Kevin DeYoung / Apr 10, 2016 / Exodus 12:29-42
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Sermon Summary / Transcript
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. (ESV)
A Night of Watching
Exodus 12:29-42 / Kevin DeYoung / April 10, 2016
Let’s come before the Lord in prayer as we come to his word.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
O great God, we come now to this excellent word. We pray that you would teach us, shape us, correct us, comfort us, and hold us fast. Give us ears to hear the good news of the gospel and faith to repent and believe. Open our eyes to behold wonderful things out of your law. In Jesus’ name, amen.
As we continue this series on the book of Exodus, we come now to Exodus 12:29-42. Next week, as we come to one more iteration of the Passover celebration, we will see the institution of the feasts of the Passover and Unleavened Bread one last time. Because of that, we’ve moved our monthly communion to the 3rd Sunday of the month, since it fits so perfectly with reflecting on the institution of the feasts.
This morning, we come to the 10th plague and the Exodus itself:
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.Exodus 12:29-42
Isn’t it true that one of the best and worst things we do is watching? It can be a wonderful experience to watch out the window for a loved one to come home; watch at the airport for the plane to land; watch for your friends to come over; watch with your phone as your little child or grandchild is trying to take her first awkward little steps; or watch, your face pressed up against the oven, for a nice, delicious frozen pizza to be cooked. Whatever it is that you are watching for, watching can be wonderful.
As you know, watching can also be terrible. Watching someone drive out from the house and not knowing when they will return. Watching that plane take off and seeing your child or loved one go a long way away. Watching someone that you care for make very poor decisions and realizing there is nothing you can do to live their life for them. Watching can be very hard, like watching it snow in April.
This passage is about watching—watching by the Lord and for the Lord. You see it in verse 42. The Passover night—the night of the Exodus, the actual leaving of Egypt—“was a night of watching by the LORD.” However else you would describe it, it was a night, above all else, of the Lord watching out for his people and over his people.
Can you think of a time when the Lord was evidently watching out for you? I hope you can. I trust we all can think of some of those stories. This snow, in fact, reminds me of one of those occasions. When I was a college student, I worked one summer on a political science textbook with one of my professors in the mountains of Colorado. I know, I know. It was as good as it sounds.
We were driving in May, way up in the mountains. We were going over this mountain pass in the nighttime that was close to 14,000 feet (4,300 meters), and it just started snowing and snowing. This road, for someone from Michigan, was scary enough on a normal, sunny day! It was white-out conditions, and we got to some of those hairpin turns that they don’t bother to put railings on. They just trust that, yes, you are going to find your way up.
I wasn’t driving, but I was in the back seat. I’m not given to a lot of anxiety and fearfulness, but I really thought, “This might be the end.” My professor, who was driving, said (I’m not kidding), “Kevin, could you open the door in the back, stick your head out, and tell me where the side of the road is?” I thought, “This is not what we want to be counting on as we’re driving up the road.” So I had the door open, and I was just trying to look. I didn’t even know what I was going to say. “You—NOOOO!” I sometimes think back on how harrowing that was, and think, “I can’t believe we made it.”
You may have travel experiences. You may have stories of health. Many of you have been kind enough to pray for Trish’s dad as he’s been in the hospital. Thank you for your prayer and concern. We just found out that he has cancer. I remember how you prayed for my dad several years ago, when he had cerebral malaria, and it looked like he might pass away. I remember rushing over to the hospital in Grand Rapids, waiting for my brother to call me to tell me he had passed. Amazingly—miraculously, really—he didn’t.
The Lord has arranged our lives. Whether you look back and think, “The Lord gave us a great miracle that day”, or “The Lord gave us great safety that day”, or even, “You know what? He didn’t get better. The danger didn’t pass by. And yet, I can see that even in that, the Lord was watching over us”, you have your own stories. Few of them may be known to us. We know of surgeries, babies who were born too early, babies that were born dead and yet lived, or pregnancies that people never thought would happen. Sometimes it is through the things that don’t go as we would like or expect that the Lord teaches us most how he loves and watches over us. We can all think back over our lives to a time when the Lord was watching over us.
All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well. Fanny Crosby
Passover was a night unlike any other of the Lord watching over his people. The whole Exodus was one example after another of God’s watchful care. We see it, in particular, in this passage.
The structure for the sermon is very simple. I simply want to walk you through this text, and I want you to see evidences of God watching over his people. Then we will finish by briefly looking at their response and our response to God’s watching over us.
God’s Watching: Judging the Egyptians
The victory over Egypt had been devastating and relentless. Ten plagues, one after another. Now, finally, 400 years of oppression came to an end. It says that they were in Egypt 430 years. It may be that where it talks about 400 years in bondage elsewhere in Scripture, this is simply a rounding issue. Or it would make sense that they were slaves for 400 years, but had been in Egypt for 430 years—because, of course, they came during the famine with Jacob and his sons, when Joseph was in charge, and lived there for some years before a new Pharaoh came who enslaved them. But they have been wailing as slaves for a long time.
The wailing that they did as a slave people back in Exodus 3 is the same word used here for the cry of the Egyptians in verse 30. YHWH has proven that their gods are nothing, and less than nothing. Their gods, as we’ve seen, had one central purpose: to provide life, fertility, good crops, rain, and safe passage after death. They were gods and goddesses to secure life. Now we see that their very purpose has been completely undermined. They’re powerless—whether it’s a river, darkness, hail, or boils, let alone death itself in the 10th plague. These deities were the antithesis of being mighty to save. They were impotent to save.
Here we have, after its announcement, the actual 10th plague. It’s by far the worst. The prediction of the plague, you may remember, first occurred in Exodus 11. You have to imagine that the Egyptians heard something of this. They had been present for these other nine plagues, and had seen what the God of the Hebrews was doing to their land and livelihood. Surely they must have heard. Word must have gotten around—to Pharaoh, to his men, and then throughout the Egyptian countryside—that there was another plague coming, and it was going to be the worst one. Perhaps, if they were within eye-shot of some of the Israelites there in Goshen (or around the country), they would see them doing a strange thing at night: all of the lambs being slaughtered and blood being marked out on the doorposts. You wonder what the Egyptians must have thought.
Perhaps they didn’t believe it. “We’re not going to be these silly Hebrews. Blood on their doorposts? Nonsense! What we’ve seen here has been something, but it could just be a natural phenomenon. It’s just been strange weather—some climate change. It’s just been very odd around here.” No, no, no.
Or maybe they wondered if they should believe it. Maybe they went to bed fearful, eager to wake up the next morning—or dreading the next morning —to see if what had been predicted actually came through. Or perhaps they took shifts in the night: the husband to watch on the children, and the wife to watch on the husband (if he was the firstborn); to go into the bedroom or tent and see the firstborn lying there; and to come back to the bedroom and say, “Is he still safe?” “He’s still safe.” “Is he still okay?” “He’s still okay.” Then, perhaps, to be woken in the middle of the night hearing screams from their neighbors, fearing the worst, rushing in, and finding that the God of the Hebrews had in fact done what he said he would do—from the highest in the land to the lowest.
As one writer said, “From the palace to the pits, there was no escaping God’s judgment—judgment upon Egypt for 400 years of oppression, and judgment upon Pharaoh and his people for their slaughter of the innocents.” God is no respecter of persons. We hear a lot about equality and fairness. In God, you have one who is absolutely no respecter of persons. He will not give you an easy passage because you are one of the millionaires or billionaires, and he will not give you safe passage because you are the poorest of the poor. When it comes to the judgment of God, your privilege and position won’t save you. And when it comes to the judgment of God, he won’t spare you because you were despised and destitute.
Some of us, deep down, are prone to thinking one or the other. “Well, I am sort of an important person. I know I’ve not been perfect, but someday when I stand before God, I’ve sure done my best. I’ve tried really hard. I’ve been an important person in the community. I worked hard to get my degrees. I was very faithful in my job. I supported my family. I’ve been a rather impressive person.” It’s not enough!
Then others are tempted to think, “Well, life has been just one unremitting sense of failure for me. I didn’t have the parents or the opportunities that other people had. I’ve been sick and ill. I’ve been impoverished. I’ve never had these other things. God’s going to cut me a great big break.” No. From the palace to the pits, the firstborn in every household was dead!
Surely you can see—and I hope that you can feel—the connection with your own life, because there is an even more cataclysmic judgment coming. God will not be a respecter of persons. You will not pass through that night safe and secure because of anything in your bank account, the degrees hanging on your walls, or the number of difficult, sad circumstances in your life. It will not matter how high and mighty or how low and debased. You will not be safe without the blood.
The Angel of the Lord passed through the camp of the Israelites. Only there did he find what he was looking for. He was not looking for people who were good enough to earn God’s favor. He was not looking for people who had tried very hard. He was not looking for people who had done a pretty good job with the poor hand that had been dealt them. He was looking for one thing: the blood. Not just the sign of blood itself, but what it represented: the faith to put your trust in a substitute. Anyone could smear something on their doors, but it took faith to hear what God had said, take him at his word, do as he commanded, and say, “My only hope to be spared from death this night is to have one die in my place and to have that substitute hang over my household.”
It reminds you of Jesus’ words in Luke:
I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:8
When the Angel of the Lord passes through the camp, will he find blood on the doorposts? When Christ returns, will he find what he is looking for—faith on the earth? Only the faith in the blood will save you. God is no respecter of persons. We see his great mercy for his people: to watch over them by passing over them by providing a substitute for their sins; to judge the Egyptians and save the Israelites.
God’s Watching: Humiliating Pharaoh
Pharaoh is thoroughly routed, reduced to nothing. Back in Exodus 5, he said to Moses, “Who is this YHWH? I don’t even know who your God is.” Now he tells them, in verses 31-32, “Go! Go to this God. Go to YHWH. Worship him.” This is total surrender, with no negotiation. The man who refused nine times to let them go now says, “Up! Go! Get out of here! Begone!”
Think about it: for all of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart, it gained him exactly nothing. It’s Philippians 2:
…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11
One day, everyone will see it, know it, and get it. For some, it will be the greatest day of rejoicing ever. For others, it will be a day of profound regret and loss, as it was here for Pharaoh. Some of you—maybe it’s you, or maybe it’s someone you love—are so hard-hearted. We think in our human foolishness that we’re really going to show God this time. “I’m not giving in, God! Nope! I’m not listening to you. I can do this myself. You’re not going to have your way with me.” God always has his way with us—now or later. Now is the easy path. Later is the hard path.
Pharaoh was made to care. The high and mighty was reduced here to begging and pleading. This is not genuine repentance. He’s simply asking, “Would you leave, and could you give me a blessing? Could you make sure that things are okay?” It’s always easier to ask for a blessing than for forgiveness. Pharaoh never could quite ask for forgiveness. He could ask for prayer. “Moses, pray for me. Moses, bless me.” Forgiveness was a whole other matter. He was broken, perhaps, but not really penitent. He finally saw, in a moment of some clarity, that he needed to get rid of the Hebrews, but it wasn’t a moment of surrender to the Lord—not in his heart.
No matter how long you hold out, how hard your heart, or how much you raise your fist at God, he will get his way with you. What did all of Pharaoh’s wrangling and hardness gain him? Nothing!
Do you see how we’ve come absolutely full circle? Remember when the Israelites first came into Egypt, in Genesis 47. Joseph is in charge as the second-in-command under Pharaoh. The last time that the Israelites blessed a Pharaoh was when Joseph was around, in Genesis 47:7-10. Pharaoh asked, “Could you bless me?”, and they provide a blessing for him. Now, 430 years later, Pharaoh again says, “You need to bless me.” We had a Pharaoh at the beginning who at least recognized the worth of Joseph and was friendly and kind to his family. He was blessed. We have another Pharaoh here at the end who is absolutely hard-hearted, but eventually he comes around and says, “Could you bless me too?” Pharaoh had been absolutely humiliated. We can be humbled in this life or in the life to come. Which is it?
God’s Watching: Kicking His People Out
The Egyptian people have not been as stubborn as Pharaoh. They are urgent with the people of Israel. “Send them out!” Wouldn’t you be too? “Go! Leave! Now! Go right now! What do you need? A check? A car? Get out of here. You being here is ruining our lives.”
You see the language later on in verse 39. It says “they were thrust out of Egypt”. You may wonder how this is a mercy to them. It was not that they got up one day and said, “Hey, look! Egypt’s letting us go!” The Egyptians were forcibly expelling them, kicking them out. You may say, “Well, that’s a strange way of putting it. I thought God delivered them from Egypt. He set them free. He redeemed them from bondage.” Of course he did. That was a testimony to his mercy, but so was the manner by which he delivered them.
Do you see how it was God’s mercy to kick them out—to thrust them out—to expel them from the land of Egypt? God knew that Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who could have a stubborn heart. He knew that the people he was rescuing could be some pretty stubborn folks too. He knew that it would be difficult to leave the only home that you’ve known for 400 years. You were slaves, but it was still your home. It was where you lived. It was the life you knew. Even saying, “You’re free!” would be met with “Thanks, YHWH. Let’s set a time and a date, have a little council with the elders, and figure out when we’re going to do this. I’m really thankful for you hearing, but maybe, God, we could just stay? We could stay here and keep doing what we’re doing, and the Egyptians could just be nicer to us. Maybe they’d pay us something. We could go on holiday once in a while.” That’s not how it works. God knew that the only way to get them out was to thrust them out. It was his mercy even to compel them to leave.
Have you ever had a time in your life where you think, “Okay, God, I know I have to do this, but I don’t know if I can do it unless you just make me do it.” Maybe you had a boyfriend or a girlfriend and you thought, “This is not a good relationship. I need to get out of this relationship, but I don’t know how to.” Then, BOOM!, you get dumped the next day. And you say, “Well, that’s not what I had in mind”, but you look back and say, “That was God’s mercy. God, that was kind, because I didn’t know how I was going to get out of that unhealthy mess, and there you go.” Or you think, “This job is going nowhere. I hate this job. I should try to get another job.” “You’re fired.” “Okay, God. That’s not what I wanted.” “Why do I keep doing this stuff online? Why do I keep holding this phone?” And you lose your phone, or your computer breaks. God has a sometimes severe mercy toward us to get us to do the thing that is so hard for us to do.
How happy would you be to leave the only home you had ever known? We want to be free of course, but we’d like to be free and stay put. It was his mercy to kick them out of Egypt.
God’s Watching: Plundering the Egyptians
This is an important part of the Exodus account, repeated over and over again: they left with gold, silver, jewelry, and fine clothing from the Egyptians. This was not stealing. They didn’t go in the middle of the night and raid all the Egyptians. Rather, it says he made all the Egyptians favorably disposed toward them. The picture is of a conquering army that is leaving with the spoils of war. In fact, it’s already been stated several times. The Israelites were referred to as “my hosts” or “YHWH’s hosts” meaning “my army, regiment, or battle soldiers”. And now they are arrayed in their divisions, heading out like a victorious army. To the victor go the spoils!
This was one of the ways God was looking after and caring for his people even before they set out on their journey. See verse 39? They leave in haste. “They [had not] prepared any provisions for themselves”. Again, if you were just plotting this out as the Israelites, you’d say “Thank you, God. We’ve been here for 430 years, and now we’re going to leave. Would it be such a bad thing to take four and a half days to plan?” I mean, it takes you four days just to pack up to leave and go up north for the weekend, but God says, “No, you are going to leave. You’re going to go.” “But God, let’s think this through. We don’t exactly know where we’re going. We’re going out into the wilderness. It doesn’t sound promising. Maybe we should pack a lot of food?” “Nope, don’t worry about food. I’ll give you some crackers.” “Good crackers?” “Nope, not very good crackers. Thick crackers.”
But you see how God was preparing and providing for them. How are they going to have money to buy something from traveling caravans that might pass through the wilderness? They don’t know, at this point, that they are going to end up wandering for 40 years. How are they going to buy supplies they may need for their journey? They’ve been a slave people. They don’t have great wealth and money. What does God do? “I’ll give you the gold and silver of the Egyptians.
I daresay that never had there been a slave people set free with such wealth. They had much livestock and cattle, and they go with all of the best things that the Egyptians freely provided for them. Have you ever made this connection before? This is a whole other sermon that I won’t give you, but there’s a lesson here about how God’s gifts are ours to be used for his glory or abused. Can you think about the two things that they did with the gold and silver that they got from the Egyptians? Two things they did in the wilderness with that gold, that we know of. In Exodus 25, they built the tabernacle; and in Exodus 32, they built the golden calf.
God gives us gifts—things we don’t deserve: your health, home, job, ability, smarts, intellect, access, and opportunities. He gives us all sorts of abilities: you’re good with people, or you’re good with numbers. He gives us gifts. He plunders the Egyptians. “Here you are, slave people. Take it, take it, take it. Gold and silver.” He gives us things we don’t deserve and we use them. Sometimes we abuse them.
Let’s be wise with the plunder of the Egyptians. The same plunder was offered to build the tabernacle and used to build a golden calf. It’s not wrong to have silver or gold, but are you going to use it for God’s purposes or for idolatry? That’s the question. At this point, it was God’s singular mercy watching over them to provide them with the plunder of the Egyptians.
God’s Watching: a Great Multitude
God sent them out as a great multitude from Ramses, one of the storehouse cities, to Succoth. Succoth is the Hebrew word for booths or tents, so they went to a town called ‘tent-ville’ or ‘shelter-ville’, as they called it. They dwelt in tents—600,000 men on foot. These would be fighting men, 20 years old and up.
You can read all sorts of literature in the commentaries as people argue about this. How could they have possibly have 600,000 fighting men? This puts the total number of Israelites leaving into the millions of people. How do you send people out into the night like this? How does the wilderness provide for them like this?
It says 600,000. The word for thousand is the Hebrew word ‘eleph’. It can also be translated as ‘cattle’, ‘clans’, ‘divisions’, ‘family’, ‘oxen’, ‘tribes’. It’s possible that the word six hundred ‘thousand’ is actually saying six hundred “fighting units”. Some people say that a fighting unit might have had around 12 people, so we might have been dealing with just 7,000 people in the army—maybe just 30,000 total. All of that’s possible. I don’t think that undermines the authority of scripture. But I would stick with 600,000. I don’t know of any English translation that translates it differently, and the number is so exact elsewhere that it sure seems as if they are counting individuals in the tribe. In Exodus 38, the number is 603,550. That sounds like somebody is actually getting their fingers out and actually counting this thing up. You can look and do the math yourself.
It’s actually quite possible that in 400-plus years, a family of 70 (with the Lord’s help) could grow to this rate. The global growth rate peaked in 1963 at 2.2% per year. That rate would be more than enough to get the Israelites from 70 to a couple million 430 years later.
But the point is not for us to get lost in all the details of how the math works out, but rather to see God’s provision for them. He made them strong even when they were a subjected, slave people. What we are meant to see is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing: “I’m the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Remember when God says, “I have not forgotten, but I will remember the covenant I made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”? What was the covenant he made to Abraham? “But you, Abraham,” though when he received the promise, he had no child, “will become the father of a great nation.” We see a great nation leaving their slavery in Egypt. 600,000 fighting men; maybe three million Israelites. Do you see the point? God doesn’t have to put you in paradise to keep his promises. Egypt will do just fine. “But God, we’re slaves. We’ve been here for 400 years. You have all these promises.” “I know. What makes you think I’ve forgotten the promises just because you’re in Egypt? I promised you to make you a great nation. I’m doing that.”
God’s Watching: a Mixed Multitude
Do you see that unique language in verse 38? Have you noticed that before? “A mixed multitude also went up with them”. Did you realize that? In the Exodus, there were some non-Israelites going out with the Israelites.
From hence we gather that the mixed multitude, which united themselves with the Israelites, were either the offspring of Egypt, or had migrated from the neighboring countries to take up their habitation there; as fertile lands often attract many strangers to them by the pleasures of abundance. John Calvin
It’s a unique expression in Hebrew: “ereb rab”. There’s a different expression, used to a similar effect, in Numbers 11:14. “The rabble” is how the ESV says it, I think. The rabble, meaning the hanger-onners—the people in the periphery of the camp. Most scholars think it’s a reference to foreigners—the mixed multitude. There the Hebrew word is ‘asapsup’ That’s kind of a fun word. Maybe the best English translation to get at what’s going on there is the word, ‘riffraff’. There’s some riffraff, some non-Israelites.
You say, “Why are you giving me all this Hebrew?” Because there’s probably a play on words here. It’s hard for you to hear it as I say it, but this phrase, here at the beginning of verse 38—“ereb rab”—is an anagram, meaning you take the same letters and mix them around to the word ‘abare’ or ‘ebre’. ‘Ereb rab’, ‘abare’, ‘ebre’. That’s the word in Hebrew.
So this word, “mixed multitude”, is really (many people think) just taking the letters of the word for ‘Hebrews’ and scrambling them around— which is another way of saying that these are the Hebrews and these are the non-Hebrews. “Look, we even got some riffraff. We’ve got some rabble. We’ve got a mixed multitude of people.” Isn’t that a wonderful picture? God even allows the riffraff to come along for the ride. Isn’t that great for a church full of riffraff?
Somehow, in the midst of all of these plagues, there were some Egyptians, perhaps—maybe some Cushites, maybe some people from neighboring lands who said, “Hmm…something’s going on there.” Maybe they weren’t fully converted. I don’t know. But they’re thinking, “That God, YHWH? I want to be with him. If it’s a slave people, I want to be with those people, because of what he’s done for those people. I want to go where he’s going.” Kind of like how Ruth says, “Where you go, I will go. Your God will be my God.” Even some non-Israelites come and say, “This God of the Hebrews is a God worth following.”
They set out that very day. It doesn’t mean the exact same day that they came to Egypt. It just means the very same day that these things were happening. They came out 430 years later. “It was”, verse 42 says, “a night of watching by the Lord.”
You see all the ways that the Lord was watching over them to save them, defeat the gods, humiliate Pharaoh, make the Egyptians favorable toward them, cast them out, give them great wealth as they went out, preserve their numbers, and even to bring alongside with them a mixed multitude. “It was a night of watching by the Lord.”
And do you see the play on words here in verse 42? It was a night of watching by the Lord—so this same night, meaning the Passover celebration, is a night of watching kept to the Lord. God’s saying, “I kept vigil over you on that night, so it’s not too much to ask that you would keep a vigil for me.” Of course, it’s different. It’s not us watching out for God and making sure God’s okay, but it’s a night of commemoration—a night of watching.
That’s why I said, at the very beginning, that after we see how God watched over them, we are going to see the response. The proper response to God watching out for us is that we watch and wait for him. For the Israelites, it meant this annual ceremony, Passover, but that was just a metaphor. It was a symbol of their trust in him, of their watching and waiting, just as he had waited and watched for them. Even though we don’t celebrate Passover as they did, our response is still the same. God has watched over you.
Here comes the hard part: can you wait and watch for him? If we knew when God would show up and what he was going to do, the watching would be easy. It’s no fun to have snow on April 10, but you can look at the weather, and it’s supposed to be 70 on Friday. I’m not getting out the shovels or taking down the sleds. Please, no. We can watch and wait because we know it’s happening. Of course, God doesn’t work like that. There’s no God app that tells you what God’s going to do on Friday, what the test results are going to be, how the pregnancy is going to end up, or what’s gonna happen with the job interview or the next ten years of your life. “Just go ahead. Check the forecast.” It doesn’t work that way.
So we are left watching. Watching is hard because we don’t know what God will do. God calls us to watch because we have already seen what he can do. Look back at your own life and at our life as a people. Look back, most importantly, at these stories. God was there. For 400 years, it felt like he wasn’t, but then he showed up. You never know what God’s going to do. Sometimes his timing is so slow, and then it’s, “Hurry up!” That’s God. 400 years is a long time. “Now go.” They leave in the middle of the night. “No time to make your bread. Get out. Yep, you’ll get all the gold and silver you need.” Watching, waiting, not because we know what he will do, but because we know what he has done.
Will you trust the Good Shepherd, keeping watch over his flock even by night? Keep waiting and watching. Trust that he knows his sheep by name. He has not forgotten. He is not absent. He is listening. He can, he cares, and he will in his time and his way. He’s watching over us. Let us watch for him.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we thank you for your care, mercy, and kindness to watch over us. We pray that you would show up just as we need you. Give us confidence and hope in the waiting. In Jesus’ name, amen.
All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Transcription provided by 10:17 Transcription