“40 days” Reflection: a Lenten (Bible) Study

Just this morning (wednesday 21 Feb) we (a group of us) were informed that today was Ash Wednesday. We were supposed to have a prayer meeting, but instead, the leader led us into a ‘reflection’ for the 40 days leading up to Good Friday, ie the Lenten Season.While I feel that often we Christians talk about prayer more than we actually pray, and during the meeting I confess that I was feeling a little uncomfortable that we were using our ‘prayer’ time for ‘talk’ time… still, what was interesting was that we were made to remember every (any) incident that involved 40 days in the Bible and come up with a reflection.

Of course three references immediately came up… Moses at Sinai, the great Flood (raining 40 days), Jesus in the wilderness…

Our leader however said that there were 11! references and that was a surprise and a test to us (bible) college students. We thought and thought and ultimately gave up. Since there was no time, we weren’t able to see the entire list, so I thought I would do my own biblegateway.com study.

Without getting too much into the details, here is the complete (not concordance-style, but event-reference style) list…

Genesis 7:12 | The Great Flood
And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.forty days and forty nights…

Genesis 50:3 | Joseph ordered his physicians to embalm Isaac and it took that time
[The physicians took] a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming [Isaac].

Exodus 34:28 | Moses before God writing the 10 Commandments
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.

Numbers 13:25 | The time the spies took to investigate Canaan. (Eventually they were punished with one extra year in the wilderness for each day they visited Numbers 14:34)
At the end of forty days they [the spies] returned from exploring the land.

Deuteronomy 9:25 | Moses interceding for the Israelites when they sinned
I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you.

1 Samuel 17:16 | Goliath taunting the people of Israel during this time
For forty days the Philistine [Goliath] came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

1 Kings 19:8 | Elijay being taken care of God during this period
So he [Elijah] got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Ezekiel 4:6 | Prophet text
“After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.

Jonah 3:4 | Time given to the people of Nineveh to repent
On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Luke 4:2 | Jesus tempted in the wilderness (also reported in Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13)
…for forty days he [Jesus] was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

Acts 1:3 | Time between resurrection and ascension
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

The leader of our ‘prayer’ time wanted us to draw personal implications for the coming 40 days towards Good Friday. I get uncomfortable about ‘forcing’ meanings onto texts, using them for purposes they were not intended… but still, the thought was interesting, and so I share it here… and let you make your own implications.

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3 Responses to ““40 days” Reflection: a Lenten (Bible) Study”


  1. 1 totaltransformation February 21, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    I think Rick Warren talk about this in his book,Purpose Driven Life. Not that I am a big fan of his, but I remember he made a similar point if you want to check it out.

    -J. Kaiser

  2. 2 NAyK February 22, 2007 at 5:04 am

    To totaltransformation: Rick Warren? hmmm… thanks for the tip. I also have hesitated to try Rick Warren… but I might just glance at it… I might just.

  3. 3 NAyK March 8, 2007 at 10:23 am

    See perhaps this post for further reflections for the Lenten season. It is not “biblical” text oriented but gives another perspective of reflective readings: http://apilgrimsway.wordpress.com/2007/02/21/40-days-oflint/


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Passage for this Season

Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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