I was born April 5, 1977. That means this year, 2017, I turned 40 years old. For some that signifies the beginning of the end … over the hill, middle age, mid-life crisis, etc. Generally speaking, society portrays it as a negative experience. But I have been filled with expectancy and excitement.
Since the beginning of the year I have had a sense that God was going to do something special for my 40th birthday. There was no spectacular handwriting on the wall that informed me of this. Gabriel did not wake me from a deep sleep to announce the glory of the Lord would be descending upon me. Nothing like that. Just a feeling that God had something in store for me.
Something out of the ordinary began happening a few days before my birthday. I was waking up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t go back to sleep. This led me to go downstairs and pray. Praying wide awake at 3:00 AM is a very rare occasion in my life. Rare like never. In these moments of prayer and worship I had “downloads” or “revelations” about God that seemed somewhat simple in some facets. In others, it was an awakening of my heart to the heart of God. I was seeing things differently. I was experiencing His compassion on a deeper level. I was being changed.
April 4, 2017
Then came April 4, 2017 — the day before my birthday. It was a “download” moment. In my journal I wrote:
God so loves the world! I just had a moment with the Father. An outpouring of His love. Not just on me, though. I began to feel His love for people. It was just a glimmer — a taste but very powerful. People are precious. Every soul is important, is treasured, is valued. Every individual hand-knit by a loving, doting, caring, Daddy.
And it happened right there when I wrote the word “Daddy.” You see up until that point I knew the spiritual significance of “Abba” Father. I knew that we had the theological or positional right to call God our Daddy. I knew it was okay … in my head. But somehow my heart was not connected to that truth. Whenever I thought about it or said it in prayer, I balked internally. My heart was not yet convinced. That changed on April 4th. Back to my journal:
I just had a cry break — literally a break of something inside me where I was truly able to call on God as my Daddy. I just cried for two or three minutes. My “inner child” was calling out “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” over and over. I could hear my voice as a small child.
Later I wondered aloud to Jenny why this happened the day before my birthday and not on my birthday. She reminded me that God knows us in our mother’s womb. As a side note, the date was 4/4/17. Adding those numbers together results in 4+4+1+7=16 or 8+8=16. In the Bible, the number eight is symbolic of new beginnings. My 40th year has been a new beginning no doubt.
40 Years in the Wilderness
Speaking of numbers … one day I was talking to my Dad (Dennis Rowan – earthly Dad) about the experiences surrounding my 40th birthday and the significance of the number 40 in the Bible. He immediately commented that I was coming out of my wilderness. In the Biblical context, forty is often associated with testing, difficulty or the wilderness. After leaving slavery in Egypt, the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Rain came down for 40 days and 40 nights during Noah’s flood. Jesus was tested in the wilderness for 40 days before launching into His ministry.
Don’t get me wrong. My life has not been 40 years of hell on Earth. I’ve been blessed but at the same time I know this year is significant as it pertains to stepping into my greater purpose or stepping into my promised land. In that, I believe I have left the wilderness so to speak. Exactly one month after my April 4th experience I committed to go to the actual Promised Land (Israel) with my church.
May 17, 2018
“I woke up at 1:04 AM and felt I was supposed to read Isaiah 40:1.”
That was the first line of my journal from May 17. Why I thought to read that? Only the Holy Spirit, I guess. I began to read that chapter and I was struck by verse 3: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'” Chapter 40 of Isaiah mentions wilderness …
I decided to read every 40 chapter in the Bible. Coincidence of coincidences, there are 7 books in the Bible that have 40 chapters. Seven is the number of completion. Also, all seven books are in the Old Testament (old covenant, old way of doing things): Genesis, Exodus, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I began to notice a similar theme running through each chapter.
- Genesis 40 – Joseph is in jail and interprets the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer. This is the last chapter before he rises to his ultimate purpose as second in charge of Egypt.
- Exodus 40 – There are 40 chapters in Exodus that detail the Israelites journey out of slavery and through the wilderness. This chapter focuses on the Tent of Meeting and how the Israelites would worship God in the wilderness.
- Job 40 – Job was tested maybe more than any other individual in the Bible. This chapter is part of God’s response to Job at the end of the testing.
- Psalm 40 – The theme of this chapter is a cry for deliverance from God and the process of waiting on God to move. The final verse ending with “You are my help and deliverer; do not delay, O my God.”
- Jeremiah 40 – This chapter details Jeremiah’s release from chains as he chooses to stay in Jerusalem while the Israelites are sent into Babylonian exile for 70 years.
- Ezekiel 40 – While exiled in Babylon, Ezekiel has a vision and God transports him to Israel and gives him a tour of the temple.
Somehow every “40 chapter” has this interconnected theme of testing, bondage, exile, wilderness or a need for deliverance. I find it interesting that the final 40 chapter ends with a vision of the temple of God. A future temple … possibly one that is promised to come. To date the temple that is described in Ezekiel 40 has never been built. It is much larger and grander than any former temple built in Israel.
When I sat down to write this post I pulled out my journal to look at the information I just shared. I saw the date that I woke up at 1:04 and read Isaiah 40 … 5/17/18. I had a double take.
I pulled out my calculator to check the math. I had to be sure.
And yes, 5+17+18 does in fact equal 40.
About the Author
Mark is a marketer and sometimes writer. He's trying to get better at that sometimes thing.