to take away on our study of the number 40 in the bible.

With God’s help he had just achieved an astounding victory over the prophets of Ba’al, calling fire from heaven to prove God’s power and then killing 450 false prophets (I Kings 18).  He kept rain from the kingdom for years, and even outran the king’s chariot on foot.  Elijah was not someone to be messed with!

But his actions infuriated Queen Jezebel, and Elijah fled to the wilderness to avoid being murdered.  We find him shortly thereafter, in a fit of self-pity, praying to God to kill him.  It seems like quite the dramatic about-face for this bold, zealous man of God.

God sends angels to feed Elijah and helps him sleep, then sends Elijah fasting on a 40-day trek to Mount Horeb.  Once there, Elijah expresses how alone he feels in staying true to God, and how hopeless his mission seems.  At that moment he might have written the psalm, “My soul is weary with sorrow” (Ps. 119:28).

God responds with a whirlwind and then an earthquake and a fire.  But despite the sense of power and awe they inspired, God wasn’t speaking to Elijah from any of these.  He was sending a message, however.

Finally He comes to Elijah in a “still small voice,” a reminder that his calling wasn’t always going to be dramatically defying monarchs and calling fire from heaven—sometimes it would be simply staying focused and putting one foot in front of the other when we’re alone and weary (I Kings 19:12). 

In other words, we are called to ENDURE (Rev. 3:11). 

Elijah was ultimately suffering from burnout, which tends to skew a person’s perspective.  The 40 days of fasting gave Elijah time to think and to talk with God, as well as forcing him to rely on God for physical strength, emotional comfort, and spiritual focus.

Elijah’s example is a very important one for us today, showing that even the strongest and most zealous of God’s people will have “low” periods on their journey through the wilderness…isolation, self-pity, looking at the state of the world or their own trials and feeling hopeless.  It’s totally normal.

What matters is how we respond at that point in the wilderness.  Elijah talked to God and told Him how he was feeling.  And then he listened for that still, small voice.  We, too, must go back to the basics…prayer, bible study, meditation, fasting.

God didn’t berate Elijah for his weakness, but rather comforted him with the news of thousands of other believers, and gave him a helper and companion in Elisha.  In other words, He reminded him of the importance of his spiritual and physical family.

And then He told Elijah to get up and keep going.  He tells us the same:

“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9).

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Mercy & repentance for the least redeemable, a reminder of the hope for mankind

Jonah (Jonah 1-4)

Let’s look at our last example of 40 in the bible, which is an interesting complement to other things we’ve learned.  In the book of Jonah, God shows us response, reflection, and repentance from the least likely place.

In the book of Jonah, God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and “cry out against it” due to the wickedness of the people.  Jonah flees, but God—using a storm, a watery wilderness, and a giant fish—eventually gets him right where He intended.

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a cruel and ruthless ancient people who eventually conquered and displaced the northern kingdom of Israel.  Throughout the major and minor prophetical books, God often pronounces His intent to destroy Assyria, but also the ways in which He uses them to accomplish His destructive judgments.

With little choice in the matter, Jonah (now back on dry land) enters the city and walks around while crying out his message:  “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  To be honest, I’m guessing there may have been a *little* more to it than that…

Because, in an immense miracle, the people of Nineveh “believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth” (Jon. 3:5).  Even the king!  God saw how they had responded to His word and turned from their evil ways, and decided not to destroy them.

And this made Jonah angry!  He tells God that this was what he’d feared all along, because he knew the Lord to be “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, who relents from doing harm”.  And then he throws himself a major pity party.

Jonah is a cautionary tale for God’s people…he spent his time condemning others and was upset because Nineveh didn’t “get what was coming to them”.  Jonah preached God’s message as a fire-and-brimstone condemnation without hope—already-determined destruction rather than a call to change with the desire for response.

Do we fall into the trap of using God’s word only to condemn others and justify ourselves, hoping that bad things happen to bad people rather than focusing on His love and plans of redemption for all mankind?

God asks him, “What right do you have to be angry?…should I not pity Nineveh, in which are more than 120,000 people who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (Jon. 4:11).  God has established a special relationship with His firstfruits, but He is still the Creator of every living being.  Even though the vast majority are confused and rebellious right now, HE LOVES THEM.

God accomplished an amazing miracle in Nineveh—an entire pagan people spontaneously responded to Jonah’s message with humility and repentance.  Was it long-lasting?  Highly unlikely, but we don’t know and it doesn’t necessarily matter.

The story of Jonah teaches us that God can accomplish His purpose in whatever soil He wants.  And it shows us His compassion for mankind…despite their sin, rebellion, and perversion, God has an abundance of love and mercy for all of humanity and the ability to redeem them.

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Our examples of 40 in the bible:  “…To humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart”

As we saw in the previous study, the wilderness in the bible pictures a physical place with a divine purpose.  When we examine the places where God used a wilderness experience paired with periods of 40 in the bible (days or years), we gain a deeper understanding of our own journey—and some potential pitfalls His firstfruits should be watchful for.

Paul tells us that the examples of people in the bible were “written for our admonition”.  It can be tempting to write them off as fun stories for children, or too weirdly specific to make sense in a modern world.

But instead we’ve seen here how they ARE incredibly relevant to us today.  They demonstrate how God sustains us through trials (even the ones of our own making), and provides for us in His way and time.  How He expects us to rely on Him to fight our battles and trust in where He’s ultimately leading us.

We see how those periods in the wilderness help test and shape us for our future roles, building the characteristics God desires in His future kings and priests.  And they give us an intimate glimpse of the compassion and encouragement God gives His people, providing comfort while pushing us to persevere

Together they show us more about His plan for each of us…and the mercy and love He has for the entire world.

I think this brief post on Sabbath Thoughts is a nice complement to this study as well (on time and what matters…and what doesn’t).

The Number 40 in the Bible: A study into how God uses these examples to show us facets of our own journey through the wilderness. From preparing us for our future roles, to teaching us to trust in Him to fight our battles, & so much more. A bible study on 40 in the bible. | Be Stirred, Not Shaken

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“God Remembered…”:  Our Father’s Faithfulness in Action, & Future Fulfillment in the Feast of Trumpets


  1. Alton Lawrence

    Hi I am a minister and live to study the word. Kudos to you on these articles.

    Am I able to subscribe to you for further education and enlightenment in the word

    • admin

      Hi Alton! Yes, we have added you to our email list. Glad to hear that the studies are useful!

      • Charlotte

        The study is amazing. It has helped to improve on my Bible study. God bless you And grant you more wisdom and knowledge to explore his word.

  2. Isaiah

    There’s also a 40 that occurs in everyday human life: pregancy. Pregnancy ideally lasts for 40 weeks and results in a new creation. The 40s that we see in the Bible seem to carry the same idea of of birth (and in many cases, rebirth).

  3. Patrick Rwothomio

    What a wonderful messages from the word of God,I appreciate you so much for digging deep in to the scriptures and speak to my life, I’ve learned a lot, may the Lord God really bless you all in Jesus’name.

  4. KWIZERA Emmanuel

    please add me to your email list so that i can receive teachings directly to my email.


  5. Hi am a evangelist that just come from a 15yrs of backsliding and drug abuse and this is my 40 days or year desert experience thank you for some reason the 40s got stuck in my mind now I know God bless

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