A Darkness That Can Be Felt
Our Scripture readings skip most of the plagues that God sent upon Egypt for Pharaoh’s bullheadedness. Some plagues, he cared nothing about; others, he would run to Moses repenting and promising to let the Israelites go, only to change his mind when the plague was removed. His heart was hardened, and a person with a hardened heart rarely behaves in a rational manner.
The ninth plague does bear some comment. Of all of them, it is the most eerie, even sinister. 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” (italics added). Darkness is one thing; but to feel the darkness, that is something else. Scripture records that no one could see anyone else, and no one rose from his place for three days. It isn’t hard to imagine the fear that would grip a person: What’s around me? What is next to me? What is across the room? No one can help because no one else can see either. It’s more than loneliness; it’s alone-ness.
It seems to me that this is exactly the predicament of a man apart from Christ. It matters not how many people he may crowd around himself. Within is darkness, a darkness that can be felt. He fills it with activity, amusement, or pleasure. Perhaps he is a loner who fills his time with books or the Internet. But within is a black hole. Saint Augustine said it best: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Confessions I.1). As we are created in God’s image, to God do our souls cry out. We must worship something or someone. Man without God will always choose something or someone other than God. His soul cries out of the darkness; he fills it with more darkness.
As the darkness lasted three days, my mind naturally turns to the One who descended into hades during the three days of his death. Only he went there not to feel the darkness, but to conquer it and to redeem its captives. I’m sure the Light of the world shed his light all around that dismal place. Satan and his minions shrank back into the darkness, but there was no escape. On that side of eternity, for the wicked, be they angels or human beings, there is no redemption. But on this side, a man may still call out to Christ, and experience a light that can be felt.