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40: The Number of Preparation
"Then the Lord God said to Noah, "Enter the ark, you and all your family, because I have seen you righteous before Me in this generation. You shall also bring with you into the ark the clean cattle by sevens, male and female; and the unclean cattle by twos, male and female; and the clean birds of heaven by twos, male and female, to keep seed alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the face of the earth every living thing I made." (Genesis 7:1-4)

In reading the above verses we learn that the Lord God caused the flood on the earth to last for 40 days and 40 nights.  There are several numbers in the bible having specific meanings of spiritual significance.  The number 40 is one of these meaningful numbers.  This number in particular is repeated several times in the Holy scripture signifying various meanings such as: a period of test or trial, a period of punishment for discipline (not punishment for judgement), or a period of preparation.  In this article we will list a few examples where the number 40 points to a period of preparation.

We'll see that God gives us the chance, the aid, and the grace for preparation. It is however up to us to respond and utilize this preparation period, respond to God's grace, and put in our struggle for a successful preparation. This is the economy of God, in the understanding of the Orthodox Church, for how God's grace and man's struggle work together.

Examples of people who utilized God's preparation period successfully:
One of the examples of a successful preparation is Elijah the prophet.  After fleeing from Jezebel, King Ahab's wife, he rested under a juniper tree in the wilderness.  The angel of the Lord came to him and gave him a cake to eat made of wheat and a jar of water a couple of times.  Elijah then arose, and "… went with the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, as far as Mount Horeb. There he went into a cave and rested." (1 Kings 19:8-9) Here we see Elijah fasting 40 days before receiving instructions from the Lord God. Elijah then proceeded and aided with God's help, and his life ended up by being caught up to heaven by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire.

Another example of preparation in the new Testament we learn of is from Christ Himself, where He fasted 40 days and 40 nights before starting His ministry on earth (Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13).  Additionally, after the Lord's resurrection, He spent 40 days before ascension preparing His apostles and teaching them from the scriptures. (Acts 1:3).

For this reason, in the Orthodox Church traditions, the newly ordained priest spends 40 days in a monastery in preparation for his parish services.

Examples of people who did not utilize God's preparation period successfully:
On the other hand, the Bible also provides us some unsuccessful periods of preparations.  In the Old Testament, the children of Israel ate the manna for 40 years.  They saw God's wonders in how He led them from the Egyptian's captivity with multiple signs, caring for their every need in the wilderness.  Their garments did not wear out on them, nor did their feet become callused. In spite of all this however, they still complained and tested God (see Deuteronomy 2:7, 8:2).

Another example the Bible shows us is Eli the priest.  He was given 40 years to lead Israel, however in his time he honored his sons more than God, even though the bible says "…Eli's sons were corrupt, they did not know the Lord." (1 Samuel 2:12). We see later in the same chapter the prophecy against his sons and his house, which was fulfilled in 1 Samuel 4.

Examples of people who utilized the same preparation period with different outcomes:
Interestingly enough, there are other examples of periods of preparation where the same incident was received by some successful and proved fruitful, while others were unsuccessful in their preparation and fell short.  One of these examples is when Moses spent 40 days on the mountain preparing to receive instructions from the Lord God about the ark of the covenant, the priestly garments, and tablets of stone.  During that same time is when the people of Israel made the golden calf saying "…This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" (Exodus 32:4) The Lord then said to Moses about them "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!" (Exodus 32:10).

Another such example of the same preparation period received differently is when God ordered Moses to send men to spy out the land of Canaan.  These men spent 40 days scouting the land in preparation for God to give the land to the Children of Israel (Numbers 13:25).  Most of the men failed in this period and were afraid of the Amalekites that dwelled in the land. The Bible says "There we saw the giants; and we seemed like grasshoppers to them…" (Numbers 13:33).  Only Joshua and Caleb were the ones that said to Moses that they were able to overcome them. In this case we see that Joshua and Caleb were the only ones from these people who inherited the land.  As for everyone else, we read that the Lord punished them 40 years; one for each day they spied (Numbers 14:34).

Lastly, when Goliath was taunting the army of God.  "…the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening." (1 Samuel 17:16).  No soldier was able to stand against him, yet David was not afraid and was prepared to face him saying "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1 Samuel 17:45).

In closing:
From the above examples we see that God offers his people a period of preparation, represented by the number 40.  Some of us will use it and work with God through His plan, while others will not.  We also see examples of the same preparation and conditions offered to a set of people. Some of us will be prepared and others will not, and the difference is whether we put in the effort or not. Series Name

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