Waiting 40 Years for Change


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“For forty years I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
—Psalm 95:10-11

As The Fellowship celebrates our 40th Anniversary this month, and 20 years in Canada, I want to share some devotional thoughts on the biblical significance of the number 40. In Scripture, 40 can represent many things, such as a new beginning or transformation. Join me as we explore the various meanings of this milestone year.

How long does it take to make a lasting change? Well, the correct answer is probably, “It depends.” What kind of change do we have in mind? Are we talking about changing a personal behaviour or the culture of an entire nation?

In the Bible we see that the number 40 is often associated with change, with the creation of something new. For example, when God saw that the world was irreparably corrupt and needed a major change, He made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights, flooding the world to bring about a new beginning.

When God entered into a covenant with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, He called Moses up to the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. And when God saw that the generation that was enslaved in Egypt would not enter the Promised Land because of their disobedience, He made Israel wander for 40 years until a new generation would rise up who could win wars and build the new nation in their homeland.

Waiting 40 Years for Change

As we read in Psalms, “For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

At first glance, this verse seems rather harsh—God dooming an entire generation of people to die in the desert is not exactly a sign of blessing. But there is a great blessing hidden in this curse. When the nation of Israel turned away from God, losing faith in His ability to bring them safely into the Promised Land, He could have wiped them out right then and there. God could have declared that Israel had broken the covenant and lost their status as His chosen people.

Instead, God gave the nation a chance to change. But this change would take time. In fact, it would take 40 years. By patiently waiting 40 years for change and a generation to arise among the children of Israel, God made it clear that His covenant with Israel is unbreakable.

In doing so, God also showed His faith in us. He knows we, too, have the ability to learn from our mistakes and change. And because of His infinite patience, God gives us the time to change—whether that takes 40 days, 40 years, or longer.

Your turn: Is there a change you need to make in your life? In your relationship to God? Remember, God has patience with us. We only need to keep moving in the right direction.

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