Chastisement (Deuteronomy 8:1-3)
When it comes to the association of the number forty with chastisement, there is probably no better example in all of Scripture than Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years.
The Promised Land (Canaan) had been promised to Israel by God; that’s why it was called the “Promised Land.” God had brought Israel out—out of bondage in Egypt—to bring them in—into abundance in Canaan. Likewise, God doesn’t just save us from Hell and the bondage of sin, but He saves us for Heaven and an abundant life of liberty in Christ.
Before entering the Promised Land, Moses sent twelve spies into the land to spy it out (Numbers 13:1-33). Two of them came back with a “good report.” It’s ours; God said so; let’s take it! The other ten came back with a “evil report.” We can’t; there are armies, fortified cities and giants in the land; and the land is unconquerable, regardless of what God has promised. Unfortunately, the people incited the anger of God by believing the “evil report” rather than the “good one.”
That whole unbelieving generation, with the lone exceptions of Caleb and Joshua, who had proclaimed the “good report” to Israel, died in the wilderness without ever stepping foot into the Promised Land (Numbers 14:1-39). Their children, on the other hand, were taught during forty years of wilderness wandering that there are no “ifs,” “ands” or “buts” in the promises of God.
Israel’s sustenance during their forty years in the desert was the daily manna that God had promised (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). The only guarantee that they had of each day’s manna was the Word of God. Yet, everyday, just as God had promised, they were provided with a daily supply. Over the years they learned the important lesson that God’s Word is true and trustworthy and that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
It took Israel forty years to make an eleven day journey, all because of their disbelief and disobedience (Deuteronomy 1:1-3). How many extra miles are you traveling in your spiritual pilgrimage because of your disbelief and disobedience? Are you failing to enter into all that God has for you in Christ simply because you think it’s up to you to work things out on your own? If so, start feeding on God’s daily bread—the Word of God—and learn to lean on and live by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”