Exodus 12:33-42 - Waiting and Watching
April 20, 2014 Speaker: Series: Exodus
Topic: Sunday Worship Passage: Exodus 12:33–12:42
[Text: Exodus 12:33-42] “Waiting and Watching”
[Pray – O Lord God, You led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the Promised Land. So guide us now through the preaching of your Word, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this present age toward the glory of the age to come; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.]
On Tuesday I sat across from Scott who – that very day – was becoming his nephew’s guardian. Scott’s brother and his wife weren’t dead. But they were leaving for two months to get help for things beyond them. Today, Scott has a 10 year old in his house who’s waiting for mom and dad to come home.
Steve and Kelly were waiting for the drugs to help Bethany fight off the cancer killing her. Now, they’re waiting for a new normal to come as they begin life without their daughter. Now, they’re waiting for grief to ease, while knowing it will never leave them completely in this age.
Waiting is such an ordinary thing for us. We wait in lines for groceries. We wait up for teenagers out late. We have rooms dedicated to waiting where we listen for doctors bearing news.
We don’t have to look beyond our own church to know that we’re a waiting people – waiting for our marriages to get better, waiting for that job that will better provide, waiting for someone to sit with us, waiting for him to apologize, waiting for her respect, waiting for our kids to finally stop running from the Lord and his people.
We’re waiting for things to be different than they are.
There’s Mack waiting for news of his brother, Tom. There’s Jeff waiting for the ALS to take one more thing away. Here we are waiting for broken relationships or soul-sickness to heal. Here we are waiting for her forgiveness or his words of love to come after all this time. Here we are waiting for Dad’s approval or to just to know what’s next in life. Here we are waiting for suffering loved ones to pass away – and we feel guilty for even thinking that things might be easier when they do.
Some of us are waiting for resolution to come to an old family conflict but we wonder if it ever will. Some of us are waiting for the roller coaster of life to level out but understand we have zero control over it. Because so much of our waiting is for things beyond our control, things outside of ourselves. Like Israel in Egypt, enslaved by the strongest nation the world had ever seen, we’re waiting because we can’t do anything.
But then, we’re also waiting for things inside us to change. Because in our impatience for things to be different, to be better, we’ve often run in directions that God says aren’t good. We’ve grown tired of waiting, so we’ve begun to look for our own solutions.
So, we look to the little deity we call “Control” to fix things. “If my kids/wife/husband/coworker/family would just listen to me, then I could make things better for all of us.” Or, “If we could just get the right person in office, then we can solve all these problems.” We’re waiting for just the right amount of control. Control is the god who can make things different.
Or in our waiting for things to be different, we look to the deity called “Pleasure” to make us happy or to give us an escape while we wait. Because from Pleasure we hear the promise of relief; and for just a moment our waiting ends.
But while we’re waiting for our functional gods to deliver on their promises, we begin to realize that they never really come through – we just keep on waiting. Because pleasure turns to boredom. Control turns to frustration and bitterness. The nest-egg promising security is plundered by a recession or a new roof. So, our functional gods don’t really change anything. They keep us disappointed and waiting with ashes in our mouths.
Whether we realize it or not, what we’re waiting for is a world that no longer exists – the world as it was before the Fall when human rebellion against the God who made all things “very good” (Genesis 1) shattered life. We’re longing for the time before that Fall, longing for the relationship with God we lost, longing for his wrath and curse to be lifted from us and this world, waiting for the miseries of life we’ve brought upon ourselves to end. We’re waiting for things to be made right again.
But as it is, we’re waiting. Waiting without the power to win back what we’ve lost. But because of our rebellion against the Lord and love of substitute gods, we’re also waiting for something we do not want and cannot endure. And unless the Lord does something, unless he has mercy, I can tell you what we’re afraid we’re waiting for. When I think about all the ways I’ve run away from God and all the games I play with him, apart from him doing something, I’m waiting with fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10:26-27), knowing I deserve whatever his justice would give. And if you’ve ever wished you hadn’t killed your wife with your words or slaughtered your son with an insult; if you’ve ever done the thing you hate and failed to do what is good and right, then we are waiting together.
And so, we go through life with broken bones and broken hearts, limping around with wounds from friends and lovers and wounds we’ve given ourselves. We see the thorns and thistles of this life – the fruit of our sins blossoming with death – and we say with the Psalmist (Psalm 90:9-10),
“For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone….”
And we wait, wondering if things will ever be different than they are, but really only expecting more of the same.
The Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years. While the first few years were welcome relief from a famine in Canaan (Genesis 46-47), the next 400 were hardship and harsh slavery. 400 years of mud brick monuments to glorify those who enslaved them. 400 years of whip-scars and graves in the sand outside the Promised Land. And their bitter waiting made Israel groan (Exodus 2:23).
Sometimes we don’t really have words for our longings because we’re waiting for something we’ve never seen – waiting for things to be made right and we don’t really know what that looks like.
But this passage tells us that what we need is known by God. And while we wait, he keeps watch to make sure redemption comes; the dark night of the Passover is followed by the dawn of the exodus.
[Read Exodus 12:33-42]
You may feel like you live in a world of unending waiting. But this tells us there is a God who keeps watch over his people. While Israel waited, v.42 says their God was watching. Not “watching” like the passive viewing of a distant observer. No, this was an active vigilance. The LORD was keeping watch over his people, like a Shepherd over his flock, keeping watch that night to ensure his promises would burst into reality the next morning when they came out of Egypt and began life with him.
This hope is at the heart of the Gospel; this God remains faithful while his people wait helplessly. The same God who kept watch to bring his people out of Egypt has kept watch once again in our Story, sending Jesus to bring us out of slavery and into life with him. While we waited helplessly, he kept watch to ensure his promised redemption would burst into our world.
So, let’s look at this passage to see the faithfulness of God. First, look how he kept his promises to his people.
The morning of the exodus saw the arrival of so many of God’s promises to Israel. The urgency of the Egyptians pushing them out (Exodus 6:1); the plundering of the wealth of Egypt (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 3:22), the vast army of people grown from just 70 people (Genesis 15:5; Exodus 1:5) – all these were realities God had promised would come when he rescued his people from slavery. And so, after a dark night of watching by the LORD, Israel was free. That itself had been a promise made long ago to Abraham (Genesis 15:14-16). And all these promises came into reality by the vigilance of God while Israel waited helplessly.
So, as Israel walked out of Egypt, they could look back at that Passover night as the night God kept watch over them. Although his justice had fallen on the houses of Egypt, his mercy had fallen on theirs. Protected that night by the blood of the Passover lambs, the people of God saw the dawn as the arrival of their redemption. For so long, Israel believed they lived in a world of unending waiting. But in a single night the vigilance of their God brought their waiting to a close.
This is the God who in the beginning, even in the Fall, promised to redeem his people broken by their own rebellion. His word tells us that it was a plan he made even before the foundations of the world were laid. And although that promise took a long time to come to fruition, when it came it brought the waiting of the world to a close.
You no longer live in a world of unending waiting because when the world waited in darkness this God kept watch once again. He kept watch with some shepherds watching their flocks, sending Jesus into the world – God in the flesh born to die as our Passover Lamb. You live in a world where this God was not content to keep us waiting in sin and death for judgment to come. And he provided his Son as the perfect, final sacrifice, nailing him to the cross by his command and pouring out the judgment that should have fallen on us on to the shoulders of the Lamb of God.
And when on that silent Saturday his dead body lay in the tomb –while no other soul sat watching – God kept watch once again and raised Jesus up from the dead. He kept watch while the disciples waited in grief. God kept watch to bring him up from the dead, so that, in him the dark night of death passed by and the dawn of redemption came.
Because our God kept watch, our exodus has already begun. By faith in Jesus, we have been brought out of death and into life with him.
Our exodus in Christ is, for now, a spiritual exodus – Christ’s death and resurrection has set us free from the guilt and power of death like God freed Israel from the power of Pharaoh. By repenting of sin and resting in Christ’s finished work, we have forgiveness of sins and he promises us all the benefits of Christ himself! He has not promised you the wealth of Egypt, but he has made you co-heir of all things with Christ. And all the promises of God belong to you in him.
But like Israel walking out of Egypt, the redemption God began isn’t yet complete. And after God kept watch that night in Egypt, his people were called to keep watch to him, waiting for him to finish what he began. That’s the second thing to see in this passage – even after redemption has begun, we must still watch for him to finish it.
In v.42 we see Israel’s response to their vigilant God. “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 by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.” Every Passover, the people of God would look back – looking back remembering the time when God kept watch for them in their helplessness. But they also looked forward, watching in faith that he would continue what he began. We see that clearly in this exodus context when we realize their freedom came so suddenly, they didn’t even have time to pack provisions for themselves (v.39).
Israel was redeemed and walking out of Egypt in complete and utter dependence on their God. They were walking out of their homes without enough food or water, following Moses and their God into an empty wilderness. From this point on, they would have to watch for his provision – not just remembering his provision from yesterday but trusting him to continue providing today. So, they would always be a watching people, keeping watch to the LORD and looking to him for everything as he led them to their home they’d never seen.
In the same way, by repentance and faith in Christ, we have already been given so much. In him we have forgiveness and in him we stand confidently before the Lord and in him we are adopted into the family of God and in him we are set apart for service to the God who made us and rescued us. In Christ our wait is over – redemption has arrived and we walk in freedom! And at the same time we still watch, looking to him for everything for today and everything for tomorrow.
Because in so many ways we are still a waiting people. And this spiritual exodus that has begun is sometimes hard to see, although we do see signs and fruit of that new reality. We are called to believe, however, that what has begun as a spiritual redemption will soon be joined by the redemption of these physical bodies as well. And although we still groan as we wait for the fullness of our redemption, our waiting is a watchful waiting because our God raised Jesus from the dead. He who died in the flesh is now alive in spirit and in flesh. And in him we have God’s promise that ourspiritual exodus will be joined with a gloriously tangible exodus when Christ comes again in the flesh - not to deal with sin again but to save those who eagerly wait for him (Hebrews 9:28).
At this time in the Story, the people of God are to live in watchful waiting. Yes, waiting because our full redemption has not yet arrived. But watching because our spiritual life has begun by faith in Christ even though our flesh falters and fails. And the hopeful watching changes the waiting. We may groan as we wait for him, still experiencing the miseries of this life, but the sting has been removed by Christ’s conquest over death.
That is why you see Mack waiting for news and grieving for his brother, but watching for the One who promises to make all things new. This Gospel of Jesus is why you see Jeff and his family waiting for the ALS to take one more thing away from them, but watching for Christ to restore everything the brokenness of this fallen world has taken away.
What world do you live in? Is it a world of unending waiting? Have the deities of Control or Pleasure left you waiting with ashes? What are you waiting for? For change? How has mere change ever changed anything? We are called to wait for a person, this Jesus who died and rose again. We are called to turn away from the ashes we cling to and embrace Jesus, resting in him. He is already leading us out of death and into life. And that work he began he will finish. Because then and now he is the God who keeps watch over his waiting people.
[Transition to the Lord’s Supper]
Waiting and watching. With our faith and hope in Christ, that is what we do. But while we wait, the Lord himself confirms the hope we have in Christ. Here in the body and blood of our Savior is the promise that our waiting is a watchful waiting because the exodus has already begun. Here is the proof of freedom from the guilt and power of sin, because Christ our Passover lamb was sacrificed.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
 I’ll point out that some Bibles translate v.42 differently, essentially saying the same thing twice – that the Passover night is to be observed by the people of Israel. That is true; this night became a night of watching kept to the LORD. But the best translation of this verse grounds the reason for Israel’s perpetual watching in the reality that their God was watching first – “It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt….” (Emphasis mine.)