This spring festival season can make a difference in our lives. We need to prepare our hearts to seek God with all of our heart. God will hear, God will see, and God will respond just as He did for ancient Israel.
Brethren, I wonder if you've ever stopped to think about how different true Christians are when they obey God and keep these holy days , the difference it makes in what we say, what we do. We stand out from people around us in society perhaps more than we realize. Let's think of the terminology we use and think of the terminology that Christendom uses in general when it describes its holidays and when we talk about God's Holy Days. There's a completely different set of vocabulary. Let me illustrate:
Well, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We've all heard that before. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Do you have all your Christmas shopping done yet? Don't you hate this time of the year? The stores are so crowded and people spend so much money. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years. What about your family this year? Are you planning a big family reunion? Are you going to have a family dinner? Have you put your tree up yet? What about Christmas plays and carols? You know, are your children involved in those type of activities? Are you going to decorate your house this year?
"How many Valentines did you get at school this year, sweetie? I bet that little red-headed girl's sweet on you."
"And, Mommy, can I help find the Easter eggs? I haven't been able to find any yet, or can I help you dye the Easter eggs and hide them this year?"
"You know, last year we dressed up like devils. This year we'd like to dress up like space aliens."
Now that's some of the talk, some of the terminology that you hear going on in what we would normally call Christendom. Compare that with the conservation a true Christian might be having surrounding God's Holy Days.
"Well, I'm sure glad that God's given us a proper understanding on which day to observe Pentecost. Do you know how to count Pentecost? At what age should my children start fasting on the Day of Atonement? When did your children start fasting? What kind of problems did they have? Well, let me tell you about the first time I ever fasted on the Day of Atonement. Can you believe that the Feast of Trumpets is going to be so late this year? Where are you going to go to the feast this year? Have you decided yet? Well, we decided not to travel overseas this year. We're going to attend in Lexington . Well, we've got extra second tithe so I think this is the last year; we're going to start a family; we're going to go to Australia and that's where we're going to keep the feast.
Also contrast the worldly holidays with this time of the year for true Christians. We're talking about the season that we're just entering into. You hear this type of talk: "What day's the Passover on this year? Boy, it's late this year when you stop and think about 8:15. Where will you be observing the Night to be Much Observed? Are you going to keep it at home, going to go to a restaurant, go to somebody else's house? Where can I buy Matzos? I really like egg and onion Matzos, you know, those are my favorite. I need to examine myself and prepare for the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Do you have your house unleavened yet?"
Now, probably that last statement is the one that most people would wonder about in the world. "What do you mean, do you have your house unleavened, yet?" They wouldn't even know what leavening is and to have it unleavened. What you find cleaning for the Days of Unleavened Bread, preparing your house, is not something that the average person in society focuses on. They're focusing on the Easter bunny, Easter eggs, chocolate eggs, you know, anything along that line. We know, we understand that not everybody understands, comprehends, has their minds opened like we do today. Eventually they will and they'll have the opportunity to do what we do. As we know, there will come a time when every human being will be called by God, will have an opportunity to keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. And just stop and think about what a world it would be if everyone were doing what we're doing, if everybody were keeping the Passover.
God commands us to do things that might be called foolish by this world, but I want you to notice back in the book of Hosea 2:13, that God very clearly says that there's going to come a time when God will take out of Israel's vocabulary the name of Baal, and everything that is associated with Baal and the customs surrounding him.
Hosea 2:13 - "I will punish her for the days of (the) Baals to which she has burned incense. She decked herself with (her) earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, and she forgot me, says the Lord." So many people think that they're doing God's will, when in essence they're not following God, but the way of Baal.
Verse 14 - "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, (I) will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.
Verse 15 - "I will give her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt."So God shows that in the future that He is going to call and give Israel an opportunity to understand.
Verse 16 - "And it shall be, in that day, says the Lord, ( that ) you will call Me 'My Husband,' and no longer call Me 'My Master,'
Verse 17 - And " (For) I will take from her mouth the names of (the) Baal(s)...." Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and a lot of other things will not even be named at that time. "And they shall be remembered by their name no more.
Verse 18 - And "In that day I will make a covenant (for) with them with the beasts of the field(s), with the birds of the air, and (with) the creeping things of the ground." And there will be a time that will be totally unlike anything that we know today. So, brethren, there are many valuable lessons that you'll find that God wants us as true servants to learn when we keep His holy days and when we obey Him, and I think the spring holy days certainly fit into that description.
Today I want to show you something. I'd like to cover seven lessons that I have learned through the years from cleaning for the Days of Unleavened Bread. I don't think there's anybody here maybe above the age of one or two who hasn't spent some time preparing for and getting ready for the spring holy days. And I think after decades and decades of doing what I'm going to be describing here. I think there are lessons that we learn and I'd like to share with you what I've learned.
I would say probably that most of you can write down maybe several other lessons, many other things that you might think of, but these are the things that come to my mind. Number one: One of the first lessons you'll find in de-leavening your house is - getting leaven out is hard work. Putting leavening out of your home is very hard work. The more you put it off, the harder it is to get it done. It takes concerted effort and grunt work to be able to clean it out. I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but I strongly get the feeling that few of us really put the effort, or as much effort into cleaning as we did at one time; that it used to be something that maybe a lot of work went into. I remember some people would get a toothbrush out, clean their toasters, clean their ovens, and really work at it. And maybe we stressed the physical so much at that time that we overlooked the spiritual, and it's very easy to do that. But perhaps we've gone to another extreme in that we don't clean enough to learn the spiritual lessons.
There are spiritual lessons that we learn from doing physical things. You know, God gives us physical things to help us learn spiritual lessons. Why does God say, "Immerse somebody in water when they're baptized?" Why not dry-clean them? Why not sprinkle them? Why not just pour? Well immersion, going under the water teaches us a lesson, death and burial of the old man, rising up to live a new life. What about the laying on of hands? Why not just pray for somebody? Why lay hands on them? Why put oil on their forehead? That's a physical thing and yet God says, "Do that if you want to be healed."
What about foot washing? Can't we learn the lesson of humility without washing somebody's feet? You can, but I think God emphasizes this to teach us a lesson. The bread and the wine at the Passover - we could just simply read the scriptures and say, "Okay, I trust in Christ's sacrifice." But God says, "No." You watch a minister up on the stage take unleavened bread and break it and realize that that's what happened to Christ's body. And then wine is divided and you realize that Christ shed His blood and that that wine is a symbol of. Putting leavening out of our homes is also is another thing that God gives us to do and by so doing we learn lessons.
Let me remind you what leavening is. I don't think anybody woke up overnight and forgot, but just so that we are all on the same page, there are three basic words in the Hebrew that you'll find that we normally look at when it comes to leavening. One is mechametz , is the word mechametz, and it's a Hebrew word referring to leavening agents or substances that are used to puff up or produce fermentation. Examples today would be yeast, bicarbonate of soda or what we could call baking soda, and baking powder. Another word is chametz and in Hebrew it's related to the first word. It's foods that have been leavened. Any food that has been leavened, that has put leavening in it and caused it to leaven. All foods that leaven has caused to rise. The third is s he-ohd – sourdough – a naturally fermenting yeasty batter.
Now let's notice, let's go back here to Exodus 13:3, I want you to notice that God does command us to put leavening out of our homes. It is something that God says to do and God doesn't do things without a reason, without a purpose.
Exodus 13:3 - "And Moses said to the people: ' Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you up out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.
Verse 4 - " 'On this day you are going out, in the month of Abib.
Verse 5 - " 'And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, (and) the Hittites, (and) the Amorites and (the) Hivites, (and the) Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month.
Verse 6 - " 'Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.
Verse 7 - " 'Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all of your quarters.' " So the leavening is to be gotten out of your quarters, your house.
Verse 8 - "And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up (from) out of Egypt .' " God commands us, all of us who have children to teach our children why we keep these days, the purpose behind these days, the purpose of the physical rituals that we do go through.
Verse 9 - And "it shall be as a sign to you on your hand and (as) a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord's law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you up out of Egypt.
Verse 10 - "You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year." And we have come to that time of the year, as we know, when God commands us to keep this. Now in Exodus 12:19, just one other scripture, as I mentioned that one of the words, chametz says foods that have been leavened.
Exodus 12:19 - God says, " For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since who(m) ever eats what is leavened,..." in other words, food that has been leavened, " ... that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel , whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.
Verse 20 – "You shall eat nothing leavened; in all of your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread. " So we are told then to put the leavening out, and as I said, this is difficult work. It's not easy work. We're to put out any product containing a leavening agent or leavening itself. Leavening, as I mentioned, being things like yeast, baking soda, baking powder. A question always comes up about certain items like Brewers' Yeast is dead; you don't have to put it out. Cream of tartar by itself is not a leavening agent, only when it's mixed with egg whites. Yeast extracts are not yeast agents. You find sometimes these things in dog food, cat food, these kinds of things. I wouldn't take cat food and try to leaven anything with it. It's an extract, and those things you don't have to chuck.
The book of Exodus, when you go back to the book of Exodus it shows how difficult and how hard it was for the Israelites to come out of Egypt . You know it just didn't happen instantly. Moses came to the Israelites and said, "God sent me to lead you out of Egypt ."
They didn't say, "Okay, we'll meet you tomorrow over here by the pyramid and we'll march out." Didn't happen that way. They witnessed ten plagues and they watched the grip the pharaoh had on them tighten. You know, the more the plagues came the more difficult it became. It wasn't like falling off of a log for them to get out of Egypt .
A lot went into bringing them out of Egypt, which is a type of our coming out of sin. Their exiting Egypt is a type of our coming out of this world and coming out of sin. A lot of people lost their lives, all the first born as an example, to impress upon the Israelites the significance of coming out of sin. God wanted to emphasize that. You have to realize the tremendous price that was paid to bring us out of sin. And the supreme price was the life of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, not only who gave His life, but the fashion in which He gave His life where He was crucified, where He was beaten and tortured so that our sins might be covered.
It is not easy for us to come out of sin and God, though, has made it possible. Let's go back to the book of Hebrews 12:1-4. What we find is putting leavening out of our homes is not an easy job; putting sin out of our lives is not an easy job. One should illustrate the other to us. It says,
Hebrews 12:1 - " Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and (the) sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Our race is not a hundred yard dash, it's a long distance race and we have to run with endurance and it mentions here, "...the sin that (which) so easily besets us...,
Verse 2 – "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Verse 3 – " For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." It is easy to become weary with the struggles that we go through, the fights we have to put up, but notice -
Verse 4 – " You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." None of us have done like Christ did to pray three times, an hour each time where His sweat was like drops of blood against sin, "...striving against sin." And Christ strove and prayed to God.
Brethren, when it comes to putting leavening out, it's hard work, it takes elbow grease to uncover and scrub away all of that leavening and the same thing is true when it comes to working against sin. It takes a step-by-step, organized process. When it comes to cleaning, I'm sure that each one of you probably has a system worked out; my wife does. We normally start in the area furtherest away from where the food is and clean it up and you begin to narrow down, narrow down, narrow down until you get down... Okay, you cannot eat anything that has leavening in it except in this kitchen and then there comes a day when that kitchen is clean and you can't eat anything, you know it's got to be out.
I remember a bachelor friend of mine; he was a bachelor years ago when this took place. He found it very difficult, you talk about hard work to clean his stove. He did not have a self-cleaning stove at that time and every year he was confronted with this problem, so he found a simple solution. Every year he gave his stove away to Goodwill. Now I don't necessarily advise that, and he went out and bought another one. And then next year he would give that away and he went out and bought another one. Now that was his way of dealing with it. Now most of you ladies I'm sure are very thankful for self-cleaning ovens. I can remember my wife coming home at night, twelve o'clock, one o'clock from visiting and she's sitting up with her elbows in the oven scraping and cleaning and trying to get an oven clean and today, you know, it can be a lot easier.
I do believe that during this time of the year God wants us to have a deep cleansing, not just a superficial wiping. It takes more than a lick and a promise to get rid of sin. And let me remind you this is a family activity. So often I've heard over the years, where well, the wives end up doing ninety-five per cent of the cleaning. There is a husband in every family, that, where there is a husband. If you're married and you've got a husband, and you've got children, they all need to help. Everybody needs to be able to learn this lesson. This isn't a lesson God's trying to teach the women and not the rest of the family. So we find putting leavening out is hard.
A second point is, it's amazing where you'll find leavening. It's amazing where you can discover this stuff hiding. You can find leavening in such unexpected places that it's amazing how easy it shows up. You know when you begin to de-leaven your house, your garage, your car, any property you own, it's surprising where you find it.
I remember a gentleman in the church once who relayed a story to me. He was cleaning his car out and he'd cleaned his car out and he thought, "Well, I'll take my spare tire out, clean under it." But the spare tire bolt had rusted so he got WD-40, he got grease, he got hammers, wrenches. He worked and hammered and so on, on this; almost gave up, but finally it gave and he took the thing out and what do you think he found under there? He found some crackers. Now how crackers got under his spare tire, he has no idea, but they were under there. Now sometimes leaven gets locked in and it's hard to find, it's hard to get to, and it's difficult to get rid of. Now that's maybe a lesson you can learn from that.
It sounds like sin, doesn't it? Mr. Armstrong used to say, "The hardest thing for us as human beings to do," is what? To admit when we're wrong, to simply say, "Yes, I'm wrong." I'm sorry, or I've sinned and to admit it and to go away from it.
The Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread give us a chance for self-analysis, to be able to look at ourselves. I can remember my wife going through an old purse, you know she has these old purses lined up on the shelf, and going through an old purse and it's amazing what you'll find in an old purse. It's amazing what I have found in the pockets of my suits. You know, for some reason you've stuck crackers in there, you've stuck "who knows what" and you forget about it completely and begin to look at it.
I remember one time we thought we had everything cleaned and we said, "Well let's just look under the bed." One of our sons had put an old peanut butter sandwich or something up under the bed and how it got there.... Oh, I know my wife didn't put it under there and I didn't put it under there, so it had to be one of our children who put it under there. So what you'll find is sometimes you find leaven in the most unexpected places. Reminds you of Jeremiah 17:9 , doesn't it? It says,
Jeremiah 17:9 – "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it..."Every one of us could put our autograph next to that verse. I mean I can write my name in there, when it says the heart, "Roy Holladay," I mean, just stick your name in there, because it describes all of us.
Now the next verse goes on and says that God searches the heart and He tests us. God knows the truth about all of us. You see, when it comes to God, who do we think we're kidding? When it comes to God, He knows who we are. He knows us better than we do, and sometimes when it comes to God we try to hide things even from God. He knows all of our sins, He knows our attitudes, He knows sometimes that we have difficulty seeing things. It's amazing sometimes how certain attitudes, certain approaches are there, and we refuse to acknowledge them or see them, or we simply don't see them we're so blinded to them. That's the one thing about our human nature.
God does not reveal everything to us at once. What if God called you into the church and the first thing He did was to back a dump truck up and pull it open and dump tons of garbage on us and when you dug yourself out you'd say, "What's this?"
And God says, "That's you. You know, those are your sins." God doesn't do that to us. God reveals enough to us to realize, yes, we need to change and we are sinners, and as time goes on, God reveals a little more. He doesn't dump the whole load on us at one time. We're not always aware and we don't always realize, we're not always cognizant of what we're doing. If we were, hopefully we would stop those things.
It's like as I remember one time as a student at Ambassador College , this was several years ago; several of us were going to see a movie; this was during the Days of Unleavened Bread, so being college students, we got hungry. We went into this restaurant, we sat down and we all ordered hamburgers and we're sitting there, we're talking and they bring our hamburgers out and all at once I think it dawned on every one of us, Days of Unleavened Bread and hamburgers, the two do not go together. There's something wrong with this picture. So, we put the bread over on the side and got our meat patty and we ate our meat patty, but it's something that I've thought of many times, that it's like sins, you know, a lot of times they're there right in front of us and we just don't see them. It didn't dawn on us until, bang, it sort of hit us in the face. Let's notice in Psalm 19:12 where David deals with what I'm talking about here. It says -
Psalm 19:12 – "Who can understand his errors? ..."You know, who can understand his fault, his errors, his sins? Then he says, "Cleanse me from (my) secret faults." We need to pray and ask that God would cleanse us, that God would take away from us our secret faults, things that we don't see, even ourselves.
Verse 13 – "Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;" (or arrogant sins, as it means) "let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression." You and I don't want sin to have dominion over us.
Remember Genesis 4:7? Remember that God said to Cain, " It's," talking about sins," desire is for you, but you shall rule over it." God says that we are to rule over the sins, that they are not to have dominion over us. So He went on to say in –
Verse 14 – "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your (thy) sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer." So again, we need to make sure that we can find our secret sins, those things that we had no idea were there, but when they are pointed out, you know, we stumble across them. We try to get rid of them. When God looks into our secret compartments, into our hidden chambers, what does He find? You see He knows what we're like so we can't fool Him.
Okay, another point concerning "Lessons I have learned Concerning Putting Leavening out." Cleaning, house cleaning, car cleaning, garage cleaning, whatever you want to call it, makes you more aware of leavening, makes you more aware of it. You become more crumb conscious. You become more sin conscious, so to speak. Our physical actions help us to focus on leavening. Most of the year we don't even think about it, but during this period of time leading up to it we begin to focus more on leavening, which should help us to focus more on sin. That's the whole purpose behind it, to get us to focus on sin.
As I said to start with, we don't want to go to an extreme that we're so worn out from housecleaning that we don't have time to examine ourselves, but neither should we do it so lightly that we don't learn the lesson from it. As we clean, we need to reflect on what we're doing, we just don't do it rotely, we reflect on it. Sometimes we become so busy that we don't stop and give attention to overcoming, we don't stop and give attention to what we need to be doing.
I know that many of us, every time the Passover comes around, that time of the year, seems like there's more pressure that we're faced with, more trials. It seems like sometimes we have major trials and tests. I remember one year in the local church area, we had a baby die, a woman commit suicide, and a woman run off into the woods naked by her husband who was not in the church. These were major trials in a little church area right before the Passover.
The same is true of the Israelites when they came up in the first Passover. There were nine plagues leading up to the tenth plague or the death angel and the Passover. I'll guarantee you that after all they saw and went through, when they were huddled in the corner of their rooms with the blood on the door and the doorpost, when the death angel passed over, that it had a deep impact on their lives. It had to have a deep impact when they saw the first born of the Egyptians who had died.
Spiritual cleaning should give us the incentive to purge ourselves deeply and to look into an area of our lives that we need to change. Romans 3:23 we're all aware of, that -
Romans 3:23 – "... all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." We all fall short of the mark. We all miss the mark, we all have secret sins, hidden sins that we need to be aware of, ferret out, get rid of. How many times do you go through your pantry reading labels and you're absolutely surprised to find leavening in a product that you were not aware of? Well, we've had that happen many times.
You think you've got it all down pat. You know you say, "There's absolutely nothing in this pantry that would have leavening in it," and then you look and you're unaware that maybe something has leavening in it. Even some Matzos, as you know, have leavening in it, so you've got to be careful and make sure that when you buy Matzos that they don't have leavening in them.
The same is true in our lives. When we examine closely we find that there is sins, that there are faults, there are areas that need to be gotten rid of, and that we need to overcome. Okay, so cleansing your house, cleaning your house can make you more aware of leavening.
Let's move on to another point, another lesson I've learned. That is, you can do as much or as little cleaning as you desire. You can do as much or you can do as little, and over the years we've sort of used this period of time, I want to call it spring housekeeping or cleaning, the house needs a good cleaning anyway, and so you just sort of clean it from top to bottom.
Sometimes people are on fire and do a good job. Sometimes people give it a "lick and a miss." The question we need to ask ourselves is, "Do we see a need for a deep spiritual cleansing or are we simply content with ourselves as the way we are?" James 1 gives us a warning and admonition.
James 1:23 – " For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
Verse 24 – "(for) he observes himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
Verse 25 – "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, that (this) one shall (will) be blessed in what he does." So what you'll find is that God wants us to look into His law. It's like a mirror. I mean, where are you going to find what your sins are except in the word of God. You look into God's word, it reveals to you what your sins are, and then you can change. That's not a negative thing, that's a very positive thing. None of us want something to keep us out of the kingdom, so the more we can become like God, the happier we should be. The more we can be like God, the more we can imitate God, the more we can walk as God walks, think as God thinks, the more we can have an attitude like God then the better off we are.
Remember, these aren't just days for us to get together. These days should make an impact on our lives. They should bring us into a higher relationship with God, but its up to us how much effort we put forward. We can put as little effort forward or as much effort. In Matthew 13:3 , we find here the parable of the sower. But let's read verse 23 –
Matthew 13:23 – It says, "But he who received seed on the good ground (that's all of us, hopefully) is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."
Brethren, God wants us to bear much fruit. God wants us to bring forth fruit. He wants us to overcome. Remember Luke 19 ? Let's go back there, Luke 19:12 , the parable of the pounds, that there was a young, rich man, a nobleman, Luke 19 says -
Luke 19:12 - "...A (certain) nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom,..." talking about Christ, who went to heaven.
Verse 13 – " And ( So) he called ten of his servants...," and He gave to each one of them a mina, you could say a pound or a dollar, or whatever. " He said (to them,) 'Do business till I come.' "Some of them did business, like trading, gained ten pounds, some gained five, and one went and hid what he had been given.
Now the ones who took overcoming, who took growth seriously, they were the ones who were given responsibilities in the kingdom, some over ten cities, some over five cities, depending on how much they overcame, how much they grew. The one who did nothing, it's very doubtful that he would even be in the kingdom of God. God says that He wants us to grow; He wants us to overcome, so we need to take seriously getting the leavening out of our lives.
Okay, that brings you to another point. Point five; I have in my notes and that is, "Cleaning Makes You Ponder the Alternative." What is the alternative if you don't clean your house at least occasionally, but especially at this time of the year? What if you just leave the dirt there, or leave the leavening in, so to speak? What is the alternative of leaving the leavening in? You know, back in Exodus 12:8, even on the Passover it says –
Exodus 12:8 – "Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it." So even the Passover, unleavened bread was used at the time.
What would have happened to the Israelites if they had not followed God's instructions because God gave them specific instructions on what to do on that evening? Blood on the doorpost, what happened if they didn't put blood on the doorpost? Well, they would have been killed. What would have happened if they didn't kill the lamb or eat the unleavened bread? You know, there's not much said about that but God was looking to see if they were willing to obey, if they were willing to do what they were asked to do.
What is the alternative for us if we leave the leavening in, if we leave the leavening in our lives? What is the ultimate outcome of it? You know, leaven in the Old Testament was not baking soda or baking powder like we have. It was not what we would call clean leavening. They used yeast spores. Most of the bread they had was more like a sourdough type of bread. They used yeast spores that were produced during a process of fermentation.
Due to the rotting process of fermentation, the yeast could become dangerous. In other words the process could become contaminated and sometimes it did, and even deadly, and what they would do is they would make bread and they would have a starter to put the new dough in. They would take a pinch out of what was there and they would keep it back so that when they were going to make another loaf, they would have a starter to stick into that dough so they could have risen bread. Annually they had to burn what they had, they had to burn the old starter, the old leavening and start fresh all over and in Israel after the days of unleavened bread there was a fresh start.
Now I think the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread give us a chance to have a new beginning too, a fresh start, so to speak to start out fresh and clean. It's sobering to realize God's way to deal with leavening was to burn it. That's how you got rid of it, you burned it.
People always ask the question, "What about the 'world tomorrow,' what about the millennium when everybody's observing the Days of Unleavened Bread? What do you do with your leavening?" Can't put it on the other person's property because he's going to move it and put it back on your property. Can't give it to the garbage man because it's going to be dumped on somebody else's property. Well, in the millennium they'll do what ancient Israel did, they will burn it, that's how they got rid of it. There are different ways of getting rid of it. You can put it in a fire and you can burn it and you can destroy it. That's how they would get rid of the old starter and make sure that they started out with a fresh one.
Revelation 21:7-8 tells us that there will come a time in the future when God will finally get rid of sin. The way He wants to get rid of sin is through repentance, forgiveness. You know, that's the price Christ's sacrifice covered, but if a person will not do that then –
Revelation 21:7 – "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Verse 8 – " But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." The second death is to be thrown into the lake of fire where you will be burned up and consumed and there will be no resurrection from that death. That's how God will ultimately expunge sin from the Earth. Those who refuse to go His way will simply be burnt up.
Back in Matthew 18 Christ uses an analogy that sometimes its difficult to understand. We'll begin to read in:
Matthew 18:7 – But notice, He says, "Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
Verse 8 - "If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, and to be cast into everlasting fire.
Verse 9 – "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire." The only trouble with this, you can cut your hands off, pluck your eyes out and you know what? You'll still sin because sin takes place in the mind. What He's emphasizing here, He's not saying mutilate the body, He's saying, "Cut the sin out. Get rid of it." Whatever it is, whatever measures it takes you'll get rid of that sin; cut it out, because it can have serious consequences.
You see God takes your sins seriously, so much so He gave His son so that our sins could be forgiven. He knows sin unrepented of can cause us to be burned up in the lake of fire. God does not want to see that happen. We have to put leaven out of our spiritual house or God will do it His way ultimately. It's going to be put out one way or the other, so it's better to put it out now.
So what's the alternative of leaving leavening in? Well, we don't want to face that. We want to make sure that we get rid of it.
Now the sixth lesson that I've learned – when you begin to put leavening out you realize how impossible it is to get it all out. Is there anybody here who can tell me that they've gotten every crumb out of their house every year? "I trow naught," or I don't think so. I don't think that happens. You clean and you clean but you realize that there's still leaven in places that maybe you didn't realize you have oversight.
I remember my brother-in-law was given a toaster for a wedding gift, so very dutifully the First Day of Unleavened Bread came around and he spent hours literally shaking, blowing, vacuuming, scraping, attacking that poor defenseless toaster. He got his toothbrush out. He thought maybe he had every crumb but we took a closer look at it and we found there were crumbs in hidden recesses. He got rid of his toaster, threw it away. Now I don't know if he got one for years after that. He thought it was just too hard.
Well, what you find, you begin to realize that there's a lesson that God wants us to learn and part of that lesson, that it's impossible for you and me to get rid of every sin. Matthew 19 , notice –
Matthew 19:25 – "When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, 'Who then can be saved,' " Who can be saved?" When you look at your sins, you know, when I look at my faults, my weaknesses, my sins, I begin to think, "How in the world can I ever be in God's kingdom." I mean, how can God accept us as human beings with the frailties and faults we have. But notice the encouraging words in Verse 26 –
Verse 26 – "... Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' " So with us it's impossible, with God, it's possible. What this points out to us, brethren, is simply God's mercy and God's grace that he extends to us because you and I go to God on a daily basis and get down and say, "Father, forgive me" and God extends grace to us, He extends forgiveness.
I have a revelation. This is a new revelation. You're not perfect, and another revelation, I'm not perfect. None of us really are. We are not complete spiritually yet. We have a lot of room for growth. We have a lot of room for maturity. God is concerned with attitude. When our attitude is that, "Well, I'm worthy," we're unworthy. When our attitude is that we're unworthy, we can become worthy because of God's mercy and the fact that we have to realize that we have to throw ourselves on God's grace and God's forgiveness.
You know, back in I Corinthians 11:27, notice instructions that Paul gave -
I Corinthians 11:27 – He says, " Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
Verse 28 – "But let a man examine himself, (and) so let him eat of the bread and drink of that (the) cup." And so we're told to examine ourselves and then -
Verse 31 – "... if we would judge ourselves," in other words, if we would examine ourselves, "...we would not be judged." If we look at ourselves and we take the BIBLE, the scriptures and we go through it and we look at ourselves and find out what we need to do, then we don't have to be corrected by God,
Verse 32 – "But when we are judged," in other words when we are corrected, " we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." God does not want us condemned with this world. He wants us in His kingdom and He will go to whatever lengths it takes to get us there. And He will work with us.
So brethren, what we need to do is that we cannot do it on our own. It's only through the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that you and I can be cleansed of our sins, as we know, and that's what the Passover pictures. God's way of dealing with sin is through forgiveness and then Christ living in us to help us to overcome. You and I cannot do it on our own, it takes Christ in us and it takes God's forgiveness and we are all very much aware of how far short we come.
What God is looking for is a repentant attitude, a repentant approach, and if we have that, you know, then God can work with us.
That brings us to the last point I have here, point number seven on "Lessons That I Have Learned Cleaning My House," that is, it feels good to get the leavening out. It feels good to get the house clean. It feels good to be able to stand back and say, "Wow, you know this is the cleanest this house has been in months. And you know that you've gone through the house and you've given it a thorough cleaning, but its hard work, its tedious work, but you feel that you've accomplished a great deal, even though you know that you may not have every crumb out. Still the house is a lot cleaner than it was before. You feel clean.
Spiritually, when we do battle with ourselves, we do battle with sins, we can end worries, frustration, we can remove guilt. You know, examining the self, as I said, can be very positive because number one, it shows us that God's still concerned for us and He's willing to reveal to us. I mean, if God weren't concerned for us He wouldn't reveal to us what we need to change. So God will reveal to us anything that needs to be changed that's not like Him so we can become more like Him.
But in examining ourselves also, we can see where we have changed, because over a period of a year, you know what happens? You do change. You do grow. There are things that you have overcome, and so a part of the examining process is a very positive thing where you can look at yourself, assess, "Well, I was this way last year. I've changed that this year" and you see how you grow.
I think of our children, God gives us our children, is a good example of this, and remember; we're all children of God. What happens to a child? It never stays the same, does it? It's always growing, always maturing. You have children, they go through growth spurts – what do they do? Well, they grow. I can remember between my fifth and sixth grade I grew six inches one summer, went from five, three to around five, nine and I grew two or three sizes as far as my feet were concerned. I have a twin sister. She and I were both five, three. She's still five, three. I just sort of shot by her at that point and you know, those type of things happen, but they're there. A child never stays the same, it may stop growing upwards and outwards, you know, this way but they're always learning, they're always growing, and as they go through school they mature, they grow, they learn until finally they become responsible adults. They become mature.
And this is exactly the analogy that God gives us spiritually speaking. As we go through this life we're growing, we're just like a child. We're maturing, we're growing up and we're learning. And so, every year we learn and we ought to be able to assess ourselves and say, "Yes, here's an area I have changed in. I am growing, but I'm not like God completely yet so here are areas that I need to become like him."
And so God gives us this season of the year to help us to focus on becoming more like Him. You know, getting rid of leavening and cleaning our house is just a good by-product. Those things are there to help teach us a lesson.
It's like the gentleman I talked about with the tire, when he'd put forth all the effort to get that rusty tire. You know what happened later on, he was out on the road and had a flat, and if he'd had to get into his car and try to extricate that flat tire, he would have never gotten it out. So not only was it something that benefited him getting the leavening out, but it also was good preparation work. Sometimes we don't deal with things like this until a crisis comes along. You know, if a crisis came along and the flat tire happened he'd try to get the tire out, he'd have had trouble.
We need to deal with things before they become a crisis in our life and slowly but surely peck away at them. When you tackle a difficult sin and overcome you feel good and you begin to make progress, you feel good. It's like taking a shovel and throwing off guilt and frustration and you feel good. Now, again it's not something where we can pat ourselves on the back because growth, overcoming, any spiritual development has to do with Christ living in us with God's power. Remember in Matthew 11:28-30, Christ said –
Matthew 11:28 – "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Verse 29 – "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek (gentle) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest unto (for) your souls.
Verse 30 -" For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Ever feel like you're carrying the weight of the world around on your shoulders because we're burdened down with whatever faults, mistakes or guilt we might have? Guilt leads us to sin. When you feel guilty it leads you to repenting of sins, what I should say, but you shouldn't continue to feel guilty afterwards.
During the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Passover we get rid of that weight. We focus, we realize that we have a savior who died so that our sins can be forgiven, to help us clean up. And its reassuring at this time of the year to know that God is with us, that God is helping us, that He is there to strengthen us.
So in conclusion, brethren, I'd like to read a section out of II Chronicles 30, which I think in a sense sort of summarizes what we're talking about here. This is one of the most meaningful and moving Passovers and Days of Unleavened Bread recorded in the history of the BIBLE. II Chronicles 30, if you remember, now I'll sort of summarize and read a few verses.
In verse one, Hezekiah and the men in Judah had learned about the Passover and the holy days and they sent out letters instructing the people to keep the Passover. Now when they went out to some of the areas where some of the remnants from the house of Israel were, they were laughed to scorn, but not all of them. Many of the people got very excited about this understanding about the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
In verse seven they were exhorted not to be like their fathers, which transgressed against God.
Verse 8 – It says, "Now be you not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord; enter into His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you."
And then in verses eleven through thirteen, they all assembled in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Verse fourteen they began to take serious the charges. They began to make some changes. They destroyed the pagan altars. They began to do things and to clean up.
Verse fifteen they killed the Passover. Now in verse seventeen it says:
Verse 17 – "For there were many in the congregation (assembly) that were not (who had not) sanctified." They had not become sanctified, or set apart or consecrated to be able to take the Passover and observe the Days of Unleavened Bread. Therefore the Levites had charge of the killing of the Passover. For every one that was not clean, indication of, you know, that others were killing their own Passover. Those who were not cleansed, consecrated, sanctified had the Levites do it to sanctify them unto the Lord. Then verse 18 -
Verse 18 – "For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the Passover otherwise that it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'The (good) Lord God pardon every one,
Verse 19 - "' That prepares his heart to seek God,...'" I want you to notice, even though physically they were not sanctified, and this is what it's talking about, yet they were preparing their heart to seek God. And this is what God wants from us. "... the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary."
Verse 20 – "And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah and healed the people." God heard his prayer.
Verse 21 – "And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord." They got so wrapped up in the Days of Unleavened Bread that –
Verse 23 - "And the whole assembly (took) counseled to keep another seven days: and they kept another seven days with gladness." Seven days wasn't enough, so they wanted to keep fourteen days.
Verse 26 – "So there was great joy in Jerusalem : for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem ." Let me just stop and interject: What joy, what excitement should you and I receive. Here were people who did not understand the purpose of these days. They didn't understand the spiritual aspects that we do and yet they rejoiced that God had revealed to them again on how to keep these days and that they should keep them. And there was great gladness, the same should be said of us every year when God's holy days come around, that there's great joy and gladness and excitement that we have.
Verse 27 – "Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven." And God Himself heard and answered their prayers.
Brethren, this feast, this spring festival can make a difference in our lives. We need to prepare our hearts to seek God with all of our heart. God will hear, God will see, and God will respond just as He did for ancient Israel. God will respond for the Israel of God today, Spiritual Israel. And God will hear us, and He will answer. So brethren, I hope that we take the time and have the kind of feast that's literally a life altering Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.