One of the most unusual, epic events in human history was the Exodus. On that night, some 3,500 years ago, an entire nation of millions of people suddenly walked out of grinding, genocidal slavery in Egypt. God had just performed 10 monumental and miraculous plagues to force the Egyptians to free the Israelites.
“[It] came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all children of Israel in their generations” (Exodus 12:41-42).
God commanded His people to keep perpetually a “night to be much observed” to commemorate this spectacular national miracle. But this annual observance has even greater depth of meaning than that.
The Hebrew word for observe means to guard or protect. God commanded His people to guard this miraculous history by remembering it on its anniversary every year, throughout all Israel’s generations. Yet this command is not just for the physical descendants of Israelites (who, incidentally, include not only the Jews but also America, Britain and several other English-speaking nations). God says His Church, made up of baptized individuals, are spiritual Jews, of the seed of Abraham (Romans 2:29; Galatians 3:29). This command is for God’s Church today.
Why? Why does God want even New Testament Christians to commemorate this night? Why is it to be “much” observed? Because this observance, besides reminding us of that important history, has wonderful personal relevance to Christians today.
Egypt symbolizes sin (e.g., Hebrews 11:24-26). Each of us is in slavery to sin (the breaking of God’s law of love—1 John 3:4). We are helpless to escape. The lambs that the Israelites sacrificed on Passover, the night before the exodus, symbolize Jesus Christ. His sacrifice frees us from sin! (1 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 6:17-18). And immediately after the Passover comes the Night to Be Much Observed. It symbolizes God’s people gratefully and triumphantly leaving sin behind, just as the Israelites left Egypt.
This observance is held on the evening that begins the first holy day of the Days of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-7). So it is holy time. How do God’s people observe this night?
Those whom God has called into His Church guard the deep meaning and wonderful history of the Night to Be Much Observed by keeping it with each other, usually in their homes. They gather together for a fine meal with perhaps two or three families as well as singles. They show respect and appreciation for God’s deliverance with a high standard of dress, table setting, decorations, silverware, food and drink, with alcohol consumed in moderation. Most importantly, the conversations center on the meaning of the night, on topics like God delivering the Israelites, God’s plan for mankind, how He called each member, miracles in their lives, and similar subjects. The whole family is involved: Sometimes small gifts are given to children, and children read or recite relevant scriptures. The evening has an atmosphere of a joyful and royal celebration.
It is a night of remembering, guarding and celebrating what God did for ancient Israel and what God has done and is doing for His people today. It is a Night to Be Much Observed!
If you would like to know more about the meaning of God’s annual festivals, please read Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?