This morning I’m chewing on a nine-word phrase which caught my eye as I was reading in Exodus 12. Nine words which I underlined in navy blue because it’s an observation about God. An observation that He is Jehovah Shimmur. A reminder that my God is a watching God.
A lot happening in Exodus 12. A recounting of the plan for protection from the destroyer of death — a lamb without blemish, a sacrifice of blood, a preparing of the lintels and doorways so that “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (12:13). There’s also the establishing of an annual remembrance (12:14-20), a memorial feast to be kept throughout the generations commemorating and reminding a delivered people of their great exodus. And then, of course, there’s the deliverance. Six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children, who pack up quickly, plunder their oppressors greatly, and march out of Egypt in their entirety (12:33-39). But not with anonymity.
The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 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.
(Exodus 12:42 ESV)
It was a night of sacrifice, of blood, or death, and of deliverance. But it was also a night of watching by the LORD.
You’re not gonna get that observation if you’re reading in the CSB, the NASB, or NKJV. For those translators, it seems, they understand the original to emphasize through repetition the fact that it was to be a night for “a solemn observance” to the LORD (NKJV), or a night of “vigil in honor” of the LORD. The first part of the verse saying the same thing as the latter part.
But the ESV, the NIV, the YLT, and even Peterson’s MSG, convey the idea that “GOD kept watch all night” (MSG). That the catalyst for an annual night of commemoration, or of watching kept to the LORD was the fact that on the night they walked out of Egypt it was a night of watching by the LORD.
So, I’m gonna chew on the morsel served up by the translation I’m reading.
Our God is not some God who sets things in motion and then moves onto some other thing. He is not a God who is unaware. Not a God who says, “I’ve given you the promise and the power, now you go do something with it.” No, our God is a God who watches. A God who keeps vigil over His people as they walk the path of deliverance. A God who takes heed and who guards. A God who, beyond promising and empowering, preserves and protects.
We were reminded of this last night as we kicked off our mid-week study in 1 Peter.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
Born again. Delivered, like the Israelites, from bondage — the bondage of sin and death. Called, like the Israelites, to walk away from a world which refuses to humble itself before God and to journey to a land of promise, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. And, like the Israelites, watched — guarded through faith by God’s power. Never alone. Never off the radar. Never without resource.
It was a night of watching by the LORD. A gloomy night considering the death and suffering around them. Yet, a glorious night because of the God in their midst. A God who keeps watch. A God who, in the Hebrew, shimmur’s.
Such is the nature of God’s abundant and abiding grace. For which we will forever give Him all the glory.