Sunday, March 24, 2013

Food For Thought: Preparing For The Feast of Unleavened Bread

In case you just joined in...

Just as a quick recap (in case this is the first of my posts that you've read), throughout last year I was challenged by the Lord to observe His biblical feasts (outlined in Leviticus 23), to deepen my relationship with the Him. I studied how they relate to us now and examined the results of this obedience to His word. This series of posts on 'the moedim'-the appointed times - is to share my journey with you and to (hopefully) inspire you to walk in awareness and obedience to His word on a deeper level.

So...with that in our journey through the biblical feasts, number two is already fast approaching! In fact, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins just the day after Passover. Since there is a bit of preparation involved leading up to it, I thought I better post a few days in advance. 

Let's look at God's outline of this second feast: 

Exodus 12
Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.

Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.

So, you probably gathered that the main focus of this seven-day festival is removing all of the leaven from one's home. Why in the world would this matter to God? 

What Does It All Mean?

You'll remember that on the surface, these festivals have a historical significance, they memorialize significant events in Israel's history. Here with Unleavened Bread, the idea was to remember the hurried flight of the Israelites on the night they escaped from the bondage of Egypt. They did not have time to let the bread ferment and rise before they left for their journey to the unknown, they had leave in a hurry.

We also learned that there is not only a focus on a memorial event in God's redemption of Israel, but that there is also an outline of God's redemptive work in mankind. In a spiritual sense, the principle being alluded to is our sanctification process, the leaven representative of sin. 'A hurried flight from bondage' is what should describe how we feel about our old selves after the intervention of the Lord in our lives. We should seek to flee from our dead-end sinful ways, from our selfishness, impurity, from our addictions to things that are not holy. We do not have time to mourn the loss of those things or to binge on them before we decide to get right with God. Instead, we should seek escape from all the things that do not glorify Him. And we can flee from the sins that entangle and keep us in bondage only because of what the Father did for us through His Messiah.

After His death, Jesus was buried in Jerusalem. And upon that death and our belief in him, our sins are buried with him as far as God is concerned. He places within us a new nature, acceptable to God. And now, as a new creation, Christ’s work of removing every 'spot and wrinkle' within us begins. 

Romans 6:4: 
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul references Unleavened Bread and the general season of Passover in the following passage in the New Testament, tying together the physical, earthly practice with its spiritual implications:

1 Corinthians 5:8:
Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old  leaven, nor  with the leaven of malice  and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity  and truth.

Connecting the Dots

It is very easy to make the connection between the process of removing the leaven from our homes. Typically folks that observe these festivals begin the process of cleaning out the leaven up to a week before it actually begins. This is because, as I found, it's a more intensive process than you anticipate! Why is this a valuable exercise, you ask? Well, if leaven is symbolic of sin, then how we approach this process can be equated with our attitude toward removing sin in our lives, our sanctification process. It can really open our minds to how 'set in our ways'  we are and how comfortable and emotionally connected we can become to our sin.

So when we place our faith in Jesus, we are a new creation, with a new nature and a brand new lease on life. Yet anyone who is a believer knows that the process of becoming holy takes a lifetime and we usually encounter struggles and failure along the way. The point of conversion is only the beginning. From there we (and the Holy Spirit) begin to search our lives and our hearts, identifying the areas that there is any ‘leaven’ or sin lurking that we need to confess and remove.

I had this in my mind and on my heart this week as I searched my cabinets and pantry, as I wiped down countertops and my big Kitchen Aid mixer (I love baking). Cleaning up on the surface was easy enough....But then I had to get under the surface area and focus on what products were in my refrigerator and freezer and pantry that might need removing. It was like a scavenger hunt. 

I'm sure it would have been hilarious to see me in my pj’s standing in front of my pantry with a confused look on my face reading labels and trying to discern what has been leavened and what has not. Isn't that how we start out as believers? We read passages in the Bible and scratch our heads, we're not quite sure how to begin but we know we have a lot to learn. After I started to understand some of the key words, to 'define the leaven,' I immediately became a petulant child and inwardly thought, “Man, I JUST bought these things. I sure am throwing out alot of hard-earned money!” And, “I wonder if this counts.” I immediately tried to justify away all the leavened items, my mind told me “Just ignore the leavened things and then come back to them when the feast is over. What does Bible actually say, anyway?” I wanted to keep my leaven around! I began resisting it almost as soon as I got inside the cupboards and away from the surface.

Isn’t that how we tend to be with our sin? We clean up the outside so easily, but then when we get to the inner areas of our hearts and minds, we discover it is not so easy to change and remove the ‘leaven.’ That we've made an investment in some of these things that it's harder to release than we'd like to admit. Once we realize it’s going to cost us something, that we might miss out on something, that it requires change and that we suddenly can’t have things that we think we might want around, we resist the process. “How much is this gonna cost me, Lord? How much do I haveto give up for you to be obedient?” 

This was certainly where I found myself, and I quickly became aware of my attitude and the Lord really spoke to my heart. It was as if He said, “See, this is why you need reminding, Beloved. All My children are like this. They like to hold on to their old sins because it’s secure and comfortable.” Needless to say, this morning when the trash went out, so did the neopolitan ice cream sandwiches that I just bought and the other items I was reluctant to give up.

There was a freedom and a new resolve in my heart when I threw those things away. I declared to God, “Just like these things that I don’t really need, I am committed to removing the sinful behavior that I like to cling to. It is hard, God, and it requires sacrifice, but I joyfully cling to you and proclaim that you are more important than my carnal appetites. You are worthy of my obedience.  I want You to be pleased with me.” It totally encouraged me to examine my life and search my ‘inner cabinets’ for the things God might find displeasing in my life and heart.

So it’s already paying off to participate in these biblical feasts before the actual festivities have even begun. This is exactly why the Lord wanted us to memorialize these things. We have the whole year to reflect upon what He has done and to rehearse what it will be like when He returns. I am so excited about how God is going to challenge and teach my family next week during Pesach (Passover) which begins at sundown Tuesday evening, and for the remainder of the week as we commit to keep leavened foods out of our home and out of our bellies. 


Don't Come Empty-Handed: When we celebrate this feast, we should recommit to removing the ‘leaven’ from our own lives. As redeemed children of God, our lives now should be in a continual process of purging that sin from our lives. We should prayerfully recall the sins that have been plaguing us in this season, and commit them to God as we continue our own sanctification processes. What can we offer to Him today that has been a struggle? Our work ethic? Our marriage? Our attitude? Our language? Let’s remove our leaven during this season of remembrance. Let's bury our sins, once and for all. He can give us the victory!

Until next week-blessings!

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