Forty years, Not Forty Days

Posted recently on this website is a piece entitled, What Sort of 40 Days? written by Rev. Rita Ball.

Rita begins by talking about the number 40 and how she was told as a child it might not be accurate but that it just means a long time. This made me think about another 40, not days but years.

The Old Testament readings at Morning Prayer since just before Easter have been from Exodus telling the story of Moses and the Israelites flight from Egypt.  They were living under a harsh regime as slaves in Egypt.  God had chosen Moses to lead the people to freedom in the land he had promised to his ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey. As the people left God was with them, He led them safely through the Red Sea leaving behind the Egyptians. They were guided on their by a pillar of fire during the day and protected by a pillar of cloud at night. Moses was given the Ten Commandments for the people as the rules by which they were to lead their lives, both as individuals and as a community. At first they were glad to be free, but soon they became discontented, why could they not go back to Egypt where there was food a plenty? Moses interceded on the people’s behalf with God when they were thirsty and God provided fresh water. Each time they were in need God provided, But still it wasn’t enough, they moaned and groaned and discontented spread as they forgot all God had done for them.  Their faith wavered and they decide the way forward was to build a Golden idol to worship instead of God. Moses was angry that the people had disobeyed God.  God was displeased and as a result he led them, not to the Promised Land, but into the wilderness where they were to wander for forty years. We don’t know if it was forty years or not, but it was a long time during which Moses died. But through all this, like the disciples after Jesus died, God was still with them, he still provided all that they needed.

So I  come back to the question Rita posed, what sort of forty days will we be having this year between Easter and Ascension Day?  Do we feel as if we are wandering in a wilderness like the Israelites, or like the disciples in an upper room? Do we feel lost, fearful , as if everything is out of control? If we trust in God we will not lose our way, we will have all that we need. Wherever we feel we are, however scary it all is, the God we trust who loves us will carry us through.

Elizabeth Pook

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