Everything changes in the dark. What is familiar and comforting in daytime, becomes sinister and disquieting in the dark of night. Our closet is filled with looming, threatening forms. And the area under our beds, which houses nostalgia by day, becomes a haunt for all manner of unimaginably malevolent beasts at night. Even as an adult, I still sleep with my hands under my body. A holdover from my childhood when I feared any uncovered hand drifting to the edge of the bed would be met by a slimy, cold, deadly grasp.
Darkness brings fear, uncertainty, complication. It is hard to function in the dark. You realize this on your first camping trip. Without a flashlight or headlamp, movement is difficult. Nothing is where you remember it being. The simple becomes complicated. And every squirrel sounds like Bigfoot. We are all scared of the dark. It is a fear we never outgrow.
The language of our distress makes this clear. A trying time is “dark night of the soul.” Depression is a “black hole.” Death is the “valley of the shadow of death.” Quite literally the phrase translated, “shadow of death” in the Bible means “deepest darkness.” A darkness like that of a cave. A darkness so thick that nothing can be seen. A darkness in which you can only grope your way around. A darkness than can be felt. Felt in the deep places of your heart, mind, and soul.
The phrase “deepest darkness” in scripture often describes fear, oppression, and judgment for sin. Hell is described as “outer darkness.” When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus compared sin to darkness and salvation to light.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”John 3:19-21
And speaking in the Temple, Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
And elsewhere we read.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7
It is not insignificant that the first element of creation is light. Darkness speaks of chaos, destruction, judgment, death. It was the terror of the ancient world. Ancient men did not have the benefit of artificial light. They did not rejoice at the absence of ‘light pollution.’ They dreaded darkness. All their pagan fears were vested in darkness. And their relief and hope was founded upon the rising sun. And this is reflected in their pantheism.
The greatest, most powerful, of Egypt’s gods was the Sun god, Amon-Ra. Every morning the priests would gather by the river and sing hymns of praise to Amon-Ra and his supposed incarnate son, the reigning Pharaoh. They would declare that no one in creation compares to Amon-Ra.
Until the day when Lord God Almighty extinguished the sunlight of Egypt in the nineth plague and brought the three days of utter darkness. A darkness the Bible describes as a ‘deepest darkness’ – a darkness that could be felt. A darkness of judgement against Amon-Ra. And against his incarnate son, the Pharaoh. The darkness of judgement came upon all who were not the Lord’s people. A darkness every Egyptian felt. But a darkness which no Israelite experienced.
We are all afraid of the dark, but the plague darkness was a foretaste of hell and of judgement against the gods of Egypt, its king and its people. It was terrifying beyond imagination. It immobilized the nation. And brought Pharaoh to the very brink of obedience. But only to the brink. Even in the face of grave judgement, Pharaoh’s heart is hard.
What about you? How much judgment must God bring to your life before you will turn to Him? How long will you love darkness? And refuse to come to the ‘light of the world?’ Join us as we examine Exodus 10:21-29 to consider the plague of darkness and its warnings for us.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.