We find the only notable mention of what we now call the Night to Be Much Observed in Exodus 12:40-42: "Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. ..."
Many Bible students scratch their heads over the timing of Christ's crucifixion, believing that it should have coincided with the Passover events in Exodus 12. David Grabbe explains that the timing of our Savior's death reaches even further back, into the life of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the covenant God made with him.
John Ritenbaugh, cuing in on Ecclesiastes 3:1, reiterates that God is in control of time all the time; He is intricately involved. We must learn that events are not occurring randomly; everything develops from inexorable law, and God appoints the timing for each thing to be done. God has made everything beautiful for His time, not necessarily for us. The word "selfsame" refers to a very specific commemorative calendar date. When a historical event is applied to a calendar date, such as the wave-sheaf offering or Pentecost, we realize that we are to recognize the significance (the giving of the Law and the Holy Spirit). Such an event occurred with the blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek. The Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread have been precisely marked by this selfsame day, a signal that God is faithfully in control of time over multiple centuries.
Many of us have been members of the church of God for decades, and because of our long association with God's festivals, we forget that new members have little or no idea how to keep them and can be intimidated about what God requires of them during these appointed times. Richard Ritenbaugh points out the foundational principles new members need to keep in mind in observing the Feasts of God throughout the year.
Charles Whitaker, refuting the foolish criticisms of some referring to the Night to be Much Observed as Armstrong's folly or Armstrong's pipedream, makes it clear that this pivotal event in which our forebears participated in is a mandate on us as well. The Night to be Much Observed, at the head of the year, looks both backward and forward, with thankfulness for our release from bondage, while also using our precious freedom responsibly rather than squandering it—as did some of our forebears. God wants to call into remembrance the liberty He has given us, and at the same time encouraging us to use our freedom responsibly in order to grow and establish a relationship with Him. Before our rescue by God, we had become kidnapped by Satan, as had our parents Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ served as our Liberator and our Redeemer, rescuing us from the bondage of sin, turning us from darkness to light, blotting out the note of our sin. In this redemptive grace, we do not have a license to sin, but we do have a responsibility to grow spiritually after we have been released from bondage. The Night to be Much Observed should become as sacred to us as it was to our forebears coming out of Egypt.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that the Night to be Much Observed symbolizes the beginning of a time of spiritual liberty. The meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek served as a precursor of Passover, having parallel symbols of bread and wine. This event sets the stage for the covenant between Abraham and his descendents (both physical and spiritual) of liberty and land. As we approach Passover, we need to realize that the same God who exercised vigilance and care over our forebears does so over us. The killing of the lamb signifies our responsibility resulting from our sins, the eating of the lamb signifies establishing a relationship between God and us, and going out of Egypt signifies maintaining this relationship.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing on the Night to be Much Observed, rebuts those who derisively called this event "Armstrong's folly." In Deuteronomy 16, the word "Passover" is out of context in the first verse because it was intended as an overarching category applying to the whole Passover season, including the Night to be Much Observed and the Days of Unleavened Bread. The word "herd" in the second verse does not apply to sheep, but instead to cattle. Only lambs were to be used for Passover. "The place where the Lord chooses to put His name" does not apply to Passover, but to the day Israel came out of Egypt. The Passover sacrifice itself was to be sacrificed and roasted at home. It was not to be boiled. The entire period covered by these verses applies to seven days.
John Ritenbaugh shows that Deuteronomy 16:1-8 refers to Unleavened Bread rather than Passover (a scribal error, perhaps referring to the season). Ten clues clear up this misconception: 1) The month of Abib refers to Israel's leaving Egypt the day after the Passover. 2) The Egyptians would not have buried their dead in the middle of the night. 3) Exodus 12 and Numbers 9 indicate the Passover lamb was killed at ben ha arbayim (twilight) rather than ba erev (day's end). 4) Deuteronomy 16:2 commands that this offering could be bovine (Hebrew bakar). 5) The "passover" in verses 5-6 was not permitted to be sacrificed within their gates, contradicting the original command. 6) Verse 6 refers to the day Israel left Egypt. 7) Verse 6 uses bashal, a sacrifice boiled in water rather than roasted. 8) Verse 4 refers to Unleavened Bread and 9) the thank offering of the Night to Be Much Observed, and 10) Unleavened Bread lasts seven days, exclusive of Passover.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that, though adjacent, Passover and the First Day of Unleavened Bread each contain unique lessons and spiritual instructions. Due to careless misreading, Exodus 12:42 has been incorrectly applied to the Passover (observed the night of Nisan 14) instead of the Night to Be Much Observed (observed the night of Nisan 15). Connecting verse 42 to verse 52, the subject refers to the night Israel left Egypt. In verse 22, God forbade the Israelites to leave their houses until morning, and verse 33 shows they left on Nisan 15, as does Deuteronomy 16:1. The term selfsame day (Exodus 12:41) refers to the covenant of circumcision God made with Abraham 430 years before the Exodus (Genesis 15), which occurred on the day after the Passover (Numbers 33:3). God charges us to realize that the day 1) commemorates Israel's liberty from bondage and 2) occurs on the anniversary of the Abrahamic covenant, and 3) that He watches over His people.
John Ritenbaugh observes that someone had recently taught that Passover, rather than the Night to be Much Observed, should be designated the first day of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:5-6 designates two separate festivals: the Passover (on Abib/Nisan 14) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Abib/Nisan 15; see also Numbers 28:16-18). Deuteronomy 16:6 indicates that the Passover took place on the eve of Nisan 14 at ben ha arbayim (twilight). Numbers 33:3 clearly shows that the departure from Egypt took place on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover. Exodus 12:18 delineates that the eating of unleavened bread runs from the end of Nisan 14 (at ba erev - the end of the day) to the end of Nisan 21 (at ba erev). John 13:29; Matthew 26:5; John 19:31; 40-42 plainly prove that Christ, the disciples, the chief priests, the Jews, and Nicodemus did not consider the Passover a holy day, but a preparation day.
John Ritenbaugh links inextricably the time frame for the covenant with Abraham (the Selfsame Day), the events of the Passover, the Exodus, the Night to be Much Observed, and the events of Christ's Passover meal with his disciples leading to his crucifixion. Clear connections relating to the bread and wine symbols, the ratification of the covenant, and the sacrifices are convincingly drawn. The mistaken inference made by some about a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5 ignores the prohibition against a foreigner's grain (Leviticus 22:25), a blemished offering (Leviticus 23:12) and against animal sacrifices until peace could be established (Deuteronomy 12:11). The wavesheaf offering (Leviticus 23:15) is reckoned from the weekly sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread and not immediately before when an annual sabbath follows immediately.
Pentecost in 2001 is a little different than in other years. The Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread falls on the last day. How should we count to Pentecost on odd years like this? John Ritenbaugh explains the reasons for counting the same way as in all other years.
God is working to build a relationship with us, dispensing gifts for overcoming and working out His greater purpose. God's Spirit is 1) an immaterial, invisible force which motivates, impels, and compels; 2) whenever referring to a person clearly identifies the Father and the Son; 3) when not referring to a person is the essence of God's mind; and 4) can be communicated to our minds. We receive more of this Spirit as we respond to His calling, drawing near to His presence and reversing Adam and Eve's fatal errors of 1) being convinced that their way was better than God's, 2) developing pride, and 3) trying to justify themselves. Reversing these three steps brings nearness to God and spiritual growth.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows the Passover. In it we see how hard it is to overcome and rid our lives of sin.
In this sermon devoted to the Night Much to be Observed, John Ritenbaugh asserts that far from being the "pipe dream" of Herbert W. Armstrong as some have disparagingly called it, this event is a commanded part of the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, a time focusing on God's watchful oversight as He delivers us from bondage, continuing His oversight throughout our pilgrimage. Numbers 28:16-17 clearly reveals that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur on two different days. Exodus 12:40 clearly marks this event as a memorial of the covenant with Abraham 430 years prior- again emphasizing God's continuous watchful care.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Josiah's temple Passover observance (II Chronicles 34) was supervised by the king so they wouldn't revert back to paganism. The only proof text of the 15th Passover advocates (Deuteronomy 16:1) has been edited or tampered with in order to reflect the practice following the Babylonian captivity of calling both Passover and Unleavened Bread "Passover." The context of Deuteronomy 16:1-3, referring to cattle sacrifices and unleavened bread suggest the real focus of these verses is on the Night to be Observed and the Days of Unleavened Bread rather than the Passover.