50 is the new 40

When the day of Fifty had come… a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire household…  Acts 2:1-2 (PT)

I remember where I was sitting, what time of the day it was when I hit play on the DVD and watched U2 sing "40" as a segue into "Where the Streets Have No Name."   I felt the Spirit.  I didn't know why, but I had chills, lots of them.   I replayed it over and over and over.  My soul experienced the rushing movement between the spiritually rich "40" and the kingdom symbolism of "Where the Streets Have No Name."   The unconscious yearning within me stirred from the periphery of my soul into an awakened state as Bono prosed, ""How long?" a sellout crowd roaring in unison with human longing.   The camera angle, Bono's silhouette figure, and the Edge's guitar anticipating the rushy lyrics of "I want to run..." a parabolic window into a spiritual reality.   

That day I added to my bucket-list: U2 concert, front row, singing with all my soul, "Where the Streets Have No Name."  Thank you, Michael, for making that happen (June 7, 2011).   It was worth it, added bonus watching the 56 year old man standing next to me, raise his hands and cry as he sang from "One" to "Where the Streets...".

The Spirit has always been about bringing us from "40" to "Where the Streets Have No Name," from the "Waiting" to the "Kingdom."  The Spirit is in the thick of these rivers, rushing and swifting us along the banks of the in-between and into the wide open spaces of the Kingdom.  

The motif of “40” frequently emerges in Scripture. 

Noah: 40 days and nights of rain.  The liminal space required to reboot creation. 
Moses:  40 years in the wilderness.  The liminal space to reboot a leader.  
Moses: 40 days and nights on Sinai.  The liminal space to form a covenant. 
Israel: 40 years in the wilderness.  The liminal space to reboot a nation.
Elijah: 40 days in the wilderness.  The liminal space from cowardice to courageous.
Jesus: 40 days in the wilderness.  The liminal space from spirit-led to spirit-empowered.    
Jesus: 40 days of resurrection encounters.  The liminal space from resurrection to ascension. 

There are also the not so recognizable 40s 

Twelve Spies: 40 days and nights of espionage.  The liminal space to recon Canaan. 
David: 40 days and nights of Goliath challenging Israel.  The liminal space to challenge Goliath. 
Jonah:  40 days for Nineveh to repent.  The liminal space to redeem a nation.

The number 40 seems to have a spiritual liminality.   As a number it kind of stands in for the notion of the “in-between.”   It is most often connected with wildernesses, chaos, and transitory spaces.  And carries a kind of association with rebooting and resetting a person or place or people group back in God.  Words like re-pent (Nineveh to turn to God) and re-store (creation from wickedness) and re-new (Elijah from depression) and re-form (Moses constitution and laws) are most frequently associate with the "40".

So many stories, however, just stop at the 40; something dies in the 40—death of the antediluvian wicked, death of the golden calf worshipers, death of the prophets of Ba’al, repent or die of Nineveh, dying off of unbelieving Israel in the wilderness,  death of Goliath and Philistines.

All of us need the 40.   All of us need an inner dying.  And in that liminal tarrying there is the holy waiting.  We are all driven into the waiting, led by the Spirit into the waiting.

The 40th Division of the Psalter* speaks to this:  
"I waited patiently for the Lord" (v.1) 
waiting for the Lord, in the slimy pit, the mud and mire (v.2)
waiting for the Lord,  in troubles without number
waiting for the Lord, overtaken by sins (v.12)

But if the 40 speaks to the liminal, the temporal, the transient spaces where transformation takes place, we need another number that speaks to the the place the 40 is taking us.  We need a number that speaks to the life, the power, the kingdom, the beyond.

When Jesus comes out of the 40 he immediately points us to that number, the number that speaks to what's beyond the 40, he calls it “the fifty.” 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…
to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.”** 
                                       (the fiftieth year).

If 40 is connected to the liminal, recalibration, reboot
Then 50 is linked to favor, power, advancement, 

The Spirit was on Jesus.
to proclaim “the Fifty.” 
Release from debts.  
Return home from exile. 

silencing the jeers, 
Lazarus' tears,
"Ego eimi" A resurrection reverie
 Empty out the coffers, 
a crucifixion space,
grace upon grace upon grace
pushing our 40 into
50 ways of days
so much will change
Golgotha. Garden Tomb.
Emmaus Road. and Upper Room.
Ushered in and whisked away
with this Scriptural inflection,
"And when the day of Pentecost had fully come"
they were together, a congregation
TheFifty:  Earth invaded by Heaven's Kingdom.
A Breech of Wind.  Fire.  Spirit.  Voice. 
Visions.  Dreams.  Angels. and Beasts.

We are gathered into the Fifty, the power. 
The Psalters 50th prophetically speaks:  

Our God comes
    and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
    and around him a tempest rages... gather to me my consecrated people.

And on the day of the 50,
everything Jesus had when he did what he did,
we now have--to do what he did all over again.

50 is the new 40.

So here we stand music and lyric expressing the movement from "40" (the liminal) to "Where the Streets Have No Name" (the Kingdom).  Bono quoting Psalm 116, 

What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation as a toast to our Father
To follow through on a promise I made to you from the heart

I resonate with "to follow through with a promise I made to you from the heart."  This is where we are going.  To the 40 and on to the 50.



  • Conversation.  Have a conversation with someone about what you have waited and waited for, about what the "40" means to you.  
  • Reflection.   Reflect on the U2 clip.  What did you feel or sense between the two songs?  What do you think it means to be present in the liminal, to move slowly into Kingdom?
  • Prayer.  Pray Psalm 40.1-3 using the tools of lectio divina


UpNext: God In The Water


*The Psalter is prophetically organized and sequenced with numerological meaning.  The 40th is  a prophetic word about "waiting" and the "liminal" spaces of life.

** The year of the Lord's favor is the fiftieth year.    Every 50 years the Torah declared freedom from debt, exile, and for property and slaves.  It was the Lord's year of grace.  Jesus uses this number and word to express the meaning of the Kingdom.