Night to Be Much Observed: Keeping the Vigil

The NTBMO is a rather cryptic anagram that would be hard to understand for someone not attending God's Church. Affectionately known as the Night to Be Much Observed, this yearly observance is always celebrated on the beginning of the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

The NTBMO is a rather cryptic anagram that would be hard to understand for someone not attending God's Church. Affectionately known as the Night to Be Much Observed, this yearly observance is always celebrated on the beginning of the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

Ancient Custom

Exodus:12:42 mentions, "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" (emphasis added throughout).

This must have been a time of attentiveness to every nuance of the dramatic details that were enfolding around them.

Traditionally we gather in one another's homes or assemble together as a group in a private room and enjoy a fine meal and fellowship.

The solemn observance that this evening commemorates took place at the beginning of the exodus out of Egypt. It must have been a night of grave concern and apprehension. After living for generations in the fertile Nile delta, the Israelites were ready to move on with their lives and go to the land promised to their fathers. The origin of the word observe has the sense of guarding or watching. In the margin of my New King James translation for Exodus:12:42 it says, "night of vigil." The New International Version says: "Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come."

Being alert and vigilant certainly are vital characteristics for Christians to have while living in a foreign country or in an age that Paul calls "this present evil age" (Galatians:1:4).

The concept of keeping a vigil is also mentioned in Exodus:12:37-42 in the Jerusalem Bible, Readers' edition:

"The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand on the march-all men-not counting their families. People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves.

"They baked cakes with the dough, which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey. The time that the sons of Israel had spent in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And on the very day the four hundred and thirty years end, all the array of Yahweh left the land of Egypt.

"The night, when Yahweh kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, must be kept as a vigil in honor of Yahweh for all their generations."

The Torah also uses this same terminology concerning verse 42: "the same night is the LORD's one of vigil."

Lessons for Our Day

When we gather together with friends on this Sabbath eve, what lessons are we to focus on? We live in a world that is full of evil and the way of truth and righteousness is far from the minds of most. Did Christ want the anxious Israelites to look to God for deliverance and also to learn the value of being vigilant in a very hostile environment?

Peter mentioned in 1 Peter:5:8: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

Christ Asked Disciples to Watch

Prior to Christ's trial and persecution leading up to His crucifixion, He went to a private place to pray.

In Matthew:26:36-46 we read the account. Three times he asked Peter and the two sons of Zebedee to "watch with Me." Each time He returned to check on them, they were asleep. In verse 41 Christ entreated them, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." When the hour came for Jesus to be betrayed, they were still sleeping. They provided little companionship during this most intense time.

What is the meaning of this word watch used by Christ? Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says it comes from the Greek word gregoreo and is used in the sense of keeping awake and spiritual alertness. Some good references are found in Acts:20:31, 1 Corinthians:16:13, Colossians:4:2 and 1 Thessalonians:5:6. The context of the word watch is in reference to a spiritual condition of alertness. Christ's instruction is to prevent us becoming unwitting dupes of Satan and falling to temptation or becoming entangled with distractions. We are to be spiritually alert. This requires placing our priorities above diversions and enticements.

In Mark's account in chapter 14:37, Christ said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?" It is difficult to keep focused on our calling and remain very vigilant against the temptations and pulls of the flesh. If anyone thinks the Christian calling is easy, he doesn't grasp the challenge. It was once said that Christianity isn't difficult to find, but that it was found difficult and not tried.

Stay Vigilant

Paul reminds us all that we must continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Colossians:4:2). We live in a fascinating and frightening world in which it is easy to be distracted and fall asleep spiritually. Perhaps in God's wisdom, the Holy Day cycle starts off with fellowship among true believers who realize the vital importance of remaining on guard and vigilant against a powerful fallen archangel who wants to hinder us from being a part of the family of God.

This NTBMO, let's learn the lesson of vigilance. It is always inspiring to look up at the full moon and remember that God's way will be a lamp unto our feet and illuminate the journey to which He has called us. Enjoy! But be on guard, for the days are evil and our deliverance to a new world depends on our following God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior. UN


graced's picture

dear mr. greider:

thank you for this fine article. when the israelites gather for this meal, they read scripture and tell the story.

when we gather for a meal on this same night, should we not also read scripture? this article would be wonderful reading before the meal with scriptures quoted actually read as they come.

again, thank you for this reminder of the lesson we need to bear with us as we walk in the path of the lord.

may the lord bless you for writing this.

you sister in the lord,


warriorofchrist's picture

Can't wait to observe this day at the Holiday Inn.

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