The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. – Exodus 12:40-42
“Who watches the watchmen?” This phrase comes from the Latin, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”. Found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires, it is literally translated as “Who will guard the guards themselves?” But is also rendered as above. The idea being that it is difficult to hold accountable those with power. Who will see to it that they will do the right thing? Who will see to it that they do not abuse their power and the people under them?
It may not be obvious in the case of the Exodus that the watchmen need watching. But there it is…God is on watch that long night of the Exodus. Other translations of this text have a different way of expressing this watchfulness. The NLT, for example has, “On this night the Lord kept his promise to bring his people out of the land of Egypt. So this night belongs to him, and it must be commemorated every year by all the Israelites, from generation to generation.”
But the clearest sense is that God is watching over his people to see that they get safely out of Egypt. He is on guard. He is remaining vigilant. He will see them through.
Jesus tells us that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father’s knowledge. As the gospel song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches over me.”
Sometimes we may want to hide from God. We may not want him to see what we are doing. We may wish to keep our dark secrets. But God is watching…not to shame us, but to protect us and provide for our needs. God’s attentiveness is a good thing. God is watching us, and he calls us to be watchful as well.