Chag haMatzah 2005
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 26 March 2005
As you will all have noticed by now, there isn't any leavened bread in the house at present. For the last two days we have been eating matzah or unleavened bread in obedience to the commandment which our Heavenly Father gave to Moses:
"So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to Yahweh throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat -- that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance" (Ex.12:14-17, NKJV).
The eating exclusively of unleavened bread at this time is a sign of Israel: "For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel". And what is Israel? Well, at that time it was the Covenant of Moses but today it is the Covenant of Christ, or the New Covenant. Those who have received Yah'shua (Jesus) as their Messiah and who walk in obedience to New Covenant Torah are, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 11, the true Israel. Now Jews, as you know, observe Chag haMatzah or the Feast of Unleavened Bread too but that does not make them Israelites: to be an Israelite means you must accept Yah'shua (Jesus) as your Messiah. A Jew (and by 'Jew' I mean a true descendant of Judah) who does not is cut off from Israel in the same way that those who accept Yah'shua (Jesus) but refuse to observe the Feast are cut off from Israel. And what is Israel? Israel, brethren and sisters, is the Bride of Christ.
It surprises many to learn that whilst accepting Yah'shua (Jesus) as your Lord and Saviour makes you a Christian that it does not make you an Israelite. And to become the Bride of Christ you have to be both. Yesterday I pointed out to you that Yah'shua (Jesus), when He came to earth, was full of "grace and truth" which is another way of saying "love and Torah". Someone who is the Bride of Christ is similarly "a Christian and an Israelite". So how does one become an Israelite and what are the actual qualifications for being the Bride of Christ?
A Christian is someone who accepts Yah'shua (Jesus) as his Lord and Saviour. A New Covenant Israelite is a Christian who has accepted Yah'shua (Jesus) as his Lord and Saviour and is walking in the ordinances of the New Covenant of Israel. These include being baptised (which is what makes you a visible member of the outward community, as circumcision did in the Old Covenant), observing the Moedim or Appointments of Yahweh (of which this Festival is one), and obeying all the commandments (mitzvot). And as we know, obedience to the commandments is the sign that we truly love Yah'shua (Jesus) (Jn.14:15).
It is important that we understand this dual-nature of the Christian Israelite which is, in fact one nature, but which is spelled out as a dualism so that we are under no illusions. There is no such thing as a private, solo-Christian any more than there is such a thing as a baby which never grows up into an adult. We are babies who become adults just as we are Christians who become New Covenant Israelites. Yah'shua (Jesus) births us into Him and into His Father's Kingdom, which is Israel. And you can't become part of the Bride of Christ without both. In short, becoming a Christian means to be personally born again in and by Christ, but becoming His Bride means to belong to the Father by adoption into Israel. And how do we do that? By becoming a disciple in the same way that Jacob did: by overcoming and getting a new name (Is.62:2; Rev.2:17).
We must constantly have this twin truth in our sights or we will miss the whole. The charge given to Abraham before the Mosaic Covenant was inaugurated, and the charge given to Israel through Moses, and the charge given to New Covenant Christians are one and the same. Of Abraham Yahweh said to the Israelites:
"I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen.26:4-5, NKJV).
Many times Yahweh reiterates the same to the Israelites through Moses. Here is one of them:
"If you diligently heed the voice of Yahweh your Elohim (God) and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am Yahweh who heals you" (Ex.15:26, NKJV).
And finally Yahweh says this of the Messianic Bride - us - three times in the Book of Revelation:
"And the dragon (Satan) was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God [Yahweh] and have the testimony of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)" (Rev.12:17, NKJV). "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God [Yahweh] and the faith of Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Rev.14:11-12, NKJV). "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city [New Jerusalem]" (Rev.22:14, NKJV).
Yahweh has given us His Torah and His Son and no man comes to the Father without either of them. Can a man be saved by trusting in Christ and ignoring Torah? Yes, he can, but Yah'shua (Jesus) warns of the fate of such a person:
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19-20, NKJV).
If a person who wilfully breaks the least of the mitzvot or commandments inherits the least place in the Kingdom of heaven, what of a person who claims to live by grace alone and to be above the Law? What of the person who rewrites the Book of Revelation by omitting the "keep the commandments (mitzvot)" part? I leave you to draw your own conclusions but I presume he will be on the bottom rung of the Kingdom.
Our obedience to Torah is the way we reciprocate Yahweh's love for us through Yah'shua (Jesus). But surely there must be more than that? Why, for example, are we spending the next seven days eating unleavened bread and making a lot of extra work for our wives? Are we only doing it just because the Israelites ate unleavened bread before the Exodus? Or is there a deeper meaning?
At this time of the year Yahweh has given us a very interesting task indeed. It's a ceremony called Bedikat haMetz. The day before Passover the whole family performed what to some might seem a rather unusual ceremony - we went on our hands and knees on the floor looking for every last piece of leaven we could find - bread crumbs in particular. Knowing as we do that Yahweh didn't do this so that he could have some fun watching us scurrying along the floor like ants in funny positions, we must then ask ourselves, "Why"?
Well, I will answer this in one word: this is the process which Ed Smith calls 'Theophostic' or 'God-illumination'. We are commanded by Yahweh to cleanse the leaven of sin from our lives (represented by yeast in our homes) by allowing the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) or living Word to shine the Light of Yah'shua (Jesus), in conjunction with Scripture (the written Word), on every aspect of our being. As sin is exposed, so too are false beliefs about ourselves, Yahweh, and others. As these false beliefs are revealed by the Light of Christ, so we discover that there is a demonic element which subverts our life on account of our belief in these lies. King David said: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps.119:105, NKJV). This searching for leaven at Chag haMatzah is the process of daily searching for falsehood in our belief system by inviting Yah'shua (Jesus) to shine the Light of His Truth in us in prayer, repenting of false belief which leads us to sin, and then expelling the demonic by the power of His atoning blood. In this way we gather up the yeast of sin and expel it from our homes.
So why did Yahweh order those who fail to celebrate Chag haMatzah be cast out of the Assembly of Israel? Well, that should now be obvious. If you don't expel sin from your life in the manner described, you are mocking the whole atoning work of Christ! You are in effect saying: 'I accept you as Lord and Saviour but I'll be blowed if I'm going to get rid of sin from my life!' So they invent a new rationalisation - they claim that simply by confessing Christ that all sin is removed from their lives. Lie! It's a terrible lie! Yah'shua (Jesus) has removed the debt note of sin from our lives, as we discussed in a recent sermon, but that does not mean we stopped sinning. And stopping sinning is the goal by getting to the root of our sinful disposition and expunging it. How do we do that? By following the formula given in the Feast of Unleavened Bread! In another word, we must "work out (y)our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12, NKJV) - it's not just a question of muttering a few words and walking away in the delusion that we are "one saved, always saved". This is a pernicious lie and its destroying millions of souls. Neither is it saying that we have to earn our salvation by works as we are often accused of, for the principle behind Chag haMatzah is that we call upon the atoning power of Yah'shua to expose, heal and deliver - our own effort is in searching for sin, not in healing ourselves by obeying commandments. We can't heal - Yah'shua (Jesus) alone is the Healer.
Yesterday we saw how indispensable the Lamb is to this process - we can't do this alone, we need the atoning power of the Lamb of God. That is the part where we receive Yah'shua (Jesus) as Lord and Saviour by inviting Him to sit on the Throne of our Hearts. This is vital and indispensable. But sadly this is where most of the Churches stop. They say: 'That's it!' And they celebrate a pagan festival called 'Easter' to emphasise that. But that is only the beginning. Yahweh says that we must now search for the leaven of sin in our lives for the rest of our lives until it is all gone. That is part of the sevenfold overcoming that the Book of Revelation talks about. We inherit a Kingdom of glory in proportion to what we have done in this respect and in terms of our service - heaven is not just one place for there are four different types of resurrection described in the New Testament which Paul likens to the illumination of the sun, moon and stars (1 Cor.15:41), and finally darkness itself (Jn.5:29). If sin or leaven remains in your life, it will dull the light which is in you. As you remove it in Yah'shua (Jesus) so your brightness increases. In the resurrection, brethren and sisters, you will inherit a kingdom equivalent to what you are and what you have become.
Yahweh commands us to eat unleavened bread for a whole week and to do this each year. Why seven days? Seven is the number of completion, therefore this is something we are to do until we have completed the process. This week represents a complete lifetime and this festival is to remind us that we must not stop theophosticising. Indeed, we must teach our children and new converts to do it too and Chag haMatzah is to guide them into this process. All new members of NCCG are taught the Theophostic method so that this becomes an integral part of ministry and discipling for everyone.
We are now at the beginning of a seven day feast period in which we are commanded to eat unleavened bread. We are commanded to start on Nisan 15 (sunset yesterday evening) and end on Nisan 24. We do this on the historical level to remember the time when the Israelites baked unleavened bread is their haste to escape Egypt. As we all know fully well, there was an appointed day (mo'ed) when Israel has to depart Egypt, and it was Nisan 14 - yesterday. Here Yahweh emphasises the importance of timing. Yahweh does not make us confront all our sin issues at once because He knows this would overwhelm us so He gives appointed times (moedim) for these. He surfaces sin issues through various events (like persecution, domestic problems, financial problems, illness, or whatever) and gives us a golden opportunity to theophosticise and get healed. We have a choice to respond or not. Yahweh operates in cycles which is why we have the annual cycle or moedim. If we refuse to deal with a sin issue when He surfaces it, it will disappear into our subconscious again and we lose a valuable opportunity to get cleansed of sin. This festival is to remind us to be responsive when He stirs things up and not to postpone action. We postpone at our peril!
The unleavened bread the Israelites ate was known as the "bread of affliction" (Dt.16:3). When sin issues are stirred up in us we are afflicted. Affliction makes us want to hide or run but Yahweh says: 'No! Face up to reality. Deal with the sin issues. This is the appointed time I have given you to be an overcomer through My Son Yah'shua (Jesus)!'
But there is more. The place where Yah'shua (Jesus) was born was Bethlehem, a compound of two Hebrew words, beit and lechem meaning 'house of bread'. In the Gospels Yah'shua (Jesus) is likened to the "manna from heaven" and the "bread of life" (Jn.6:35,38). When we suffer, it is said that we are being served with the "bread of affliction" (1 Ki.2:27; 2 Chr.18:26). Yah'shua (Jesus) is our suffering and we are to partake in the ministry of suffering both for our own redemption as well as the redemption of others. Unleavened bread reminds us that we have to suffer both to get cleansed of sin as well as to be a witness to others. There is a nitty-gritty side to salvation which few want but which they are often compelled into, by an act of Yahweh's grace, when difficult times are sent to them to awaken them to a sense of truth and reality. All of this is a part of the message of Chag haMatzah.
Yah'shua (Jesus), who is the Bread of Yahweh, was born at a place called the 'House of Bread' (Beit lechem). The disciples had to hurry to put the body of Yah'shua (Jesus) into the tomb because the Sabbath was drawing near, the time where no work can be done. This was, moreoever, like today, a High Sabbath or Shabbaton, and was the first day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15). We too must hurry, to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, getting the leaven of sin out of our lives, before the day we are placed to rest in our graves, for once you are dead, the opportunity to carry on working out your salvation is at an end.
Yah'shua (Jesus) died on Nisan 14 (Pesach) which was yesterday and was placed in the sepulchre the day following His crucifixion, or Nisan 15, which is today, the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Now this unleavened bread is not only made without leaven or yeast but with oil. Believers in Yah'shua (Jesus) are to be consecrated and separated to do the work Yahweh has called them to do and to live a life that is holy to Him. To do this we need the anointing of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which is always represented by olive oil, the same that the Elders are called to anoint the heads of the sick with when they pray over them (Jas.5:14).
The bread that we are eating then has multiple meanings, all of which are important. First of all it represents consecration (Lev.8:1-2,26-27; Ex.29:2-23). Second, it was a part of the sacred vow of the Nazarites (Num.6:1-21). Third, it was the food for the priests in the meal and peace offering (Lev.2:1,4,14-16; 6:14-18; 7:11-12) and we are all priests in the New Covenant. Fourth, it marks Israel's divine separation from Egypt's and the word's life of slavery and bondage (Ex.12:17,30-34) - we are not to imitate the world and all its filth. Fifth, all leaven is to be put away. When leaven or yeast is placed in an unleavened batch of dough, the leaven puffs it up. Similarly, when we allow sin into our lives, it puffs up our pride and arrogance.
Does Yahweh have any particular sins in mind at this festival? The New Testament describes four types of sin-leaven. The first is the leaven of King Herod (Mk.8:14-15; 6:14-18; Mt.2:7-12) which was satanic government in every form and is to be compared to the government of Pharaoh of Egypt. The second is the leaven of the Pharisees (Mk.8:15; Mt.16:5-12; 23:1-5; Lk.11:37-44; 12:1) which is the spirit of priestcraft and legalism. The third is the leaven of the Sadducees (Mt.16:6-12) who did not believe in the supernatural. This is the atheistic and liberal in us and those false Christian doctrines which, for instance, deny that miracles or healing are for today - the Sadducees did not believe in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), in angels, or in the resurrection (Mk.12:18; Ac.23:6-8). And finally, the fourth, which is the leaven of Corinth which was many things, but including sensuality, fornication, feminism, lawlessness, and false charismata such as pagan-like tongue-speaking (1 Cor.4:17-21; 5:1-13; 6:1,9-11,13,16-18; 8:1; 13:4; 2 Cor.12:20-21).
Because of its symbolic meaning, many choose to be baptised on this day. When we are immersed in water we indicate our willingness not only to start a new life in the resurrected Messiah but our willingness to work out our salvation with fear and trembling by living a life of sincerity and truth. Sincerity involves purity and serving Yahweh with a pure heart. The Israelites firmly understood through the symbols of Pesach and Chag haMatzah that they were completely separating themselves from all the evil that has a corrupting influence on the followers of Yahweh. Historically, this meant a complete separation from Egypt's religion, traditions, habits, food, slavery, matriarchal customs, as well as its worldly glory, wisdom and splendour. We, in our turn, are to completely separate from the modern world's falsehoods. The children of Israel took the dough before it was leavened because they could not remain in Egypt. There was no time for that (Ex.12:34,39). We too have to quickly flee the world's ways and philosophies that are contrary to Torah.
If you have not received Messiah into your life, which is what Passover invites you to do, then we invite you to do that. Having done that, you are invited to baptism so that you become a part of Messianic Israel and can start qualifying yourself to become the Messianic Bride. We must be immersed in water and in Torah, so thoroughly that the world and its ways can no longer remain in us.
Tomorrow you are again invited to gather here to celebrate Yom haBikkurim, the Festival of First fruits. In the meantime may Yahweh bless you and give you a special High Sabbath in communion with Him, is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Edward Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Shippensburg, PA: 1999)
This page was created on 5 June 2005
Last updated on 5 June 2005
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