Moses – A Night Long Remembered
Deeply ingrained in each of our minds are certain unforgettable events. Perhaps it is the memory of the birth of a long-awaited child or a grim reminder of a terrible tragedy reported by an officer of the law. No matter how hard we might try to forget, that incident is etched in our minds until the day we die. Such is the event that is before us.
Israel was still in bondage. Time after time Moses and Aaron had journeyed to Pharaoh, performing one miracle after another. Each time the king would promise freedom, and each time he would renege. They faithfully did the Lord’s bidding, but Israel was still enslaved.
“But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them” (Ex. 7:45). God’s promises were still with the brothers as they confronted the Egyptian monarch.
Soon the Lord’s long-suffering would end. Pharaoh had now reached a point where he no longer could tolerate the sight of these servants of God. “In that day thou seest my face thou shalt die” (Ex. 10:28). Don’t worry, Moses retorted. “I will see thy face again no more” (Ex. 10:29).
A Night To Be Remembered
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out from here altogether” (Ex. 11:1). When God makes a promise, He keeps it. Not only would the Israelites leave Egypt, but Pharaoh literally would throw them. out. It would be a day never to be forgotten.
In preparation for this climactic and historical event, God provided detailed instructions for Moses. He was to command his people to “ask” (Ex. 11:2) from the Egyptians silver and gold. “Lend me your wealth,” as Shakespeare said. Probably much to their surprise, they received what they needed and even more. Little did they know they were gathering materials for the construction of the Tabernacle, which would be built on their journey to the Promised Land. God provided in every detail.
The Lord’s next instructions to Moses focused on a special night that would rid them of Pharaoh and the Egyptian taskmasters forever.
A lamb was to be chosen from the flock on the tenth day. It was required to be absolutely perfect, without blemish. It was to be kept from the tenth of the month to the fourteenth, after which they were to kill it and strike its blood on the sideposts and the lintel of the doors to their homes. They were further commanded to eat the flesh that night after it had been roasted with fire, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It was to be eaten in haste. They were to be dressed and ready to travel. “It is the LORD’S passover” (Ex. 12:11).
Pharaoh Remembered That Night
It can in no way be said that God did not give Pharaoh fair warning. Before returning to Egypt, Moses had been given detailed directions by the Lord: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my first-born. And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy first-born” (Ex. 4:22-23). In Exodus 11:4-6, sacred writ is not clear whether Moses spoke to Pharaoh again about this, but we can assume he did, for in verse 8 we read, “And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger.”
After 430 years in Egypt, the night of deliverance finally had come. “And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt” (Ex. 12:29-30).
What a night! Pharaoh had refused to let God’s “firstborn” (Ex. 4:22), Israel, go. Consequently, Pharaoh and the Egyptians lost their firstborn because of it. What a cry that went up from the king and a lament from the palace. Pharaoh ordered Moses, Go!
It was over. No doubt the memory of that night followed Pharaoh to his grave. Never would he be able to erase from his mind the death that came at the hand of the Lord.
Egypt Remembered That Night
“And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more” (Ex. 11:6). The common Egyptian probably was unaware of God’s promise. He was, however, certainly aware of God’s hand. He had suffered under the plagues, and he had seen the Jewish people in Goshen live unafflicted. He likely was cognizant of the ongoing confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. Possibly he even had watched as the Jews made their strange preparations.
Then the night arrived. Death permeated the homes of Egypt. “And there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (Ex. 12:30b). What a wail rose up across the land. The tranquility of a sleeping nation disappeared. The promised judgment had fallen.
After the burials and the initial shock had worn off, the recollections of the people focused on that memorable night. Families were reminded of this when they saw an empty seat at mealtime. For a long time tears flowed. Egypt would remember that night for generations. One often wonders how such a trauma could escape recognition in the official annals of the land. But then, ancient kings never recorded their defeats, only their victories.
Moses Remembered That Night
Moses had relayed to Israel God’s instructions for the Passover. They had been carried out to the last detail. God had been faithful to the Jewish people, and out from Egypt they went with God’s servant in the lead. Moses’ lot now would be to lead God’s people for the next forty years. He could not foresee how long this journey would take. Nor could he envision the heartaches and toil ahead, or the stiff-necked attitude of God’s people. In all probability, he spent many a starry evening reflecting on God’s faithfulness to His Word. God had judged Egypt as He had promised. Moses long remembered that night.
Israel Remembered That Night
God’s unusual orders had been carried out. The lamb was slain; the meal was eaten in haste. It was an eerie evening as the silence was pierced by the midnight wail of Egyptians watching their firstborn perish under the mighty arm of the Lord. Soon the instructions came to the Jewish people. Move out! Freedom was theirs at last.
“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever” (Ex. 12:14). God was not about to let time dim the events of that night. From then on, the Jewish people were to be reminded each year of that special night. Passover became the very first event of the Jewish calendar year. It was the night of redemption. It was that which looked forward to the coming of “the Lamb” that God would provide to take away sins (Jn. 1:29).
For thirty-four hundred years, no matter where they have been, no matter what changes may have altered the ritual, the Jewish people have celebrated Passover. It is the oldest religious ceremony in the world. During the celebration of the Passover seder, questions are asked, one of which is, “Why is this night different than all other nights?” God would not let Israel forget. To this day the Jew faithfully remembers that night each year.
Jesus Remembered That Night
It was in Jerusalem. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus was spending His last days with His disciples. The calendar said it was the time of the year to celebrate Passover. The disciples came and asked Him, “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” (Mt. 26:17).
Preparations soon were made. The upper room was made ready. That weak, little band that soon would face discouragement gathered with our Lord. They certainly did not appear to be the leaders who shortly would turn the world upside down with the gospel. In fact, they were a pretty sad group, and one of them was a traitor.
“And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Lk. 22:14-15). Jesus did not forget that night in Egypt so long ago. His thoughts, as well as those of His disciples, were drawn back to that time when a cry went out from Israel’s oppressors as their firstborn died.
But Jesus not only looked back, He looked ahead. As He broke the bread, He very graphically reminded His disciples, “This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:l9b). Furthermore, He made it very clear, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Lk. 22:20b). The memory of the blood of the lamb that had been slain – the blood that had been applied to the doorposts – was fresh in everyone’s mind. Soon Jesus would leave the upper room, having celebrated Passover with His disciples. And He would leave only to become the Passover Lamb Himself. Jesus remembered that night.
Christians Remember That Night
We remember that night because Jesus did. When He partook of the Passover, He perpetuated not only the remembrance of that distant event but of His death as well. He looked back as well as ahead. He anticipated the Lord’s supper with the promise that night that “I will not any more eat of it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:16). He also promised to drink of the fruit of the vine with them in the kingdom (Lk. 22:18). Christians the world over participate in the Lord’s supper.
Paul definitively established that which has been biblically perpetuated in our churches for centuries. He delivered to us that which he received from the Lord (1 Cor. 11:23). He built upon what Jesus had said, “this do. . . in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:25b-26). Paul finally sealed the meaning of this when he said in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For even Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us.”
In churches throughout the world, the Lord’s supper has memorialized a night in Egypt. More importantly, it is a regular reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The lamb slain in Egypt was a picture of the sacrifice of our Savior on our behalf.
That night in Egypt is well remembered. It became the turning point for Moses and the children of Israel. Pharaoh and Egypt have never forgotten it. Israel remembers it yearly, with a yearning for Messiah to deliver them yet. God’s people remember it regularly as they look back to the work of Christ on the cross. Truly, it is a night long remembered.
Someone asked Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Do you defend the Bible?” His reply, “Yes, the same way I defend a lion – I open the cage and let it out!”