Chag haMatzah 2005
The Seventh and Last Day
Sabbath Day Sermon, Friday 1 April 2005
Brethren and sisters, I welcome you to this the last day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread in which I want to share some important thoughts with you and to ask some equally important questions. We have been eating unleavened bread now for a whole week. The season began with Passover which is rich in symbols, memories and meditations and we passed to the first day of Chag haMatazah and on to the Feast of Firstfruits: three symbol-packed days with much to talk about. And then something interesting starts to happen in flesh-based people - the enthusiasm and zeal starts to dwindle as we move into the 4th, 5th and 6th days. At times it is easy to forget that we are celebrating something holy and if my experience with other feast-keepers is right, the interest gradually wanes and then disappears as they return back to worldly thinking. If that is so, then I have a question: why did Yahweh give us this extra Sabbath today - on the 7th day of Chag haMatzah and ... and here's the really interesting question ... what was your reaction to it? Are you celebrating the last day of this Festival with the same anticipation and enthusiasm as you did the first? And if not, why not?
This week has been quite an eye-opener for me. Indeed, it's been one of the most intense weeks of my life and has helped me put into sharp focus what Yah'shua (Jesus) meant by the following words:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt.6:24-34, NKJV).
During this feast there has been one major crisis, one of the worst spiritual attacks the enemy has ever made, and also encounters with Yahweh the likes of which we have never had before. It has been incredibly intense. And in each of these, Yahweh has been gently asking me: "Who is sovereign in your life?" And, "Where do your priorities lie?" For a whole year now my family has been without any sort of an income and to say that it has been hair-raising would be an understatement. We have learned to trust in Yahweh. At the same time I have had to remind myself not to be complacent about the goodness Yahweh has showered upon us for I am more than aware of the sacrifices many have made for us, and continue to make for us. We are eternally grateful to them for responding to Yahweh's call. They made sacrifices so that the work of the Kingdom could continue. Indeed, they are wonderful examples of what it is to put the Kingdom first in their lives.
On Thursday morning Yahweh gave me a dream to remind me of the processes I have been going through. Some years ago I became seriously ill and had to leave my job. It was an enormous wrench for me, not because I liked my job (because I didn't) but because I felt I was deserting my duty and calling to provide an income for my family. I felt on the one hand that I was a drain on the state (even though I had paid them outrageously high taxes in order that such a system could be maintained) and on the other that I was denying those who began to supplement our tiny disability income to make ends meet - I felt as though I was robbing them of their hard earned income (knowing how well I have sweated and toiled to make ends meet myself). So I was plagued with guilt for being ill and not working as everyone else was. I felt like a scrounge and a beggar and I didn't like it.
Over the years Yahweh has given me dozens of dreams about my former job. Each and every one has been about the same theme of 'leaving' the job and working through the 'attachments' I had there. As I look back over the years and compare the dreams, I have noticed enormous changes in my attitudes but perhaps one of the things that struck and shocked me was how my job had become a substitute father - the source of safety, prosperity, and the like. How it became this, instead of my Heavenly Father, is a little hard to explain. Moreover, though I never liked the job, I discovered as I probed my feelings that in fact a part of me did like it and was seeking approval from the people in it as one does of a father. You might describe it even as a love-hate relationship, the love part being wholly misguided, for in truth my 'job' - as represented by the staff and pupils - never did 'love' me as a true, godly biological father should, or as my living Heavenly Father does.
In my dream yesterday morning I had gone back to the school. It was the beginning of a new school year, the time when for teachers everything 'starts again' with new pupils, new course material, new teachers, and so forth. It is a time of change and great expectation as one wonders how the new academic cycle is going to be like. One is anxious about many things - whether one will have enough equipment, what one's budget is, what classes one will get, whether there will be trouble-making students, whether the boss is going to be helpful or difficult, whether there is going to be more paperwork, how long it will take you to memorise the 200 or so news names of pupils and do them justice as an academic assessor, and so on. Lots of questions enter your mind. You go there with big question marks and can't exactly settle until they have been answered. It is a time of a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty and no-one truly enjoys these things. We like familiarity and security and we are constantly seeking for it. If you have personal insecurities and anxieties about other things, these can so easily merge with what is, to all intents and purposes, a concrete way of expressing it, namely, your job.
Because we spend so much of out time at work it tends to become both a focus of our consciousness as well as a kind of melting pot for all our other concerns. Our job plays a major rôle in our lives. As a rule, we have more social contacts at work than we do at home and so to a large extent our job forms what we become. When you are in a job, as I was, with a matriarchal spirit running it, and a lot of discontent and unhappiness, exhaustion and a sense of being overwhelmed, it naturally has an impact on you. You can get so sucked up in its spirit that it is not at all difficult to end up displacing God.
When vacation time comes, it can be quite hard for teachers to 'let go' and enjoy themselves. This is true of anyone who has a job where there is much responsibility. It was certainly hard for me to be a father, husband and pastor on top of everything else and I am sure I was negligent in one or more of these areas at times. Nevertheless, self-discipline and the need to get everything done formed my will and resulted in action. But I never realised just how unintentionally idolatrous I had become. And it was showing up in my dreams all the time. Yahweh even send false accusers to my work place to jolt me and ensured that my attempts to 'Christianise' my job failed too - I started a Christian Club which was squashed by the authorities after only a few weeks because some Muslim parent complained. Worse in many respects, a charismatic Christian teacher who did not approve of my beliefs made sure that bad reports of me reached our Catholic boss that resulted in increased hostility and disapproval from those I was seeking affirmation from. For a good worker wishes to please his employer. In short, Yahweh was pushing me out and making me confront idolatrous tendencies for I not only wished to please my employer in the righteous Christian sense, but I was afraid that I would not be able to feed my family if the relationship soured. That led to compromise for what I thought was a righteous purpose. But it was a lie. Any motive that is built on fear is deceptive and will trip you up. As the apostle John said, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18-19, NKJV). Sadly, we are rather clever at inventing self-justifications and are good at accusing others who are doing things Yahweh's way because our conscience is offended. How deceptive is the human heart!
A number of issues have cropped up this festival season which have served to highlight what I am trying to share with you today. There have already been several disputes. First, there was a dispute as to whether Pesach is a Sabbath day or not. Then there was a dispute about just how strict we should be about the way we observe Pesach and Chag haMatzah. People started to reason that we needn't get too zealous about not eating unleavened bread and that we should not be overly 'legalistic' in that respect. I never dreamed that our own people would use such a catch-phrase to justify sin in the same way as non-Torah-observant people accuse us of being 'legalistic' for obeying the commandments of Yahweh. So let me remind you what 'legalistic' actually means: to be a 'legalist' is to try and earn your salvation by obeying the commandments, which is impossible, for salvation is by faith alone. However, this does not give us licence to be disobedient. The whole point of the Chag haMatzah season is to teach us to be separate from the world in everything. We have been given the 'inconvenience' of a week-long festival to remind us that it isn't as easy as you think getting out of the world system in your thoughts and in your heart, and that it doesn't take long for the fleshy nature to start luring and pulling us back into a worldly mindframe. Which is why Yahweh has given us an extra Sabbath at the end of it, to remind us that this process is holy and divinely appointed. If you have been living this appointment in the way Yahweh intends us to, you should have the same enthusiasm and God-centredness today, on this last day of Chag haMatzah, as you did when you sat down to partake of the Passover Seder.
Salvation is by faith alone but our obedience to the commandments is the barometer of the kind of faith we have. What kind of faith do you have? The faith that loves Yahweh's Law and seeks to live it zealously is the kind of faith that belongs to New Covenant Israel, for any other kind of faith is tainted by the world which would draw us back into its fold. It is the kind of faith that identifies us with David, the Psalmist, who passionate loved Yahweh's Torah. Some of our more zealous members have been accused to being too zealous and 'legalistic' which is a serious allegation, for Yah'shua (Jesus) has instructed us:
"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).
The Scribes and the Pharisees were particular about obeying the Law. Yah'shua (Jesus) never criticised their zeal in this matter. What He did criticise was their man-made traditions which put the people into bondage and the fact that they neglected the weightier matters of the Law, namely, compassion and mercy. This does not mean, however, that Yahweh has given compassion and mercy as an excuse not to obey the minutiae of Torah for those who break the least of these laws become least in the Kingdom of Heaven. True love seeks to please a perfect and loving Heavenly Father who would by no means instruct us to do things, like eat only unleavened bread for a whole week, if He did not have some benevolent reason for us for doing so. That reason is clear: it is to show us how easily we compromise with the world and offer up excuses to return to its fleshpots. Why, I believe even some of our people were participating in pagan Easter celebrations with friends to supposedly show 'love' and 'open-mindedness'! What a deception! The whole point of this season is to teach us the absolutely necessity of being separate, and to remind us that this is part and parcel of being 'holy'.
A person who loves Yahweh with all His heart, who is trusting in His salvation wholly by faith in the Messiah, and who is zealously trying to live every jot and tittle of Torah in order to please his Heavenly Father is to be much commended, for such is a true New Covenant Christian. If the heathen are offended by such behaviour, that is their problem, and not ours - we are not trying to impose anything on them - but if the truth be known they are, at times, most certainly trying to impose Satan's system on us without likely understanding the demonic forces at work. We should be disgusted by their spirit and not allow Satan to deceive us into believing we are being 'unloving' by not appeasing them. To appease the world is to be guilty of the very idolatry of which Yahweh has condemned me over my former job. If we appease, we will never leave Babylon and find excuses to remain out of so-called 'love'.
Yesterday I returned to my old work place in my dream. It was the beginning of the academic year and everything was different again. I went to my old classroom but now it belonged to someone else. To my surprise I was half naked - I had unknowingly partly removed my covering in order to enter that place! And I did so, it seems, so as not to look 'different'. Then I realised that when I went to work I had put on a mask - the mask of a secular educationalist - and behaved accordingly. I observed the rules not to speak of religion in class, thinking I was doing right. I taught the pagan children to become clever pagan children and gave them the skills to be even more mischievous. I taught them how to make web sites and had to watch as one girl, a Wiccan, made a satanic web site using the skills I had given her! I was serving the Kingdom of Satan and I was appalled! But I suppressed this in order to "feed my family", rationalising that this was more important and that it was their free choice what they wanted to believe in.
In the dream I was ashamed that I had removed my clothing but I saw that the clothing I had in my briefcase appeared as rags and would have been unacceptable in that environment. But I didn't care anymore. I put the worn out, shredded clothing on and was not ashamed. If John the Baptist had not been ashamed of his sackcloth suit, why should be of my ripped up trousers? I left my classroom, never wanting to return there, and went to a section of the school where a couple of members of staff were who had shown me kindness in the past. It was good to be with them but by now I knew I had to leave and not return. I didn't even go to the main entrance but climbed out the window, forgetting my things. I asked one of the teachers if she would bring them around to me at the main entrance. Some well dressed parents entered the room and looked out of the window at me, wondering what this 'tramp' was doing hanging around the school. I could see their disdain and contempt. These are the people I had sucked up to, pretending to admire them and telling them how wonderful their little Harry was when he was an absolute monster, because the boss was scared to lose revenue and kick the child out if the truth came out. I had learned to lie to remain in my job and to appease the Lords of Wealth. I could see what a hypocrite I had been and wanted nothing more to do with it. I no longer wished to impress them or receive their accolades of how good a teacher I was (I have received many of these and lapped up the praise). I simply turned and went to the main entrance. The teacher came with my things and then another teacher came out to me, someone I had had many laughs with. He was serious-minded this time - no humour any more. He went to a car parked right outside the entrance, an old Mercedes Benz that had been rebuilt like a tank to make it last. But now it was clapped out and he pushed it away. I realised that that was the life-vehicle I had used in the world when I had been a teacher. I was no longer wanted or needed there.
I left, totally disgusted by the whole worldly set-up and woke up relieved and at peace inside. I had finally seen through the lie I had been bound up in. There was nothing there for me anymore and even though I was, for the world's point of view, dressed up in rags, I was at least free and seeking the Kingdom first in my life.
So I am glad we have another Sabbath day today. I have enjoyed every day of Chag haMatazah, knowing that Yahweh appointed it for me for a wise purpose. There was one day when I started to feel the 'pull' of worldliness until I realised that what my spirit wanted was not the world but an eternal Chag haMatazah. Isn't the Millennium an eternal Sabbath? Shouldn't we desire this special set-apartness all the time? Isn't that the whole point of these festivals? If it is unnatural for us, then it is because we have not left the world; and if we have not left the world then we cannot gather into firstborn colonies, let alone build them.
The day of repentance is not over, brethren and sisters. If their have been tugs within you to 'get back' to the time before Chag haMatzah, then you have missed the point. And if you resent this extra Sabbath, then you likely have an idolatry issue to deal with.
I have realised that Chag haMatazah is also a picture of the Millennium. At the end of it, the demonic host are released one last time to test mankind, to see what we are really built on. This Sabbath day given by Yahweh has been given so that you can test yourself to see what you have become made of. Tomorrow we metaphorically 'return to the world'. How will we fare? What will we have learned? Have we grown spiritually this Chag haMatazah? These are questions we must answer individually. What we say is important. I will speak more of this tomorrow.
May Yahweh bless this last day of Chag haMatzah with an intense realistion of where we stand. Amen.
This page was created on 5 June 2005
Last updated on 5 June 2005
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