Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spiritual Traps from the Days of Unleavened Bread - Part 1

It's just about time for Passover, so I assume your Wonder Bread and Saltines are long gone. Mine are, too.
But only because I don't buy them in the first place. They're gross. But the yeast in my refrigerator is alive and well.

I kept the Days of Unleavened Bread for most of my life. I even started festival traditions with my own family.  Even now, I wish I could look back on these memories with warm, fuzzy feelings. But I don't. In hindsight, I find the festival troubling.

Why? Isn't this celebration acceptable, possibly commanded for Christians? Isn't it part of the law? An astute reader asked us last week -  is it wrong to keep portions of the law – as long as we understand that it is not REQUIRED salvation? Especially if we see doing so keeps physical and spiritual blessings?

The short answer, of course, is no. Scripture tells us that Peter continued to follow Sinai's dietary laws for years after Christ's sacrifice. We have evidence that Paul marked Pentecost and occasionally spent the feast day in Jerusalem several years after his conversion. It would be foolish to argue that continuing these practices disqualified these great apostles for salvation.

Furthermore, we know many gentiles in the early church kept the Holy Days along with their Jewish brethren. Consider the brethren at Corinth, who met in the home of the local synagogue leader. A deeper look at scripture reveals Paul referenced the festival they had recently celebrated, but wasn't commanding them to literally keep a feast. Regardless, we can see the brethren were familiar with the concept of leavening.

It was only when the balance of the early church shifted primarily to a gentile population that these festivals – which the apostles determined were not binding upon gentiles – were discarded. Really, the argument the COGs make today regarding the Holy Days is nothing new – it's a debate that started in Acts 15. Nothing is new under the sun. But at any rate, no one would argue that these early Christians – many of whom were persecuted and martyred – disqualified themselves for salvation by keeping the Holy Days.

So what's the big deal? Why do the Days of Unleavened Bread bother me so much? I know, it's because I'm bitter. Or because I let someone else take my crown. Or maybe I'm just really lazy and don't want to clean the house (please don't raise that issue with my husband!). Some of  might be your minister's answer. But I disagree. Strongly.

I truly believe keeping the Holy Days can be spiritually detrimental. And none seem more potentially toxic to me than the Days of Unleavened Bread. While the DUB are not inherently wrong, they are backward-looking and can distract us from many spiritual realities that Christ came to establish. They can help feed the very pride and self-righteousness the COGs teach should be expelled at this time of year. Finally, they split our focus between two very different covenants and sets of promises. I'd like to discuss these problems in my next several posts.


Paul explains my first reason upon my first reason in 2 Corinthians 3. While Paul refers specifically to his Jewish brothers, I believe this danger applies to anyone who clings to practices from the Sinai Covenant.

(2 Corinthians 3:13-15, NIV) We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.”

Remember back in Exodus, when Moses' face was illuminated after he came down the mountain with the tablets of the Sinai Covenant? It was so dramatic that he wore a veil so he wouldn't frighten the Israelites. But rather than being sobered by the significance of what Moses' shining face indicated, Paul says, the veil became a barrier that prevented Israel from seeing God's glory. It distracted them, much like their devotion to the law distracted them from seeing Jesus for who He was and what He did.

Expositor's Bible Commentary explains it this way:
“Although the OT does not explicitly state that the radiance on the face of Moses gradually faded and then disappeared, Paul deduced that the reason for Moses's veiling or masking his face was not so much to prevent the Israelites from being dazzled by its brightness as to prevent them from continuing to gaze in amazement till his face had totally lost the brilliance of the reflected glory. He was attempting to teach them, Paul implies, that the newly established order was destined to be eclipsed and pass away.” 
Moses veiled his face, Paul claims, so the Israelites wouldn't focus on him until the shine was totally faded. But figuratively speaking, they kept staring at the veil even once the glow was gone.

Let me give a more concrete example. Are you familiar with the glow sticks the dollar store sells around July 4th and Halloween? You know, the ones full of neon chemicals so toxic they would probably burn a hole in your finger if they leaked? My children are obsessed with them. These sticks light up for 24 hours, tops, and yet my children will hold onto them for a week, insisting they still see a faint glow. Trying to take them away reminds me of Gollum and the Ring.

With all due respect, the Jews are like my kids and their glow sticks. They are holding onto the Sinai Covenant, convinced that some light remains. They were unable to see that the Sinai Covenant, the “ministry of death, written and engraved in stones” (2 Corinthians 3:7) has passed away (2 Corinthians 3:8), was “becoming obsolete and growing old” and was ready to vanish (Hebrews 8:13). Their desperation to focus on the glory of the Sinai Covenant and retain their passing status as God's special people rendered them unable to see the true Light of the World.
“Paul could call it the "same" veil, because in both cases a veil prevented vision, whether physical or spiritual, or because it was identical to the veil of ignorance about the transitory nature of the Mosaic economy covering the hearts of the contemporaries of Moses. “ (The Expositor's Bible Commentary). 
In a similar way, when the COGs cling to select tenets of the Sinai Covenant, it keeps them looking backwards. It keeps their focus on the passing glory of Sinai rather than on the Light of the World, what He taught and what He accomplished.

Don't believe me? Consider this pre-Passover “self-examination” questionnaire COGWA made available to its members this week. The very first question focuses on the 10 commandments; question two analyzes Sabbath observance and question three concerns the Holy Days. We see their first  mention of Christ and following his teachings in question five – almost a third of the way through the questionnaire. But I thought Passover was all Jesus and his sacrifice, mercy and humbling ourselves? If so, why do He and His teachings get such a mediocre ranking?

When we look back to Sinai for the basis of our actions, we can't help but get mired in works. Which brings us to the next problem with the law and the Days of Unleavened Bread – the issue of the self-righteousness. We'll explore this problem later in the festival.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

1 comment:

Glenn Wm said...

RE: Matthew 28:1
The Torah says "Holy week" is the 14th, 15th, and 16th of Nisan/Abib. This is only three (3) days and nights, Wednesday was not in existence for centuries! The 15th is the Sabbath as per the commandment. The 16th is the first day of the week - always. It makes no difference if it is Sunday or not! The Feast of First Fruits seldom occurs on a Sunday. Whats more, the 16th was half over when the "Day" part came about (Night first in Hebrew days)Seventy two
hours? Take that up with Him!