Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

The feast of unleavened bread marks the time of the Israelites’ exit from the land of their captivity. It coincides with their deliverance - the Passover – when God passed over their lives on seeing the blood of the lamb upon their door posts.

What is the place of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in our lives as believers?

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was instituted by God as an everlasting observance for the Israelites – God always speaks and acts with a purpose. The major references to the feast are the following. ‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.’ (Exod 12:17) This is echoed in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy: ‘Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders.’(Exod 13:7) ‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. No one is to appear before me empty-handed.’ (Exod 23:15) ‘On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord's Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.’ (Lev 23:26). ‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.’ (Exod 34:18)' For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast ... eat this bread - the bread of suffering - so that as long as you live you will remember the day you departed from Egypt' (Deut 16:3).

It is true that the feast was appointed for Israel as a reminder of the time of the exodus from Egypt. Let us however consider the new covenant scriptures referring to the feast of unleavened bread in order to glean the meaning and significance of the observance and how it fits in with God’s plan unfolding for all who believe.

The gospels testify to the meaning of the feast in the life of a believer. 'On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" (Mark 14:12) – (see also parallels in Luke 22:7 and Matthew 26:17). Jesus observed the beginning of the feast with his disciples during the last supper. ‘And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) His command was for all who believe, Jew or gentile (1 Cor 11:24). The unleavened bread is a representation of his body – free of the leaven that is sin – broken for our sake, 'the bread of suffering'.

We find an exhortation by the apostle Paul to the church: ‘Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’ (1 Cor 5:8). In context with the preceding verses where the apostle urges believers to 'put away' the unrepentant from their midst, we see that the leaven/sin is in question here. The unleavened bread represents a spiritual truth of remembrance of deliverance and in turn the need for personal consecration.  In the letter to the Corinthians Paul again reminds believers of what was passed onto him‘…and when he (Jesus) had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."’ (1 Cor 11:24, cf Luke 22:19)

The Lord is our Passover lamb, without blemish; his body is the bread without leaven – he lived without sin, no leaven was part of him. We remember and partake at the appointed time purging the leaven which corrupts and desecrates. The remembrance and observance of the feast is so that we remember that we all were delivered out of the land of captivity and to renew our commitment to live as such.

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