Month Aviv 1:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:015 AM|
Passover Season Day #2/8,
CHAG HA-MATZAH (Unleavened Bread): Annual Moed #2
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 24 April 2013
Chag haMatzah 2013 I
Revelation of the Spring Festivals
Continued from Part 1 (Passover Season)
"These are the feasts of Yahweh, qodesh (set-apart, holy) convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month (Aviv) at twilight is Yahweh's Pesach (Passover). And on the fifteenth day of the same month is Chag haMatzah (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) to Yahweh; seven days you must eat matzah (unleavened bread). On the first day you shall have a qodesh (set-apart, holy) convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to Yahweh for seven days. The seventh day shall be a qodesh (set-apart, holy) convocation; you shall do no customary work on it" (Lev.23:4-8, NKJV).
Grace and Shabbat Shalom in Yah'shua our Messiah (Jesus Christ) to all the House of Messianic Israel gathered on this High Sabbath which commences the seven day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread or Chag haMatzah. We had a blessed Passover Meal last night and now we are gathered to mark a week of abstaining from eating leavened bread.
Two Priorities of This Season
These have been tough days for my family as we have done our best to rally around my 98 year-old mother who is critically ill and in a lot of pain. It has also been an eye-opener seeing some of the dedicated service of many of the home helpers and nurses - one nurse voluntarily sat with her for 5½ hours during the night so that we could get some much needed sleep. It has also given us the time and energy to minister during this qodesh (set-apart, holy) season. Once again Yahweh has underlined to me the importance of understanding and teaching two things:
The Weightier Matters of Torah
- 1. That the way we treat one another is the best and most important evidence of salvation-present than any theological correctness and in a way is the 'highest' theology; and
- 2. That we none of us know for sure who amongst whom we label as 'unsaved' may actually have been foreordained to salvation.
I believe that Chag haMatzah (this seven day-long feast of Unleavened Bread), though it surely embraces the rest of the summer and autumn (fall) festivals that follow it, emphasises the importance of living Yahweh's Torah lifestyle in obedience and ahavah (love) for Him and our fellow man including those 'little' things which we wrongly judge as unimportant like observing special days, wearing tzitzit and headcoverings, eating clean food and the more obviouly 'outward' things - though every little detail is important, they surely take second place to "the weighter matters of the Torah (Law): justice and mercy and emunah (faith)" (Matt.23:23, NKJV) as Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself taught.
Chag haMatazahis Early For a Reason
I am by no means leaving a door open to anitomians who say the outward things should be forgotten or (Yah forbid), outright condemned or 'nailed to the cross', but what I am saying is that Yahweh put Chag haMatzah before Shavu'ot - the Feast of Pentecost at which we become Israelites by covenanting to obey all Torah - and (for example) Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement or Judgment at which we are judged by a righteous Elohim (God). And the reason that Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) comes before them is that justice, mercy, loving-kindness and emunah (faith) must be cultivated FIRST and be the PRIMARY DRIVING FORCE of a Messianic Evangelical's life. Those who are quick to judge and condemn other believers for not doing this or that need to mark this well: for if judgment is not well tempered by justice, mercy, loving-kindness and emunah (faith), a man's religion is surely in vain - an empty shell (2 Cor.6:1).
We Embrace ALL Born-Again Believers
At this time of the year we can embrace all born-again, spiritually regenerated, Yah'shua- (Jesus)-loving believers whose emunah (faith) is rightly tempered by the three virtues which Yah'shua (Jesus) rebuked the religious leaders of His day for lacking, and frankly it is none of our business to act as Elohim (God) and judge those who are still feeding on the milk of the Besorah (Gospel), who are founded in justice, mercy, and emunah (faith), for in judging them harshly for being Torahless we are demonstrating that we lack what they often have. Messianics in particular who do not agree with this festival teaching must also realise that one of the main differences between the Old and New Covenants is precisely what Shakespeare called "the quality of mercy":
Torah by Attraction and Love
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself"
(William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)
Our Torah witness must always be by the attractive force of emet (truth) taught in AHVAH (LOVE), not force or condemnation, just as Yah'shua (Jesus) attracts us:
Torah with Affection
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32, NKJV).
Yes, we can - and must - speak firmly about it, and resolutely, but if we do not do so with ahavah (love) - with genuine affection for them - then we would be better off going home and getting on our knees until our levim (hearts) are sufficiently softened.
The Endless Revelation That is the Festivals
The festivals are truly an incredible revelation of Yahweh's lev (heart) and buried in them is endless emet (truth). Once you have accepted the Creation Calendar you discover a constant stream of new revelation. You can't stop it - it bubbles forth like an eternal spring.
The Meaning of the Feast
Chag haMatzah (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) has, as its central teaching, the importance of getting all sin out of our lives represented symbolically by chametz or leaven. This means that we have to work with spiritual issues, and wrestle with them in the power of Yah'shua's (Jesus') resurrection power but not immediately.
The Story of Yom haBikkurim
You will notice that Yahweh has carefully placed Yom haBikkurim (Day of Firstfruits) on the second day of Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread). What is Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits)? It represents the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor.15:20), namely, the resurrection of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). We, collectively, are the secondfruits when our day comes. But why has Yahweh placed Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits) on the second day of Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) and the third day of the Passover Season as a whole?
Why is Firstfruits on the Second Day of Unleavaned Bread?
He has done so for some very important reasons and the most important one is that the resurrection power of Yah'shua (Jesus) is not available to us as believers until after a time of struggling alone so that we can realise the power and obnoxiousness of sin. Do we not often complain that Yahweh is far away, that we feel cut off, that He is not hearing us? And the reason for this is that our repentance is rarely made complete until we have come to realise how utterly helpless we are to save ourselves or be cleansed from the power of sin. He leaves us alone to struggle - for days, months or even years sometimes - until we come to the point of realisation that we cannot possibly 'solve' our problems in the flesh. That is why the first day of Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) is a SABBATH - it is a day of resting from our own feeble and hopeless attempts to get right with Yahweh and a call to simply surrender and receive His shalom - His peace and rest. Then the resurrection power becomes available - the next metaphorical day. First the realisation comes that we are helpless, and then - when we have made the same existentialist confession that Job made - the deliverance comes. Listen attentively to Job's own realisation:
The Gift of the Ruach haRishon
"I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, 'Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, 'I will question you, and you shall answer Me.' I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:2-6, NKJV).
We make the decision to follow Messiah at Pesach (Passover) - it's a simple choice, a theological choice more often than not - and we trust the promises that if we accept Messiah, that His dahm (blood) will cover us and we will receive a forgiveness of sins. We are given the first Ruach (Spirit) - the Ruach haRishon to separate out the conflicting thoughts in our mind to carry this through: the choice to become a talmid (disciple). But this is not regeneration. It's a choice both for salvation itself and, as I hope you are now seeing - a choice to get right with Him as a talmid (disciple) day by day.
Having decided to follow Yah'shua (Jesus) the real challenges begin. We discover we are still afar off even if we have in emunah (faith) accepted the provision for salvation in Messiah's blood atonement. It is still not a living reality. Emunah (faith) must move on to the next stage which is making teshuvah or repentance. But repentance, as we soon discover, does not come easily, does it? Resolutions of will do not help us get over the barrier of sin for no matter how hard we try in our own strength to overcome sin it does not work. And it certainly isn't 'natural' either!
The first day of Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) is, in real life, the struggle and realisation that unless we fully surrender our own will we will never overcome the sinful tendencies of the flesh. And we are sent the second Ruach (Spirit) - the Ruach haShanee - to see us through this struggle. We are not actually 'alone' at all but we do not have the fullness of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) until the fulfilment in our lives of the seventh annual festival. We have to go the the foot of the cross and simply lay our burdens down. We have to come to the realisation of Job: "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6).
The Day of Rebirth
Once the soul has reached this point - and I have to say that millions of Christians haven't and most never will - then like a glass turn upright and ready to receive a filling, Yah'shua (Jesus) can enter in experientially - you can meet Him not just in your head but in your whole being. That is what the second day of Chag haMatazah (Unleavened Bread), which we will celebrate tomorrow, is all about - indeed, it's a double festival because it is Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) and Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits)! THIS IS THE DAY ON WHICH A SOUL IS BORN AGAIN. The soul must ask Yah'shua (Jesus) to come into his life, and it is to be marked by water baptism by immersion in front of two or three witnesses to keep us accountable to the covenant to remain surrendered and continue to be a talmid (disciple). Thus regenerated - thus born-again - the soul can covenant in baptism to follow Yah'shua (Jesus) all the days of his or her life and be empowered to do so because when a soul has truly surrendered to Yah'shua (Jesus) and received Him as Master (Lord) and Deliverer (Saviour). This is the work of the third Ruach (Spirit) - the Ruach haShleshi
The Infilling of the Ruach
The infilling or baptism by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is the work of the Ruach haRevee, the fifth Ruach (Spirit) that belongs to Shavu'ot (Pentecost).
The Three Works We Must Do
In this quick succession of three days we learn the first and most important principles of the Besorah (Gospel) that regenerated Evangelicals have long known since the Reformation and afterwards: that we are saved by trusting (emunah/faith) alone. We are saved by grace - the undeserved loving-kindness of Yahweh-Elohim, His unmerited favour - through emunah (faith) (Eph.2:8). And we know we did nothing except take these three steps:
The First Principles Must Be Right
- 1. To make a decision to be a talmid (disciple) - Pesach;
- 2. Struggle to surrender self-will and self-salvation - Chag haMatzah Day #1; and
- 3. Invite Yah'shua (Jesus) into our lev (heart) as Sovereign resulting in experiential rebirth or regeneration (specifically the third of the seven Ruachim/Spirits) - Chag haMatzah Day #2 and Yom haBikkurim
Today is all about understanding and accepting that we go no further in the Besorah (Gospel) Life until we have accepted this emet (truth). We must walk in this divine Tavnith (pattern) or else our religion is a sham - a mere mental proposition without supernatural change that comes only of surrender and confession. We must get the first principles of the Besorah (Gospel) right which is why a full 8 days is devoted to them.
Out of Sequence
We are here, assembled and sitting, on this first day of the seven day Feast to affirm these truths, to make the Torah teaching about it real for the first time for some of you or perhaps to renew it in our innermost beings if we have lapsed into unbelief. It is quite possible - and actually quite common - that people are baptised before this has happened. If that is so, then all that needs to be done is to make that baptism real by taking the next two steps properly. And that has to be a decision between you and Yahweh.
Following, Surrendering to, and Being Born Again
in Yah'shua is Torah-Obedience!
Please also understand that whilst the covenant to obey Torah (at which time you receive the pentecostal infilling of the Ruach/Spirit to enable you) does not take place until the fourth festival of Shavu'ot (Pentecost), that these spring festivals are all Torah too! When you make a choice to follow Yah'shua (Jesus) at Pesach (Passover), when you repent and surrender for real at Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) and when you invite Yah'shua (Jesus) into your lev (heart) and are supernaturally born again and Ruach- (Spirit)-filled at Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits)you are actually walking in Torah-obedience! You have completed three of the seven steps that lead to a full and final salvation. The five days of Chag haMatazah that follow are all about maintaining this salvation in the present by continued trusting in Messiah who will enable you to obey the rest of Torah until you are spiritually adorned and prepared to be a part of the Messianic Bride at the seventh feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles).
Beginning as an Evangelical
These three are the springtime festivals - they are about birth and renewal. It was the lambing season in ancient Israel. This is where the Besorah (Gospel) begins or fails...long before you start worrying about the details or Torah. You must first become, broadly speaking (and without all the falsehoods of Protestantism) an Evangelical Christian. That is your beginning as a son or daughter of Yah'shua (Jesus). But you cannot leave it at that.
Yesterday we had a blessed reunion with an old brother and we were sharing with one another all the has happened in the years since we were last together. He shared with us how Yahweh had miraculously led him to Torah-obedience through finally understanding the true Creation Calendar and how a Davar (Word) from the Scriptures had deeply impacted him. Let me read that passage to you:
A Festival Promise from Yahweh
"Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings (besorah), who proclaims shalom (peace)! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts (chagim), perform your vows (nedarim). For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off" (Nah.1:15, NKJV).
This was a promise I was entirely unaware of for years because I had somehow missed it even though for you, like myself, the first part of this verse is probably a well-known passage. What is the promise to those who observe the Festivals of Yahweh? The Beliya'al - literally, the "wicked fate" or terminal illness - Satan the destroyer - will no longer pass through you - he is utterly cut-off. Though in context this bespeaks the Assyrian who was vexing Judah terribly at the time, in the wider sense it refers to the work of the devil who is out to destroy us. We have the promise that if we obey the chagim - the festivals of Elohim (God) - that the wicked one will no longer "pass through" us with devastating effect. He will be held back at the gates and repelled.
Ritual Observance is Unacceptable to Yahweh
Obviously this does not mean that if we observe the chagim (festivals) with a wrong lev (heart) that we can inherit this promise, for Judah continued observing them outwardly while all the while sinning. It was a religious pretense for them and Yahweh said openly that He hated it. He declared through the prophet Amos:
Outward Religion Alone is Dead
"I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savour your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:21-24, NKJV).
Outward religion has ever been dead religion without a regenerated lev (heart) - indeed the whole purpose of this Passover Season is to lay emphasis on a regenerated soul first, as I have said - the outward observances are to be built around this regeneration. Neither does this mean that we are to dispose of outward Torah observance as antinomians would insist, for we are unitary being - made of spirit and matter - living souls - and we are to live a balanced life inwardly and outwardly because to Yahweh they are all echad or one. You cannot remove a glass from the wine that contains it, or the walls that surround a room, without losing the water and voiding your home. You can pretend that the spilled wine on the floor or the open space exposed to the elements is the 'real' thing but common sense alone tells you that the one is not without the other. None of you in your right mind is going to take all the furniture of his living room, put it in the garden and declare: 'this is my home, the space that I call home'. The wind, rain and cold will soon end that illusion. The festivals - our assembling together at the appointed times to worship Yahweh, are a kind of vessel that contains the regenerated life in Messiah. It is not the life itself but shapes it. You may say that the entity - the real person - called 'Brother Warren' isn't my clothes but I'd look pretty foolish without them too. Clothes have a purpose just as Yahweh's chagim (festivals) do for the spiritual man and woman. They cover me physically just as Yah'shua (Jesus) covers me spiritually.
Today's festival - Chag haMatzah or the Feast of Unleavened Bread may seem a little 'strange' to those not raised in Torah but it's purpose is to entirely teach about how we are to seek, obtain and retain the regenerated life in Messiah. It is an essential guide to the life of discipleship. It tells us how to remain in right relationship.
Tomorrow we shall reassemble for Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits), the third day of the Pesach (Passover) Season and the second day of Chag haMatazah (Unleavened Bread) itself where we will take these things further. May you all have a blessed Shabbat! Amen.
Continued in Part 3 (Passover Season)