For us to properly keep the Days of Unleavened Bread, it’s necessary that we come to properly understand and observe what the Bible calls the Night to Be Much Observed.
God commands that the Church keep the Passover ceremony at night (1 Corinthians 11:23). Mr Armstrong taught the Church that the Passover is the most solemn night of the entire Holy Day season. It is the night that God’s truly converted people convene to remember Jesus Christ’s death.
God also requires that His truly converted people keep another separate night immediately following the Passover. This second night is also of great importance to all of God’s people. Keeping the Passover alone is not enough! We must observe this second, different night, to properly keep the Days of Unleavened Bread!
“Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” (Exodus 12:40-42).
The Passover is to be observed at the beginning, or night portion of the 14th of Abib (Exodus 12:6; Leviticus 23:5). Exodus 12 records God’s command that His people specially observe the night portion or “beginning” of Abib 15—the night immediately following the Passover. Be sure to reread Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?
Keeping a Vigil to God
Why does God want us to observe this night? We must understand past history to fully understand this observance. The Night to be Much Observed commemorates the Israelites walking out of Egypt by night (Deuteronomy 16:1). The ancient Israelites had been in bitter slavery (Exodus 1:13-14). They groaned for deliverance (Exodus 2:23). God delivered them from Egypt through a series of miraculous plagues culminating in the death of the firstborn of all Egypt on Passover night. All the Israelites were miraculously protected from the death angel by observing the requirements of the Passover ceremony (Exodus 12).
Each Israelite clearly understood that had there not been a Passover night, they would not have been able to leave Egypt on the night of the 15th. Walking out of Egypt was the most emotional, exhilarating, joyous experience of their wretched lives. God wanted all Israelites, in every generation (Exodus 12:42), to experience the same joy the ancient Israelites did. It is a night to be “much observed.” God wants this night to be the happiest of the year. The word “observed” in the Hebrew is shimmur and means celebration.
We in God’s Church can celebrate because we too have been delivered from Egypt—spiritually. Egypt is a type of sin (Hebrews 11:24-27). Christ, “our passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7), has delivered us from the bitter slavery of sin. We also are able to walk out of Egypt—sin, with great emotion, exhilaration and joy because of Christ’s sacrifice! God requires that His Church also celebrate this fantastic occasion.
Here’s how the New International Version translates the verse related to this observance. “Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come” (Exodus 12:42). This translation clearly shows that the Passover and the Night to be Much Observed are two different nights. But it also helps describe the manner in which we should keep this night. Our celebration is to be a vigil to God. We must ensure that we honor God and Christ’s sacrifice in our celebrating.
The Night to be Much Observed is actually the beginning of the first Holy Day. We should dress in our sabbath best for this occasion. Men should wear coats and ties and ladies should wear nice dresses. Our children should dress in clothing that they would normally wear to Sabbath services. We need to remember that we are coming before God in this observance. We should follow the Bible principle of dressing properly for certain specific occasions (Matthew 22:11-14).
Traditionally, Mr. Armstrong taught the Church that on this night we should get together with small groups of two to three families. It has always been preferred that God’s people enjoy this evening in a home. But under certain circumstances gathering at a nice restaurant is considered appropriate.
If your Night to be Much Observed gathering must take place at a restaurant, be sure it is in a private room, away from the public. Loud music, interruptions and people smoking will greatly detract from your evening. Be sure to meet with your restaurant food manager far enough in advance to ensure that they will accommodate our specific dietary restrictions. Be specific about unclean meats and what constitutes unleavened products. Leave nothing to assumption.
The Best You Can Afford
For those of you who will be keeping the Night to be Much Observed at home, make your meal very special, but be sure to stay within your budget. Cook and serve the best foods you can afford. Second tithe can certainly be used for the costs of this evening if it will not adversely affect the amount of money you will need to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Have your invited quests bring or provide something for the meal. This will help in sharing the costs of the evening and will allow everyone to feel a part of this important celebration.
Mr. Armstrong always set us the example of using nice dishes, tablecloths, and nice tableware for special occasions. This is the night to do this. Candles and fresh cut flowers will also help make this occasion more special. A wonderful atmosphere goes a long way in making an occasion such as this a very memorable one.
All of us need to be sure we follow moderation in our eating and drinking on the Night to be Much Observed. We are to rejoice—but not to excess. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:4-5). The Philadelphians need to be setting an example for the entire world in our celebrating. The Night to be Much Observed should be very different than a worldy holiday party. This evening should be very dignified. The host and hostess should take the lead to be sure that the evening is conducted in a dignified manner.
This is a night for fine foods. Our meals should be balanced and not contain a lot of rich foods. Too many rich foods can make people ill and sluggish. Remember that the next day there will be double services. We need to be sure we are alert for the spiritual food to come at services.
Drinking on the Night to be Much Observed should be done with great care. Alcohol can either add or detract from our fellowship. God intended for man to develop alcoholic beverages for our benefit. “And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15). Using alcohol in moderation will help make us merry on this night. A host should never force alcohol on anyone. But in the same vein, a host should never allow someone to over drink.
We should also be moderate in our fellowship on this evening. Include singles and widows on your guest list. This is a night to serve God’s people, not just entertain friends (Deuteronomy 16:11).
Be sure your conversation is appropriate for a holy day. One major characteristic of the Philadelphians is that we know what conversation is pleasing to God on the sabbaths (Malachi 3:16). We need to consider how God will remember our discussions on this evening.
We should also be sure to end our fellowship early enough for our host and hostess to get proper rest and be prepared for the next day’s activities.
Make This Night Special for Children
If you have small children, be sure to take some extra time and plan some special things for them. This night should be a celebration for them as well. In my family, it has been a tradition that we buy small gifts for our children to have on this night. We always wrap them to make it extra special.
Allow your children to take part in meal planning and meal preparation. My wife has always included our daughters in the baking and cooking for the Night to be Much Observed. As they have grown older, we have also included them in planning the dinner for this night.
If you have small children, be sure to include others that have small children on your guest list. It is hard for children to get excited about spending an entire evening when the guest list is comprised solely of adults. Our children need friends to share happy occasions with.
God wants all of us to be happy. He planned the holy days not only to save us spiritually, but also to make us happy physically. If we obey God properly in our Night to be Much Observed, we will be happy. Speaking about our observance of these spring holy days, Christ taught, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).
God planned the sacrifice of His own Son so we could share eternal life with Him; He provided for us a great Passover. He also provided a second night for us to truly celebrate that Passover. Because of what God did for us, we owe it to Him to celebrate the Night to be Much Observed. So let us all do everything we can to make this year’s Night to be Much Observed the best celebration ever!