Why all this darkness? For light. This is a darkness that foreshadows. It foreshadows a greater darkness by which came the great light.
While there is darkness in Egypt light shines upon God’s people. God makes distinction. In covenant love He has chosen Israel. By this darkness, light is shed. By this darkness, the gospel is proclaimed.
Following this wonder, God again hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Why? For another darkness. A deeper darkness. Why? For greater light. God wanted to crest with the death of the firstborn (Exodus 4:21–23). This would be a darkness that not even His people were immune to. They were not immune, but they were provided a substitute. By this darkness, light is shed. By this darkness, the gospel is proclaimed.
On a dark night the disciples partook of the Passover. Jesus changed the liturgy to speak of His broken body and his spilled blood. During darkness, light is shed. During darkness, the gospel is proclaimed.
The next day the sky turned black as the substitute Lamb’s body was broken, as His blood was poured out to ransom His people. By that darkness, light is. By that darkness, the gospel is.
The ninth plague foreshadows. The light for the shadow casted came from the future, and that light came out of darkness. Three hours of darkness at the cross gave way to three days of darkness in the grave, but the Son rose on Resurrection morn as the Light to unfailing shine upon His people. Darkness for light and light by darkness.
Perhaps the most masterful thing C.S. Lewis does in his Narnia series is to create a longing in you for Aslan the lion. Aslan is the central figure in the books, yet, notice how sparse his appearances are. You turn each page hoping it to be the one in which he comes into the story, and yet, you know that he is on every page. Every story is his story.
And so it is with our Lord. Mistakingly we can think that theophanies were as thick as June-mosquitoes following heavy May-showers in Oklahoma. They were not. They were more rare than horny toads. The first chapters of Exodus give us a clearer picture. God gives the brave midwives families in chapter one, then He hears the cries of His people in chapter two, but these are things we only know because of the narrator. Israel was ignorant of these things as the events themselves unfolded. But, because of the subtle narration, because of the genealogy, because we’ve read the promises in Genesis, because we’ve recalled the covenant, we see that God has been on every page.
It was God who brought His people down to Egypt according to His word. There they were afflicted as He told Abraham. There God multiplied them and made them into a great nation as He promised Jacob. God’s covenant faithfulness hasn’t failed. Even so, longings have been stirred. Israel, by her bondage cried out for the manifest covenant love of her God. We, by the Spirit’s Lewis-surpassing craft, long for God to manifest Himself. We’ve seen glimpses, and they are glorious, but we hunger for more. So we come to chapter three. We turn the page. There He is! The Holy and Humble one, the great I AM come down to bring His people up. The transcendent God has come down in immanent covenant graciousness to redeem a people out of bondage to a land flowing with milk and honey. Our hearts leap, for this story isn’t limited to one book of the Bible. This is the story of the Bible. This is our story: the holy transcendent God come down in immanent covenant grace to save a people to Himself. May our expectation grow with every turn of a page.