A Time of Intent Watching
Thanks to a suggestion from a good friend of mine, over the past couple of years my daily Bible reading schedule includes reading all the way through the text in two translations each year. That way I can choose a “literal” or more formal translation and a “thought for thought” or more dynamic translation. So, this year in the first 6 months I read through the NKJV, and now I am reading through the Common English Bible. If you can withstand the occasional whiplash, it is a very profitable practice of daily Bible reading.
A couple of days ago I read the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt. When reading a new translation your eye is prone to pick out different phrases or wordings. Some I really like. Some are like gravel in your transmission. Every translation has hits and misses, good points and bad points. So it is with the CEB. So, I was reading along in Exodus 12 and the instructions for the first passover. Moses is instructed that each Israelite family is to select a male yearling, from either the sheep or goats. The family is to select this animal on the 10th day of the first month, and then in v. 6 they are told, “You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month.” (Ex. 12:6, CEB)
Now, that phraseology is a little different from other translations I have read, and I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder about that ‘keep close watch over’ aspect. Why were they to ‘watch’ over it for four days?” As I continued reading in the chapter I got to vv. 40-42. Of particular interest was v. 42, “For the LORD, that was a night of intent watching, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For all Israelites in every generation, this same night is a time of intent watching to honor the LORD.”
I have not done the requisite Hebrew word study here, I am simply reading this as a devotional reading and not a esoteric, profound academic research project. I know that the Hebrew language is a beautiful one, and the Hebrew scriptures differ from English writings in many ways. One of them is the repetition of certain words or thoughts, and also the echo of certain words or thoughts. So, here in v. 6 the Israelites are to keep a close watch over, or to intently watch over, their selected yearling animal for four days. Then in v. 42 we are told that God watched intently over the Israelites on the night of the first passover, and that the Israelite people were to keep an intent watch on that night for all generations in order to honor the LORD.
I do my best thinking through the avenue of questions. I do not just have “bolt from the blue” profound observations or direct revelations from the Almighty. I get slapped upside the head with a question and then spend the next however long it takes me to figure the answer out. Exodus 12:6 provided me with a question. “Why did the Israelites have to choose their ‘sacrificial’ animal four days before it was to be killed?” Was each day supposed to equal 100 years of their captivity? That would make sense, although that idea is nowhere mentioned as a possible reason in the text. Is it because they are to attach some kind of significance to the purity and innocence of the animal? Why only four days? But why four days at all? Why not simply find an animal on the fourteenth day and kill it that night? My mind sees the questions, and then works to solve the problems.
But then in v. 42 there seems to be an answer – at least for me the repetition of the similar English words pointed me toward an answer. On that night the LORD watched intently, or protected, or shepherded his people. The one male yearling animal the family chose was killed, the nation survived and was delivered. On the anniversary of that night, for all generations, the people were to ‘watch intently,’ or remember, or to participate in by way of symbol, the Passover and so honor the LORD.
Does this resonate with anyone else the way it resonated with me? Does this not speak to the importance of our Christian “Passover” meal on the Lord’s day each week? Should this instruction not bring us down to our knees when it comes to the almost flippant way we observe the “death, burial and resurrection” of Jesus in the fastest, most efficient way possible? I mean, really! The Israelites were to spend days focusing on the death of a little lamb and we spend maybe all of 10 minutes focusing on the death of the Son of God?
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians and chastised them for the way they were abusing the Lord’s Supper. He said, “Because of this, many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few have died.” (1 Cor. 11:30, CEB) Wow. Harsh stuff. Abuse the Lord’s Supper and you die. Of course, we spiritualize that verse to mean some of the Corinthian Christians had died to their faith. I’m not so sure that is what Paul meant. God took lying pretty seriously when it came to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Why would he take the desecration of the Lord’s Supper any less seriously?
I like the wording of the CEB in this story. The repetition of thoughts gave me an entirely new picture of the event. I think I need to adjust my thinking of the Lord’s Supper. I think I need to include a time of “intent watching” into the remembrance of my spiritual Passover.
Posted on July 17, 2012, in Faith, Theology, Worship and tagged Christianity, discipleship, Lord's Supper, Passover, Religion and Spirituality, Self evaluation, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.