Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Significance of the Number 40

I've been thinking about some examples in the Bible when the number 40 appears.

During the flood when Noah, his family and the animals were in the ark, "the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights." (Genesis 7: 12)

When Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments on behalf of the Israelites, on which most of human laws are based, he was in the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights.

"When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:

"And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.

"And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant." (Deuteronomy 9: 9-11)
The Israelites were supposed to have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they came to the Promised Land.

"And the LORD's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed." (Numbers 32: 13)
In Psalm 95:

"Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways." (Psalm 95: 10)
There is also the story of Jesus thus:

"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred." (Matthew 4: 1-2)
The stories in the Bible can be read in two ways: as stories of events or as symbols and life maps. I tend to see the Bible as a life map with symbols and codes.

The number 40 seems to be a code. It represents a period of tests and trials we all go through. Would a God of Love want to put people through tests and trials? No! I believe these tests are symbolic of the mortal dream where we see ourselves as only flesh and blood humans struggling for survival. Life as a mortal is a series of tests until one awakens from the dream of mortality to the truth that one is Spirit.

The stories of the Israelites represents the human existence. They had had lots of demonstrations how their needs were being met by God. During their escape from Egypt, God parted the Red Sea so they could go through. According to the Bible, for six days a week, the Israelites received Manna (some kind of bread) from God to sustain them. Yet, they still found something to complain about. It was their lack of faith in God that kept them in the wilderness when they were so close to the Promised Land. The Bible says they were in the wilderness for 40 years. As I have said, the number 40 is a code. It could be they wandered for 40 years, less than 40, or a lot longer.

Let's take the example of Jesus who was led into the wilderness and stayed there 40 days and 40 nights, while he was tempted by the devil. (For the full story read Matthew 4: 1-11) "Wilderness" appears to be another code that represents a "dry period" in one's life. This "dry period" is the transition where one is letting go of human beliefs and trusting in Spirit/God as source.

If you've been so used to the human existence, depending on what your senses tell you, living as Spirit is a whole different ball game. You are trusting in a reality that you can't discern with the senses. The trials are really your human habits, senses and beliefs testing you. They will say,

"How can you trust in God for supply?"
"Look at you, you've got nothing and you're starving."
"Where is this God of yours?"
"Why would your powerful God want to see you suffer?"
"I don't see anything going on."
"Stop acting so stupid and come back to earth where you really belong!"

Let me just reiterate that the tests are not of God. God is ever present to wake you up from the dream of believing in only what you can see. But your senses could prevent you from realising His presence. Being unaware of God's presence is like being so close to a stream and dying of thirst.

The number 40 represents tests and trials, when you are still dreaming you are "only human" and having to do things the hard way, not the period the tests last. Depending on how fast you awaken, the period can last for weeks, months or years. But it's a test everyone goes through. Some people are too busy dreaming to even consider there is another way to be.

There are myriads of ways one can be tested.

You could be tested by illness; you have to wake up by realising God is all there is therefore you are already perfect.

You could be tested by the world that wants you to live according to its standards and beliefs; you have to wake up and realise that God's way is the only way.

You could be tested by poverty; you have to wake up and realise that God is supply.

It seems stupid that we have to go through tests but they are not tests as such. We are simply waking up to the truth of reality, that life is God. As you become aware of the God presence in you and in all, you have access to Real Power. Then we can live as we are meant to live without struggling, sickness or death; for that which is Perfection and Love is Infinite Life and Infinite Joy.

With love,