“Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28).
Forty is a significant number in the Bible. It is both a real and symbolic representation of preparation. Moses spent 40 days on Sinai and in the presence of God as God gave him the guide for the people to live by. During those 40 days God prepared his servant Moses to lead his people in his ways.
Forty appears over and over in the Bible. These are among the many other familiar places and stories:
– Moses killed an Egyptian and fled to the desert where he spent 40 years shepherding flocks in preparation for shepherding God’s chosen people.
– Israel journeyed for 40 days from Egypt to Sinai in preparation for their meeting with God.
– Because the Israelites didn’t listen, learn, and obey, they spent an additional 40 years in the wilderness in preparation for moving into the land that God had chosen for them.
– Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Carmel and then became defeated. He ran toward Horeb (Sinai). He journeyed for 40 days in preparation to meet God.
– After his baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness of Judah in preparation for his ministry.
Those are a few examples. There are many more. But you get the idea. Forty is a big deal in God’s story for us. The church has picked up on its significance, too. The church calendar devotes 40 days each year to Lent as a time of reflection and preparation. Forty = prepare.
As the 2014-15 school year draws to a close, I am reaching the completion of 40 years of service in Christian education. My career began as a teacher of middle schoolers at Lafayette Christian in Indiana. Next came a four-year period in Imlay City (Michigan) Christian, where I served as teacher and principal. Then we moved to Kalamazoo Christian where I served for 26 years as principal at East Christian, South Christian, and Kalamazoo Christian Middle. For the past five years I have been privileged to serve as vice president of member services for Christian Schools International.
When I read the biblical stories named above, 40 doesn’t seem all that significant. It is a relatively small number compared to 400 years of servitude in Egypt, the history of the chosen people, or the impact of the ministry of Jesus.
But when I reflect on my 40 years, I am struck with this thought: am I now ready, Lord? Moses lived for 40 years, then spent 40 years being prepared to lead, and was called to lead at age 80. He led for 40 and died when he was 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7).
While 40 is biblically significant, it is not magical. Yet it is important in its symbolism and significance. God takes preparation seriously, and so should we. Leading is not to be taken lightly or for granted. Instead, leading for God is a very big deal.
As I hit the 40-year mark, several questions cross through my mind. Was I well prepared? Did I always seek and listen to the voice of God? Did I prepare by devoting my life and career to obedient service? Did my level of passion reflect my love for God and neighbors? Did I answer the call to be like Jesus by seeking every opportunity to make disciples for him? Did my students and staff choose to be disciples of Jesus because of something they saw in me?
As I think about the past 40 years, I realize I have fallen short more often than not. But thanks be to God that there is more time and work to be done to become a better servant for him. 40 is just the preparation time after all. When I self-reflect, I believe that some evidence of faithfulness can be found. To God be the glory for that! His grace is sufficient to overcome my deficiencies. All glory and honor be to him.
Are you called to lead too? If your answer is yes and you are answering the call, then remember 40: prepare, lead, follow, love, serve, be passionate for him, make disciples! Do not prepare for yourself, but prepare so that you are a faithful disciple who makes disciples.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services