We have reached the eighth and ninth plagues, and things are getting very dark in Egypt. First the locusts cover the land so that it is black [literally: darkened] (v.15), and then it simply becomes utterly dark (v.22). Living in South-east England, most of us never experience absolute darkness - but I once went down a coal mine, and when they turned off the lights the darkness was overwhelming - you could almost feel it (v.21).
In Exodus, the presence of God is often symbolised by fire - a source of light as well as heat. For example, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush (chapter 3) and later in a pillar of fire (chapter 13). But his glorious presence was so terrifying that he would sometimes also surround himself with a dark cloud so that his people were not overwhelmed by his burning holiness. Thus we read that 'the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was' (Exodus 20:21).
Some people in HHBC are going through some dark times at the moment, but although darkness is sometimes used as a metaphor for the absence of God, we must remember that God may be closer to us in the darkness than at any other time. When Jesus hung dying on the cross, 'darkness came over the whole land' (Mark 15:33) - but was there ever a time when God was closer to his children?
Francis Rowley's great hymn 'I will sing the wondrous story' contains this verse:
Days of darkness still come o’er me,
Sorrow’s path I often tread,
But His presence still is with me;
By His guiding hand I’m led.
Let us pray that we will know the Lord's presence with us in dark times, and that we will share the experience of the children of Israel who, when the darkness descended on Egypt 'had light in the places where they lived' (v.23).