Greetings to all of you. Welcome to any guests or visitors we may have with us today. I mean no offence to any of you, but you seem to look a little "flat" today. I'm just kidding of course, but this is the fifth day of Unleavened Bread and we should be becoming unleavened, physically at least, and hopefully working on becoming unleavened Spiritually.
Yes, as we continue to obey God's instructions to put the physical leavening out of our dwellings for a period of seven days, very soon we will have fulfilled most of our assignment, won't we? It hasn't been too difficult has it? Oh, it may have required some effort on our part in cleansing our homes from any leavened products or leavening agents and eating "flat bread" is not as 'tasty" to us as the soft, puffed up products, we eat through the rest of the year. But I don't believe that took an extraordinary amount of work to accomplish that. This is the easier part, compared to the really important lessons we are to learn from keeping these days. As we learn from God's Word, the observance of these Holy Seasons, the physical duties we perform are just a type of the far more important Spiritual application or lessons we are to learn. The lesson we are to learn and apply to ourselves, is to get rid of -to put out- the sin in our lives. You will find that Spiritual obligation to be far more difficult than the physical type. But it is possible! We will see this by reading the Scriptures.
What's Gods Purpose in Human Life?
The main purpose in this human life is to build Holy Righteous character, and to eventually, be born into the very Family of God. (Rom. 8:29 "-- That He (Christ) might be the Firstborn among many brethren." As Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong stated in some of his writings, God cannot create character by fiat, or as Webster puts it; “a peremptory order or decree". Character is developed over time, by knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing the right way over the wrong. (Even angels can turn to evil, as we find in Ezekiel 28:14 "Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire (at God's Throne).
15. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. 16, 17." (See also Isaiah 14:12 thru 15.)
That's why God made us free moral agents and placed choices before us.
Deut. 30:15 "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16. In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it." Here God instructs Israel to choose the way that leads to blessings, but in, Deuteronomy 29:4 "Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day." (also, chap. 5:29)
Obedience is Possible for Us
As I stated before, it takes time and effort on our part to develop character. Just as it takes a certain amount of resistance in an exercise program to develop muscle in various parts of our body, it will take trials and tests to develop righteous character in our hearts and minds. Matthew 7:13 "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is he way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. 14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Verse 21 "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Notice that it is the one who "does the will of my Father in heaven.” that "shall enter into the kingdom of heaven" but those who "practice lawlessness" (Ver.23) are told to "depart from Me". But also note that a few find that difficult way "which leads to life". SO IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE!
Let's go back to the account of O.T. Israel being brought out of Egypt, under the leadership of Moses. They departed from Rameses (Jophesus records this city was called Letopolis. It is the city of Old Cairo today.). As well as we can calculate, the date of the Exodus was 1487 B.C. (The Companion Bible gives 1491 B.C.) As in the year when Jesus Christ was slain (31 A.D.), the Passover occurred on a Wednesday, the fourth (middle) day of the week, and the first day of unleavened bread fell on a Thursday, the fifth day of the week; the second day of U.B. was a Friday, the sixth day of the week. Keep this in mind as we cover some of the highlights in: Exodus 12:37 "And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men , beside children." (Read verses 39, 40; 13:17-22) So in two days of travel, they reached Etham on Friday, the day before the weekly Sabbath, (which would begin at sunset.)
Now God had special instructions to pass on to Israel, and it would be through a Sabbath service: The column of cloud that became fire by night did not move on the Sabbath! GOD RESTED! Etham was on the edge of the wilderness, so Israel was now to strike out straight into the desert. Then, they were told to "turn and encamp" (Ex.14:2) from the populated places, on the weekly Sabbath -a type of leaving the well traveled popular road. God knew Pharoah would pursue and that it was necessary for the Israelites own good, that they be trapped and supernaturally delivered by God's own power to prove them or test them.
(I now want to read you a "Comment" from the "Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 34, Pg. 3: "Immediately after Israel left Egypt they were pursued by Pharoah! So today newly begotten Christians are often pursued by Satan. He will set any obstacle in your way--he will attempt to discourage you, to cause you to stumble--he will do anything to keep you from receiving eternal life. His favorite trick is to make you want to return to the life of sin you should be forsaking.") Continuing on in Ex. 14:13 "And Moses said unto the people, fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever." (Don't forget that Israel cried out for deliverance in Ex.2:23 "---Then the children groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came unto God because of the bondage." (Also, Ex.3:7-10) So we likewise need to cry out to our Father in Heaven, whenever we have severe trials. God alone offers salvation to us in these modern times and for our own good, as He did to Israel, but, sometimes He allows trials and temptations to come upon us. What should we do? James 4: 7 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (We are symbolizing this, by keeping these days of unleavened bread.) 9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: in a trial.) let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up."(We sometimes need to fast, when we need extra strength.)
I Corinthians 10:1 "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye be ignorant, how that our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. 2. And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 4. And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: And that Rock was Christ. 11. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13. There hath no temptation (trial) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Yes, just as surely as God made a way for O.T. Israel to escape from Egypt (a type of sin: Rev. 11:8), so will He make it possible for us to come out of this world and to enter into eternal life.
Yes, There Will Be Trials and Tests!
John15:18 "If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19. If you were of this world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (I Jn. 2:15-17); II Tim. 3:12 "Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Now knowing this, what should be our reactions to severe trials or tests? Jesus Christ is that totally unleavened bread that came down from Heaven to teach us how to be unleavened in our lives: John. 6:48 "I am that bread of life. 50. This is the bread which came down from heaven, that a man may eat therof, and not die. 51. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
How did He react to persecution? I Peter 2:19 "For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21. For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in His steps. 22. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. 23. Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." Mt. 5:10 "Blessed are those which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my names sake."
These days of unleavened bread are to help all of us to develop holy, righteous character. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said in his book,” Mystery of the Ages": "Perfect, holy and righteous character is the ability to come to discern the true and right way from the false, to make voluntarily a full and unconditional surrender to God and His perfect way--to yield to be conquered by God-- to determine even against temptation or self-desire, to live and to do the right."
How do we accomplish this difficult assignment? Gal. 5:16 "Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17. For the flesh lusteth after the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so ye cannot do the things that ye would." BUT! Paul also wrote in Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me"
So it is through the Power of the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 1:7) and our willingness to obey God's command to keep these Days of Unleavened Bread, as we are instructed in:
I Corinthians 5:7 "Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. 6. THEREFORE, LET US KEEP THE FEAST, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
I believe this sums up the great meaning of these Feast Days. Not only are we to get rid of the Spiritual leavening in our or lives, which is the breaking of God's Law, but we are to live "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth", including following the example of our Passover, Jesus Christ. It is the difficult way, but God is able to deliver us from all problems!