Throughout the Lenten season, we often hear about the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, but did you know that the number 40 holds a lot of importance in the Bible? It’s used 159 times, and often typically represents times of testing, trial, or probation. Take a look at Bible stories that include the number 40.
In Genesis, God commands Noah to build an ark to save himself, his family, and the animals. He then sends 40 days and 40 nights worth of rain. After the rain stopped falling and the water receded, we see the number again; Noah waited 40 days before sending out a raven (and then, later on, a dove) to learn if the Earth was dry.
After being freed from Egypt, Moses and the Israelites sinned against God, and as punishment, God declared that the generation of Israelites who left Egypt would not live to see the promised land. The entire group roamed in the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation came to be.
David and Goliath
Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David stood up to defeat him.
After Jesus rose from the grave, He presented Himself to the disciplines and spent 40 days proving to them that He was actually alive.
The second time the Lord ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh, he obeyed and went through the city proclaiming God’s message: “Forty more days the Nineveh will be overthrown.” With God, Jonah was successful. Scripture tells us that “The Ninevites believed God [and] a fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.”
40 Days in the Wilderness
As Catholics, we have 40 days of Lent to mirror the time that Jesus spent praying and fasting in the desert. But have you ever wondered why Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, and not 30 or 15? As we can see from the stories above, 40 represents hardships that bring forth new life.
During His time in the desert, Satan appeared to Jesus and tempted Him over and over again. Jesus was human; He was tempted, but He trusted His father and relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to stay strong. Ultimately, Jesus beat Satan and death in every way, bringing us the new life the Bible promises. During Lent, we honor what Jesus did for us, and we remember that He stays by us to help us resist temptation.
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