The blues band Shirley Jones and the Dap-Kings used to sing the song “100 days, 100 nights To know a man’s heart. And a little more Before he knows his own.” She goes on and sings “You know a man can play the part of a saint just so long. For a day comes when his true, His true self unfolds. Yes it does.” Poor Shirley wasn’t so sure a mere “40 days and nights” were sufficient to avoid getting taken. But the Bible indicates that 40 days and nights reveal quite a bit about what one truly believes; and whom one truly worships.
We first come across God’s use of “40 days and nights” in Genesis 7, when God sends a worldwide rain to wash the earth of its wickedness. It is devastating. All the world populations perishes except for those eight from Noah’s family preserved on the ark. An implication of “40 days” is that this period is useful for cleansing, though not ultimately, since Noah and his family remained flawed.
In Exodus, Moses spends “40 days and nights” on the mountain, fasting, and receiving from God the 10 commandments. One could associate this as a suitable time period to spend seeking to study and discern God’s will. We also note that in Moses’ re-telling of the story in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses came down from the mountain only to find the people immersed in idolatrous sin, and so he broke the tablets of stone containing the Law. After dealing with the people, her returned to the mountain again and spent another 40 days fasting and meeting with God. Again, 40 days may help us in knowing God’s will, but it does not deal effectively with the sin problem.
The Bible goes on to speak of “40 days” in relation to Elijah and Ezekiel; Jonah, and then Jesus. God uses these periods of time to rest, and test; to preach, and to prepare. There is nothing magic about 40 days. But time spent with God, in the absence of a hundred other distractions, is a deep soul-need for all us who suffer from our condition of being over-marketed and under-meditated.
Our church tradition doesn’t do much with Lent, that 40 day period this year, which began March 1 through April 15 (excepting Sundays) in which many Christians seek to invest time with God in order to practice cleansing, or attentiveness, etc. Perhaps you need to take some time as well.
By the way, Shirley Jones died this past year. I hope that she was able to take 40 days, or 100, to explore the depths of her own soul, and to find the only One upon whom any of us, man or woman, can truly count.