Chag haMatzah 2002
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 30 March 2002
Have you ever noticed how every large thing in the real world round about us, whether vegetable or mineral, always begins as something small? As we saw last week, the festivals of Yahweh depict, on one level, the journey of a single-celled human egg to its final form as a born and dedicated child. Empires start as small, little insignificant states, before they reach their maximum size. Even the large towering mountains we see like the Himalayas or the Alps were all once flat. The stalagmite in an underground cave begins as a single drop of mineral water.
There are only two things in this universe which always start big. The first is God Himself, and the second is our fantasy and ambition. And the difference between these two is that one is real and the other an illusion.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread centres around a tiny single-celled organism which is known as leaven or yeast. And as we shall see later, Yah'shua (Jesus) deliberately chooses small things like yeast and mustard seeds to illustrate how the important things in life must be built up. In our family we make a great deal of bread. You have all seen people kneading the huge dollops of dough in the kitchen but I doubt many will have noticed the moment when the yeast was put in. Yeast comes in a tiny little bag that seems almost insignificant when you look at it, and yet it is that apparently insignificant little bag that is the powerhouse in making bread. Time and time again you will discover that it is the little things which turn out to be the most important.
Chag haMatzah is not so much about yeast, however, but it's absence. In the Bible yeast is used in a dual way - one positive and one negative. Chag haMatzah is about its negative aspect. Next week we shall look at the positive aspect of its symbolism.
But first let's look at the miracle cell that we call yeast. To begin with, it is microscopic, each cell being only 10 microns in diameter. What makes it particularly useful in making bread is the explosive speed at which it reproduces. If you think rabbits multiply fast, they are nothing in comparison to yeast! They have a high metabolic rate, burning up energy furiously, and in the process release huge quantities of gas. It is that gas which causes the bread-dough to rise and why we also call it 'leaven'.
What some of you may not know, however, is that yeast is actually a fungus. Wherever it is found in the wild, it is associated with rotting organic substances. Along with bacteria they help break down dead and decaying organisms. Many fungi cause disease, including the well known one that causes eczema on the skin. It is possible, therefore, to look upon yeast in two different ways - that which is 'domesticated' and can be used for fermentation, and that which is wild which is often the cause of disease. It is interesting, I think, that Yahweh should use yeast as both a positive and a negative symbol.
And now a question for you to ponder. Why are some festivals only one or two days long, whereas others like Chag haMatzah last a whole week? Yahweh was most emphatic when He said:
"And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days" (Deut.6:4, NKJV).
Notice also, please that leaven had to be absent, not just from the people's individual homes, but from the "whole territory" or country. He went on to say:
"Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly to the LORD your God (Yahweh Elohim). You shall do no work on it" (Deut.16:8, NKJV).
That Yahweh would require us not to eat leavened bread for a whole week is not, of course, a mere whim or an accident. This observance wasn't just some religious idea which men made up to make life inconvenient for us. And nor is the period of time - a whole week - an accident. Not five days, or eight days, but a round seven. And on the last day we are to have a special Sabbath gathering. Why? Why is this so important?
The festivals we celebrate are dramas. They are given to us not for themselves but to focus us spiritually on the important things of life. There is nothing inherently sinful about eating ordinary bread. And there is nothing specially holy about unleavened bread. They are just ordinary foodstuffs. But the fact that we are made to do without a very staple food for a whole week is to show us that what is being represented in Chag haMatzah is no small thing, even though the symbol - yeast - is microscopic. Indeed, once the yeast is in the dough, you never see it again, do you? It is entirely invisible. The only evidence that it is there is the fact that gas is being made which causes the loaf to rise.
"Then Jesus (Yah'shua) said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees"" (Matt.16:6, NKJV).
Take heed and beware. Yeast, in the negative context, represents sin, which multiplies and spreads almost invisibly. It appears small and harmless but once it gets in you, it becomes unseen. The only evidence that sin is within you is the fact that you start to do bad things. That is the gas of the leaven. You may think it has no consequence. You may even thing that you can control it. But the truth is, when yeast enters the dough, it spreads completely and thoroughly throughout the loaf. And once it's been put in the dough, there is no way you can ever get it out again. Try it sometime - pull open a loaf of bread and see if you can find, let alone remove, the yeast. I guarantee you will fail. And this was the point that Yahweh was making: sin is deadly and there's not a thing you can do about it once you have admitted it into your life. Nothing short of miraculous intervention can remove it. And that miraculous intervention is the blood of Yah'shua (Jesus).
Before every Feast of Unleavened Bread the Israelites were commanded to remove every last trace of yeast from their homes, and whatever they found they were told to burn. Many believers ritually hide ten pieces of leaven and then go on their hands and knees and scoop it up with a feather into a paper bag. They literally have their nose to the ground. Anciently, the Hebrews would literally search every nook and cranny in their homes to find and destroy yeast, and it is from this practice that we have our own tradition of "spring cleaning". As Messianic Christians we don't go to quite the same lengths as those under the Old Covenant did, but we nevertheless do make a search and remove all leaven out of sight to remind us that the business of getting sin out of our lives is deadly serious.
Every sin starts with a single microscopic thought. Analyse every wrong in the world and in people and you will discover that they all derive from a single thought. Of course, ultimately, all sin is traced back to a thought Eve had in the Garden of Eden. Please notice that that thought didn't originate with Eve but was planted there by the serpent who told her, in direct contradiction to what Yahweh had said: "You surely shall not die!" (Gen.3:4, NASB). Amazing though it is, all the sorrows in this world stem ultimately from that one satanic thought, which basically was: "Sin won't kill you."
Sin won't kill you. This one lie, when it was believed, was what messed up everything. Can we see, therefore, why Yahweh wants us to spend a whole week contemplating the seriousness of sin? And at the end of the week, he wants us to come together and to draw our conclusions about the meaning of the feast. So next Thursday morning we will gather together and talk about what all this is about and what it means to us.
I am sure you all remember the story of the Prodigal Son. A young man decided that he wanted his father's inheritance in advance, and even though he wasn't entitled to it while his father was still alive, his father gave it to him anyway. That one selfish wish to have something which did not rightfully belong to him, caused his downfall and ruin. You see, humans want something for nothing. And the advertisers pander to that fallen tendency in us. They're always offering us free gifts and special offers. We all know that there's a catch and yet we fall for it time and time again. And before you know it, you've inherited a whole bunch of problems, like unwanted books arriving in the post which we are forced to buy at great expense all because we accepted one free one at the beginning and foolishly signed an agreement. Satan loves to appeal to our greed. And greed is costly. Look what happened to the young man! No sooner than he had his father's money in his hands, he was squandering it in riotous living. He thought he had friends but it turned out that all his friends were after was his money. The story ends with a pitiful sight - of a young man in rags eating the filthy leftover food of unclean animals - pigs. Greed and selfishness leads to complete and utter degradation unless we come to our senses and repent. And remember that that disgusting picture of a man living with the pigs started with a single thought - a single, microscopic symbolic yeast cell too small to even see with the naked eye.
Now we as a family have lived on a pig farm. I wonder how many of you can remember the stink that used to waft over to our home every day? We used to have to close all the windows. And some of you may actually have gone and seen what it is like the way a pig lives, and entered a pigsty. The first time you go in you want to vomit. But the workers on that pig farm had grown used to the pong and thought nothing of it.
The cost of wallowing in sin is that you lose your sensitivity and discernment and think nothing of it any more. That's why your average sinner doesn't want to repent. He's used to the spiritual filth and is content to live in it. That is why repenting of sin is more often than not an act of faith rather than of an awareness of our lost state. We usually have to fall right to the bottom of the cesspit like the Prodigal Son before we are aware of oiur spiritual poverty.
There may be some here who used to smoke and thought nothing of being in a room filled with polluted air. But then you gave up - not because you started disliking the smell of cigarette smoke, but likely because your health was beginning to suffer (the more enlightened and caring may have become aware that their smoking was injuring others but most people are too selfish to think of the suffering of other people). And then, to your surprise, after many years of being tobacco free, you enter into a smoke-filled room and start choking, and you wonder: "How on earth could I have smoked this foul muck?" But that is because you have regained your body's natural sensitivity. You have become, from Yahweh's point-of-view, normal, whereas the smokers are abnormal. The irony is that the smokers think they are normal just as all sinners do.
There are only two ways of knowing whether something is right or wrong. First, God tells you so in His Word. And if He tells you that, you can be 100% sure He's right. The second, is by seeing yourself or others suffer. The fruits of sin are obvious to all but the totally blind. But there's no guarantee that your conscience will be sufficiently moved to cause you to quit hurting yourself and others. It might, but in most cases people will always find excuses and rationalisations. We've all heard them, like the man who was once a member of our congregation and who returned to smoking and who blamed non-smokers for being ill when he smoked in their presence! Instead of seeing and admitting to the obvious - that he was causing people to passively smoke, not only risking their health but making being with him highly unpleasant - he justified his stubborn pride and selfishness. He was a drug addict, hooked on nicotine, but his pride and rebelliousness forbade him to do the considerate thing for others, let alone himself.
Every sin is like that. It's a devil - literally - because demons are associated with sinful behaviour. It won't yield. And like the yeast in the dough, it spreads throughout our spirit and literally subverts it. It can't be surgically removed. Once you've let it in, there it stubbornly remains. Yes, you can, by sheer will power, overcome a bad habit, but so long as the root cause it there - sin - it will always be there to seduce and trap you again if you once let your guard down.
The only solution to sin, as the Passover reminds us, is the blood of the Lamb. Even if by a Herculean effort of human will power you forced yourself not to sin - and that is ultimately impossible because you will slip - once you came before the judgement bar, what would happen? Yahweh would see the sin within you and not allow you to enter heaven. Why not? Because sin is impurity. This is what the scripture tells us:
"For this you know, that no ... unclean person ... has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph.5:5-6, NKJV).
That is why it is not enough to simply spiritually handcuff yourself and force yourself not to do evil. So long as the evil impulse is still within you - the desire to sin - you are debarring yourself from heaven - the Kingdom of Yahweh. It's not because He doesn't want you there, it's simply that you can't enter there if you are impure.
Since we are quite incapable of dealing with sin by our own efforts, Yahweh in His mercy has provided the solution for us - and His Name is Yah'shua (Jesus). That is why accepting Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) as our Saviour is so vitally important. The Festivals of Yahweh are designed not only to show us the seriousness of sin but also the only remedy to sin that works. Once the soul realises that human effort is always going to fail no matter how hard we try to live a good life, because of the inner contamination of the soul, demonstrated by all the evil impulses that keep on surfacing no matter how hard we try to be rid of them, he surrenders his own foolish path and gives himself up to the Messiah (Christ). Though he may get a glimpse of the hopelessness of his spiritual condition, he will never see the whole horrific picture until it is too late and eternal life has eluded his grasp. And that, brethren and sisters, is where faith comes in. And it boils down to this: will we trust what God has said, or will we stubbornly keep on believing that we know best? For if we do stubbornly keep resisting the call to salvation, or postponing it, the end result will be eternally devastating for us.
It is not nice to have to admit that we are grovelling in the stinky pig swill of sin. It is an affront to our pride and dignity. We may try to camouflage our awful condition by putting on a brave face. And to the world everything may look normal, happy and breezy. You only have to look at the faces of the media stars of music and movies to see how the outer plastic smiles conceal and betray a terrible darkness within. Many of them have confessed to the spiritual destitution of their lives. Sin is like that. A brave outer face, but an inner hell.
And so it is that Yahweh has given is Chag haMatzah to remind us that we need to spend time - a whole week, which represents one complete cycle of life of seven years - seriously examining ourselves. And even if we have received Christ, we are still being told to make sure that sin is kept at bay. That is why we clean our houses out - we want to make sure that our homes are kept spiritually safe for our children, and keep our souls away from evil. Even the appearance of evil, we are told, is bad. Paul warned:
"Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?" (2 Cor.10:7, NKJV).
If you do, you are making a grave mistake. The appearance is just a mask. It isn't the real you. The real you is inside. And that's what you've got to deal with. And those who have the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) can see right through the masks and appearances, for it gives us access to the very soul and life of a person.
Next week I am going to talk about the positive leaven. In the meantime, may I invite everyone to be scrupulously honest and ask themselves this question: Have my very best efforts really dealt with the problem of sin within? And if they haven't - because we all know they haven't - a second question follows, which is this: Will I reach out in faith and let Christ deal with it for me? Will I repent of my sins, forsake them, and call upon His Passover blood to wash away my impurity? For without that blood, we are forever filthy and unable to approach God or enter His Kingdom.
This means a genuine public confession, baptism, and a life of discipleship. These are the requirements that Yahweh has laid upon all men and women who wish to be clean and dwell in peace and love. The summer weather will soon be upon us and the lakes will be warm enough for baptisms again.
Next Thursday morning we shall meet but I shall not be preaching a sermon. Instead, we will have the equivalent of a Sabbath School. I hope that everyone will participate.
May Yahweh bless you as you soberly reflect on these things and lead you to a clear understanding of the truth of the sin problem and the only remedy that works - Yah'shua (Jesus). As you eat unleavened bread, remind yourself of the holy standard that heaven demands of us and of the only lasting solution.
Exactly 25 years ago today - on 30 March 1977 - I invited Yah'shua (Jesus) into my life and committed my life to following Him. It was on that day that I was born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in a most dramatic way. But I only reached that point, I am convinced, because some time before I went into an Anglican Church, knelt at the altar, and covenanted before Yahweh that I would search for the truth and not rest until I had found it. And I found it in His Son.
I am sure it is no accident that this occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I was a student at Oxford then and 22 years old. The experience, which I have shared with you before, I will never forget. It is the foundation of everything that I am and try to do. That He is who He claims He is I have not the slightest doubt, but I had to walk in faith and be tested to find out for sure. That you can do too, and receive all that He has to give you. May His holy Name be praised! Amen.
This page was created on 29 March 2002
Last updated on 29 March 2002
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