The number 40 is significant to God. The first time we see it in the Bible is in Genesis 7:4 when God tells Noah, "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." After escaping from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Exodus 16:35 says, "The Israelites ate manna 40 years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they left the border of Canaan." When Moses was talking with God, "he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18, 34:28) After Gideon and his tribe subdued the Midianites, "the land enjoyed peace 40 years." (Judges 8:28) When the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord they were delivered "into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1) David reigned as king of Israel for 40 years. (2 Samuel 5:4) Likewise, his son, Solomon, reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel 40 years. (1 Kings 11:42)
Joash reigned as king of Israel for 40 years and used this time to repair the temple. (2 Kings 12:1) Through Jonah, God told the Ninevites that they had to repent within 40 days or Nineveh would be destroyed. (Jonah 3:4) Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. (Matthew 4:2) Satan tempted Him during that 40-day period. (Luke 4:2) After His death and resurrection, "Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) As we can see from the Scriptures above, 40 is the number of probation and testing that ends in victory or defeat.
The Jewish people have established a 40-day period between Elul 1 and Tishrei 10 (Yom Kippur) as a time for repentance. It is a time to turn from evil and turn towards good. It takes its name from the Hebrew root word "shoov" which means return. These days are called The Teshuvah--the days of turning, fasting, and repentance. The 40 days are meant as a time of preparation for the upcoming new year that begins at sundown on September 18. It is in this season of turning from sin that one moves toward the Lord. The key word here is return. Throughout the Scriptures, prophets and apostles called to God's people to repent and return. Let's look at some of them:
"'Return (Teshuvah) backsliding Israel,' says Adonai. 'I will no longer frown on you, for I am merciful,' says Adonai...'Return (Teshuvah), O backsliding children,' declares Adonai..." (Jeremiah 3:12, 14)
"Yet even now, turn (Teshuvah) to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and lamenting. Rend your heart, not your garments, and turn (Teshuvah) to Adonai, your God..." (Joel 2:12-13)
"Come, let us return (Teshuvah) to Adonai. He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)
"Return to Me (Teshuvah) and I will return to you." (God's Teshuvah) (Zechariah 1:3)
Turn away (Teshuvah) from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)
"Repent (Teshuvah), therefore, and return (Teshuvah)--so your sins might be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) ("Teshuvah" Scriptures taken from the Messianic Jewish Bible—Tree of Life Version)
This is the season when we should be inviting the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to change in our lives. We need to be mindful of the decisions we make and the actions we take. I find it fitting that two giants in the faith, Franklin Graham and Jonathan Cahn, have selected September 26 as a day of national repentance (Teshuvah) in Washington, D. C. The event is called "The Return" and is meant to be a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance. It falls the day before Yom Kippur. Jonathan Cahn explains that America is in a pivotal moment in time. We have turned away from our foundations and call good evil and evil good. The Biblical template shows us that after a nation is warned by God, it has a window of time to repent. September 26 has been designated as a day of prayer, fasting, and repentance for ourselves and the nation. It happens to be the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on the shores of America and 40 days before the presidential election. Let us join Christians in our nation in humbly coming before the Lord and crying out for His mercy.
Joan E. Mathias