Light in Darkness

Torah Portion: Bo (Exodus 10:1–13:16)
Gospel Reading: Matt. 5:14–16; 2 Cor. 4:4–7
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21–23, NASB).

It couldn’t get any more poignant than this: God’s people were bathed in light, while their oppressors wallowed in darkness. This darkness was so oppressive it prevented the Egyptians from living their lives; it was as if they were dead for those three days. After that, when the darkness lifted, the Egyptians saw clearly yet again who was God and they understood that He wanted to rescue His people.  

“The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people” (Ex. 11:3).

There was no mistaking the ones who served Yahweh. Were the Egyptians drawn to this display? It seems they, or at least people other than Hebrews, were, for when Israel finally strode free from their captors, a “mixed multitude” left with them (Ex. 12:38). They couldn’t resist the evidence of who God and His people were, and after Egypt’s devastation, why would they want to remain and give up their chance to follow the most powerful Being in the universe?

God sent the ten plagues to make Himself known to Egypt, and consequently the world (Ex. 7:5 and 9:14–16). He put on an unmistakable show so that Egypt, Israel, and everyone who heard would know He was supreme. Could it be, that in His mercy, He thus paved the way for people other than Israel to come to His light? Think of Jethro and Rahab, for example (Ex. 18:10–11; Josh. 2:9–11).

Just like in the Torah, light is a symbol of the life of God’s people in the rest of the Bible. Yeshua uses this analogy many times, most memorably in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Emphasis added).

As God’s children, we have the responsibilities that come of living in the light. Like Israel in the land of Goshen, a spotlight is cast on our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. People who know us need to see us living in such a way that our lives point to the power of our Lord. Our deeds need to show God’s qualities, so that those on the outside will desire to come follow Him. Why else has He separated us from the darkness of death?

As we live, what are we doing to stand out? Do we act as though we’re living in the light? Are we hiding, or are we acting in concert with His commands, identifying ourselves as His children, even if that means persecution? Are we doing as Isaiah 58:10 says, “If you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday”? And as 2 Corinthians 4:4–7 exhorts, that we should point others to the light of the Gospel of Messiah Yeshua?

“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day…. [P]ut on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:12–13). Just like an Israelite in Egypt dare not pretend he wasn’t an Israelite and live by his own rules, there’s no more time for us to live for ourselves.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1–3)