God Was Watching
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 throughout their generations. (Ex 12:40–42)
The word “to watch” that is used here is שָׁמַר (šāmar) I, keep, guard, observe, give heed and is translated differently in several versions. It has the idea of keeping vigil and staying alert in order to protect. What was God watching on the night of Passover?
He was watching over his promise to Abraham:
Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13-16)
He was watching over his promise to Moses:
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land. (Ex 3:7–8)
After being disbelieved railed against by his fellow Israelites when their burdens had gotten worse and not better, Moses had grown discouraged. Was God still accomplishing what He had said He would do, or would it all end in another failed attempt to free his fellow Israelites? No, God knew His exact timing and strategy, even though His people suffered “just a little bit longer.” It would not be in vain.
He was watching over the execution of His righteous judgments on the gods of Egypt:
For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord.
He was watching over the exaltation of His great Name:
and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Ex 10:2)
He was watching over the Redemption of His people:
‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex 12:12–13)
God Commanded His People to Be Watching
Because God was WATCHING, keeping vigil, that night, He commanded that His people commemorate the Passover in order to keep vigil, in order to watch, as well.
What were His people supposed to be watching when they celebrated the Passover each year?
They were to be watchful of God’s faithfulness to His covenant, no matter how dark the circumstances of their place in history seemed. The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were to be celebrated together.
You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. (Ex 12:17)
They were to be watchful and rid themselves of any defiling thing in their lives.
For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. (Ex 12:19)
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Co 5:6–8)
They were to be watchful to tell their children of God’s judgment and salvation.
And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” (Ex 12:26–27)
They were to be waiting to go when God came to get them.
In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. (Ex 12:10–11)
There was no Israelite who was sleeping the night that judgment fell on Egypt and that they were delivered. If they had waited to prepare, it would have been too late. The Passover was to remind them each year to “be ready!!”
Fast-forward through centuries of time and we come to another Passover Eve. Again, God is WATCHING. He is watching over His covenant promise not only to Abraham, but to every promise spoken through His prophets. He is again executing judgment against sin and exalting His great Name. He is redeeming His people from a bondage much greater than being slaves in Egypt.
But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,(Is 53:10)
As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. (Is 53:11)
Jesus told His disciples to be watching.
Jesus Himself went into an agonizing vigil of prayer, even sweating drops of blood that the will of His Father might be accomplished. His disciples should have known without being told what the purpose of Passover was from the very beginning, but the ritual had lost its potency through lack of practice. Their tiredness, distress, and probably the cups of wine they had just had in the Upper Room, combined to lay them on the ground and they were caught off guard at the moment they most needed to be alert.
Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:38–41)
Jesus tells us to be watching.
Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.
Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. (Lk 12:35–38)
Today, April 19, 2019, is the start of Passover.
May we remember what God did on the first Passover in Egypt.
May we rejoice at what God did on the Fulfilled Passover.
May we recognize the judgment and salvation He is bringing upon the whole world.
May we be ready…watching, keeping vigil…for Jesus’ return.