“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.” (Exodus 10:21-23 ESV)
Can you even imagine a darkness so dark you could feel it? Such was the darkness of the ninth plague God brought upon the land of Egypt when His children were in living in cruel bondage – a darkness so dark it could be ‘felt’. The closest I ever came to that was deep in Carlsbad Caverns when they intentionally turned out the lights for a few seconds. I really couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.
In our passage, the Egyptians could not see each other, and they didn’t even venture outside the houses for three days! The children of Israel however had light where they lived. Reading that, I could not help but think about all those who live apart from Christ the Deliverer, in the darkness of sin, and those who have come to trust in Christ as Savior and have moved out of that darkness and into the light.
There’s a difference though, between the darkness the Egyptians experienced and the darkness that surrounds lost humanity. While the Egyptians knew they were in darkness and could literally ‘feel’ it, the lost and dying around us think they can see! And while physically they can, spiritually they are dead and lying in a foot-thick coffin six feet underground – so dark is their darkness. Can that spiritual darkness be lifted?
In our Exodus account the darkness could only be lifted by God, and God did lift it after three days. What about those trapped in the darkness of their sin? How can that darkness be lifted?
First of all, the Gospel of John identifies the light source that can conquer the darkness:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5 ESV)
Further, John identifies that light source as Jesus:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14-17 ESV)
Matthew’s gospel also identifies Jesus Christ as the great light shining in the darkness, repeating a prophesy of Isaiah:
"Now when he (Jesus) heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘. . .the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.’” (Matthew 4:12-14; 16 [Isaiah 9:2])
The remaining question is ‘How does the light overcome the darkness of sin?’ Here again, as with the Egyptian, it takes a work of God to lift the darkness and bring light to the human heart.
The Apostle Paul, in a letter to the Ephesian church, describes how someone living in darkness receives light:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.“(Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)
When God brings life to the dead sinner, something marvelous happens – he begins to ‘feel’ the darkness of sin and his soul cries out for mercy! Nothing in this world seems more important than having the darkness lifted!
The message of the gospel is then applied to the heart crying for mercy. It might happen by way of picking up a Bible and reading, or by entering a church and hearing it, or in conversation with a friend or family member who has already discovered the light, to name just a few of the ways God has of bringing the beautiful message of the gospel to the sin burdened soul:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)
Dear reader, are you living today in the light of Christ? Have you ‘felt’ the darkness and had it lifted from your soul? If you have, I rejoice with you! If you have not, I pray that God might begin a work no man can thwart, and that you would indeed ‘feel’ the darkness and flee to the Cross!