40 days has quite the significance in accounts throughout scripture: from 40 days of rain during the flood (Genesis 7:12), the 40 days given to Nineveh to repent (Jonah 3:4), all the way up to when Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness as told in Matthew 4. But there is one particular 40-day period that strikes a chord with me: the 40 days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments and the impatience of the Israelites awaiting his return (Exodus 19-32).
I have to wonder, “How could the Israelites be so foolish and impatient for Moses to return from the top of Mt. Sinai? How could a group of people who had just been delivered from slavery turn on God so quickly and create their own god to worship? Moses was gone for 40 days, and they thought he wasn’t returning. Why would they think God would abandon them so quickly?”
Prayer has always been a significant part of my life, whether it is praying for others or for myself. And as much as I would like to judge the Israelites in the desert, I have to turn and look at my own life first.
In reflecting on this notion I think back to the Israelites who are in the desert and can only hope to depend on God to make it out alive. Time after time God had delivered them, but they were stubborn, a “stiff-necked people” (Exodus 32:9). Every new dire situation brought a new level of dependence on God; it always seemed as they failed to do the right thing.
Fortunately the people of Israel were given another chance to receive God’s covenant. Knowing this, now I ask myself, “How many chances has God given me? To be patient? To wait for what He may have in store for me?” It is more than I can imagine. I have always thought that I need to grow more spiritually, maybe through exercises or devotionals. I am sure these would be helpful, but what took me some time to realize is that my impatience has been my exercise to grow spiritually. My life is my devotion. My struggles are my testimony. Waiting on God is what has built my faith. I may be imperfect, but I am perfectly fine with finding out more about myself while waiting on God.
My life is my devotion. My struggles are my testimony.
In preparing for the journey we know as Passion Week, beginning on Palm Sunday with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11), a 40-day participation in Lent*, whether for ritual, obligation, or sheer curiosity, may be a time for more than sacrificing diet or some other habit. It could be a time of transformation: a time of divine impatience to reveal what the Lord has in store for our lives.
*Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial.