Exodus 12:14and20-13:3-10 ~ 20110220 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/20 Exodus 12:14-20; 13:3-10 Feast of Unleavened Bread
Last week we looked at God's redemption of Israel out of Egypt by a strong hand. God's final blow against Egypt was the death of all their firstborn. Pharaoh had refused to free Israel, God's firstborn. So God promised to kill Pharaoh's firstborn. But God provided a way of escape. Come under the blood of the lamb and you are safe. The lamb died in the place of the firstborn. So every firstborn that survived the exodus belonged to God because God provided a substitute. We are doubly his; his by creation and we were bought with a price. God gives a reminder of his ownership of all of life by demanding that every firstborn be given to him. Every firstborn that was fit to be eaten or offered was to be sacrificed to him. All that were unclean or unfit were either to be redeemed by the substitute sacrifice of a clean animal, or destroyed. God demands that we acknowledge his right of ownership over everything by surrendering part of what he has given us back to him.
Exodus chapter 13 begins (v.1-2) with God's requirement of the firstborn and concludes (v.11-16) with more detailed instructions about the firstborn, but sandwiched in the middle (v.3-10) is a section about the feast of unleavened bread. How does this all fit together?
What can we learn from this? Connected with paragraphs about the redemption of the firstborn by a substitute sacrifice, there is instruction about a period of time that no leavened bread is allowed.
In chapter 12, instructions for the feast of unleavened bread come sandwiched between God's promise of deliverance for all who come under the blood, and instructions to go select and kill the passover lamb and apply its blood. Look back at chapter 12:
So we have in chapter 12, 'when I see the blood I will pass over you and no plague will befall you to destroy you … observe the feast of unleavened bread … Go and select lambs for yourselves … kill the passover lamb, dip it in the blood … touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood.'
And in chapter 13, we have 'Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine. ...Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you , and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. … you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. … Every firstborn of man among yours sons you shall redeem.'
Consequences are Severe
What is the connection between the passover sacrifice and the feast of unleavened bread? What is the connection between God's right to the firstborn and the feast of unleavened bread? Notice also that the consequences for eating leavened bread are severe:
The consequences are severe – cut off from the community. The connections are interesting – the blood of the lamb and God's ownership of us.
The feast of unleavened bread is a memorial – a sign and a memorial – that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. It is to be a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. We are commanded to remember. Remember the day in which you were brought out of the house of slavery by the strong hand of the Lord. It is also a teaching opportunity. Remember what the Lord did for you, and tell your son on that day 'it is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt'. It is a memorial for you and a teaching opportunity to pass this truth on to the coming generation.
What is Leaven?
But why unleavened bread? Why is no leaven allowed? Why such sever consequences for eating anything leavened? Initially, it was a practical necessity in the hurried expulsion from Egypt – they didn't have time for the extended process of making leavened bread and letting it rise before baking. That's the practical and historical reason. But leaven has a symbolic significance in Scripture. Let's first look at the significance of leaven in the Scriptures. Then we may see the connection with the passover sacrifice and the consecration of the firstborn.
In the sacrificial system that God gave Israel to make atonement for their sins, no leaven was allowed.
In Matthew 13 (cf. Lk.13) Jesus told three parables; about birds and weeds and leaven – all bad. His point was that in this age, there will be genuine children of the kingdom and there will be sons of the evil one – causes of sin and law-breakers - all mixed together until the final separation at the end of the age. In Matthew 16, he warns his disciples to be ware of the leaven, or teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Luke 12, he says this leaven is hypocrisy.
Leavened bread was made by mixing a starter or a fermented piece of dough saved from the last batch of bread into the new dough. ***Funk&Wagnall's dictionary defines fermentation as “The gradual decomposition of organic compounds induced by the action of living organisms...” The bacteria that cause fermentation actually eat away at the sugars in the dough and give off a gas that inflates or puffs up the dough. So leaven in bread introduces fermentation, which is a process of decomposition or decay and death.
Leaven in Corinth
Six times in 1 Corinthians Paul warns against being 'puffed up' (fussiow; only 7 times in NT: 1Cor.4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; Col.2:18). This is literally what leaven does – it inflates the dough to several times its actual size. The danger he is warning against is being puffed up with pride. In chapter 5, Paul is confronting blatant sin among members that is being allowed and even embraced by the church. In verse 2, Paul says that they are arrogant or puffed up:
He goes on to confront their boasting and likens it to leaven:
So there is leavening influence of sin in the church that will permeate the whole church if not dealt with. We are being instructed that since Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, we really are a new, unleavened lump. The transformation has happened through what Jesus did for us. We must act like what we already are in Christ. We are transformed, not as a result of our own efforts, but as a result of Christ's efforts for us. We are given a new nature. We are exhorted to live consistently with that new nature.
This helps us make the connection in Exodus between us being set apart to God, belonging to God, because we have been purchased by God with the blood of the lamb, and celebrating and remembering with unleavened bread. God brought us out from the house of slavery by a strong hand – I remember what the Lord did for me. I have been set free from sin. Having been set free I must live consistently with my freedom. This is not how to gain your freedom. This is how to be who you are now that you have been bought by Christ.
The passover lamb was to be selected on the 10th day of the month. The lamb was to be observed from the 10th to the 14th. The lamb was to be killed at twilight on the 14th and on the 15th began the seven day feast of unleavened bread. This symbolic cleansing out of sin was to be in response to the completed sacrifice and the provided deliverance. Because we have escaped God's just wrath by coming under the blood, we respond by purging out the elements of decay.
We belong to God as his creation, and we have been redeemed, or bought with the price of a substitute sacrificed in our place, so because we are doubly owned by God, we get rid of that which causes decomposition.
This is the fruit of holiness is produced by Christ's finished work of redeeming love.
Why call it a Feast?
Why call it a feast? Going without something you normally enjoy is usually called a fast, not a feast. And the severity of the consequences – we're going to have a party, but if you eat the wrong thing, we will cut you off and throw you out. That seems a bit harsh for a feast. Again, I think we can get some help here from Paul's use of this in 1 Corinthians:
So the old leaven, he defines, as the leaven of boasting, malice and evil. Who wants that at the party? Get rid of pride, the disposition to do evil and the active participation in evil. Get rid of what causes decay and decomposition. That will affect and infect the whole thing. We can truly celebrate with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. There is freedom in authenticity and a genuine desire to do what is good and right.
We often have a distorted conception of freedom. We think we're not free unless all the options are open to us. Let's say you have a nice new ¾ ton four wheel drive diesel pickup truck. This thing will give you the freedom to go off-road into places you never would have dreamed of taking the family mini-van. Freedom! But there's this tiny little sticker on the dash that is trying to steal your freedom and kill your joy. It says “diesel fuel only”. That's so limiting! Especially when unleaded is cheaper and available at so many more places. I'm just gonna peel that little freedom-crushing sticker right off and start pumping in the unleaded. In fact, I'm just going to throw off all restraint and get out the garden hose and pump some good old H2O into my gas tank. Now that's freedom. Freedom to do whatever I feel like doing. Freedom to wreck your investment. Freedom to sit by the side of the road and wait for the tow-truck. Freedom to be called a fool by anyone who knows anything about trucks. You see, that little sticker was intended by the one who designed the vehicle to give you the parameters inside which the truck will operate correctly. Violating the design engineer's instructions is not freedom; it is catastrophic.
We want the freedom to do the things that are off limits to us. We need a change in perspective. What we should want is freedom from the things that cause decay and decomposition. Freedom from the things that will cause our engine to seize up so that we can live the human life to the full, so that we can get the maximum pleasure we were designed to enjoy. The author of Hebrews urges us:
Peter warns us of false teachers promising phony freedom:
Sin is slavery, not freedom. Holiness is true freedom to live the abundant life. Holiness, being set apart from sin and to God is the way to extract the maximum capacity of joy and true pleasure out of this life. Eternal life that Jesus promises is not merely a definition of length, but of quality. Paul gives us detailed instructions on how to walk in this blood-bought newness of life in Romans 6:
Remember, freedom from sin comes as a result of the once-for-all sin-bearing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as our substitute. As a result and because of what he has done, we can enjoy the feast of freedom.
Because Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us, we can celebrate true freedom - freedom from death and decay, freedom to be what God created us to be, freedom to run the race, freedom to really live, freedom to seize the maximum pleasures and joy offered to us by our Creator who invented all the good things he longs for us to enjoy.