Thursday, April 2, 2015

Practice and Meaning of the Night to Be Much Observed

God commanded that the night following Passover night be observed. "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations" (Exodus 12:41-42). Mr. Armstrong called this the "Night to Be Much Observed". It is a separate event from Passover. Passover represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. The Night to Be Much Observed represents, for Israel, the coming out of Egypt, and for the Church of God, the coming out of sin.

It is clear that Israel left Egypt by night (Deuteronomy 16:1).

Some who have disagreed with the Church's teaching have said that Israel left Egypt the same night the death angel killed the firstborn of Egypt. They acknowledge that the Israelites were instructed to remain in their homes until "morning" (Exodus 12:9-11), but claim that "morning" could mean any time after midnight. But it was simply not possible for Israel to leave Egypt between midnight and dawn. They could not both remain in their homes till "morning" and yet leave Egypt "by night". There would not be enough time. The land of Goshen where Israel lived was too large and the people too many for them to pack and organize and leave Egypt in orderly ranks (Exodus 13:18).

The Night to Be Much Observed is a separate observance from Passover, and it is observed on a different day.

God did not give detailed instructions on how this observance should be kept. It was Mr. Armstrong's judgment that we observe it in families and groups by eating a meal together, and thus we do. Most members observe it in our homes, usually two or three families plus singles getting together in someone's home for a meal, but some observe it in a larger gathering in a rented hall or restaurant.

During this time, we should remember and celebrate our deliverance from sin, which Egypt can represent. Before God called us, we were slaves to sin, deceived by Satan (Revelation 12:9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4), and fully part of this world's sinful system and ways. When God called us, He opened our minds to understand the truth and escape Satan's deceptions. Egypt can represent sin, and as God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, so God has delivered us from the bondage of Satan's deceptions and sin. As Israel could not escape from Egypt without God's deliverance and help, so we could never escape Satan's deceptions without God's gift of deliverance from those deceptions. As Israel could not escape from Egypt by their own power alone, so we cannot escape from and overcome sin by our power alone. Yet, as Israel had to do their part to leave Egypt, so we must do our part to put sin out of our lives. Israel had to walk out of Egypt. They had to make the effort. They had to put one foot in front of the other. Likewise, we must make our effort to put sin out of our lives.

Since this is part of a sabbath, the conversation should reflect that (Isaiah 58:13-14). Often members will talk about how they were first called and how they learned the truth and came out of this world, which is very appropriate for the meaning of this observance. It is encouraging to learn how other members came into the Church, and this can help us get to know each other better as well as remind us of God's mercy.

Some in the Church of God may feel that they are in such a struggle against sinful habits that they feel they are still a "slave" in a sense to sin. They may identify with what Paul wrote: "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:14-25).

But though we fight against sin, that does not mean we are a slave to sin. There is a difference between a slave and a soldier. A slave is not at war against his master. A slave submits to his master and does not try to resist - that is why he is a slave. The people of this world are slaves to sin. They do not know how to resist, for they do not fully know what sin is. They are deceived, blinded by Satan (Revelation 12:9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4), and a deceived person does not know he is deceived.

But we are not slaves to sin but soldiers waging war against sin (2 Timothy 2:3-4, 1 Timothy 1:18, 6:12). A soldier fights against his enemy. He will win battles, and he may lose some battles, but he keeps fighting as long as he is alive. He is not a slave to his enemy. Even if he loses a battle, he fights again and tries to win the next time.

We can celebrate our freedom from the bondage of Satan's deceptions, and we can celebrate the fact that God has made possible the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit to give us the power to wage war against sin, to win battles with God's help, and to overcome and gain the victory in the end. That is a cause for rejoicing and celebration on the Night to Be Much Observed.

Here are links to posts related to this subject:

"Night to Be Much Observed", dated April 14, 2014, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

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