The Bible’s 40-Year Test

Yael Eckstein  |  May 5, 2023

Yael smiling with a young girl as they exit a plane from an Aliyah flight.

Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. —Deuteronomy 8:4

As The Fellowship celebrates our 40th Anniversary this month, 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.

The Talmud tells a story about a great rabbi who was extremely poor. He was so poor he couldn’t afford oil for his shabbat candles. So, he told his daughter to fill the lamps with water. When she was surprised, the rabbi replied, “The God who decided that oil will light, can also choose to make water light.” Miraculously, when the rabbi’s daughter lit the lamps filled with water, they burned as brightly as if they were burning oil.

Who decided the laws of nature and what is considered a miracle? To illustrate the point, imagine that every time an evil enemy was pursuing you, you jumped into the sea and it automatically split and drowned your enemies. If this happened on a regular basis, you’d get used to it and wouldn’t call it a miracle.

The point is that whether or not we see the hand of God and declare a miracle has a lot to do with us. When we get used to something that God does for us on a regular basis, we stop calling it a miracle and we can even forget about Him. So God has to remind us that He’s the one in charge and pulling all the strings.

The Bible’s 40-Year Test

In describing God’s miraculous protection of the children of Israel in the desert, Moses said, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years(Deuteronomy 8:2-4).

Why does this passage repeat the fact that God’s miraculous provisions lasted 40 years? The answer is that if a miracle lasts 40 years, it can easily lead us to forget that it’s a miracle. For the children of Israel, many of whom may have been born and raised in the desert, these miracles seemed natural!

This is the Bible’s “40-year test.” Do we still recognize the miracle of God’s blessings, even after decades, when our blessings have become the norm for us? Do we take them for granted or do we still see the miracle and God’s hand on our lives?

Your Turn:

For the past 40 years, The Fellowship has witnessed God’s miracles and blessings. Join us in thanking God for the miracle of 40 years! Let me know what miracles God has brought you over the years.