I know – I’m officially old now. For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting grief from my wife, my kids, and my co-workers about hitting the Big 4 – O. Honesty, it really doesn’t seem as big a deal to me as it did when I turned 30. But with all of the harassment and joking, I have spent a little time pondering the significance of this milestone in my life.
For me as I have reflected on the implications of turning 40, my mind keeps going back to the use of the number 40 in the Scriptures. It seems that 40 is commonly found as a measurement of a substantial amount of time, and often a period of preparation. Noah was in the ark for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:4,12). Moses was believed to be 40 when he killed the Egyptian and fled (Ex 2:12). After 40 more years of preparation as a shepherd he saw the Burning Bush (Ex 3:2) and went back to Pharaoh and shepherded the people out of Egypt. Then he spent 40 more years leading them in the wilderness as God prepared them to enter the Promised Land before he died at the age of 120 (Deut 34:7). Moses remained on Mt. Sinai for 40 days twice while receiving the ten commandments (Ex 24:18, Deut 10:10).
We also see King David who ruled for 40 years (2 Sam 5:4), as did his son Solomon (1 Kings 11:42). Elijah fasted in the wilderness for 40 days(1Kings 19:8) as did Jesus (Matt 4:2). Jonah’s prophecy was that in 40 days Nineveh would be destroyed, thus giving them time to prepare and repent (Jonah 3:4).
In Jewish tradition, the Rabbis considered 40 years a notable length of time to study Torah. Rabbi Akiva spent 40 years as a shepherd, studied for 40 years, and taught for 40 years. The Mishna states that at age 40, one achieves understanding (Avot 5:21) and “A man does not comprehend his teacher’s full intention until he is 40” says Rabbah(Av. Zar. 5b).
So in light of this theme of 40 being a significant time of preparation, I am excited about what lies ahead in this next season of life. Excited that He has given me 40 years of training and preparation for what He is calling me to do. May I be faithful to obey His call and to use what He has given wisely.