Posted by: Heather | April 13, 2012

What Holiday Is It?

How Not to Explain the Feast of Unleavened Bread

After I announced class was not meeting Friday, I did a supremely poor job of explaining the Seventh Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the two students who asked about it privately. In both cases, my first response was to hold up the matzah I had with me.

Um, in retrospect, that doesn’t really explain much.

To the second student, I added some commentary about the Feast of Unleavened Bread as part of the greater historical context for communion services he may have experienced in churches, citing the “this my body” reference.

But then, since I had given him a piece to show him it was essentially a cracker, I had to backtrack and clarify that if he ate it, he wasn’t doing some weird religious communion act. Thus, it was a second epic fail at explaining the holiday.

Take Three: A Search for a Simple Explanation

Here’s what I should have said when they asked what holiday it is:

Friday (4/13/2012) is the Seventh Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the last day of seven-day biblical holiday that begins immediately after Passover, Passover being the day the lamb (and Lamb) was slain. Both the first and seventh days of unleavened bread are what you might call “high holidays,” especially important days on which God asks his people to refrain from their customary employment. They are holy convocations when believers get together and celebrate with other believers.  

Historically, on the First Day of Unleavened Bread, the Israelites (no matter what their ethnicity since anyone who had partaken of the Passover lamb was considered part of the commonwealth of Israel) left Egypt. They were delivered from cruel slavery and oppression.

So while Passover is an everlasting sign distinguishing those covered by the blood of the lamb from those who are not, the First Day of Unleavened Bread commemorates being delivered. Have you been “delivered” from the bondage of sin? Then that holiday pertains to you.  

On the Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread, Israel appeared to be trapped: the Red Sea (probably the Gulf of Aqaba, actually) before them and Pharaoh’s entire army in hot pursuit behind them held off by a cloud of darkness and fire God placed at the pass to keep the two camps separate from one another. All night long, a wind blew, dividing the waters and allowing the Israelites only one way to escape from their enemies. As soon as the Israelites had crossed over the path God had provided for them, the waters returned, drowning Pharaoh’s army and spoiling his kingdom forever.

So the Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread commemorates, in the words of the song the children sang, the day when “The Lord, my God, my strength, my song, has now become my salvation [yeshuah in Hebrew, which you might recognize in its anglicized version, Jesus]”(Exodus 15:2). In other words, on the Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread, God who had always been sustaining them and giving them joy saved them from their enemies. The Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread is a holiday about salvation. Are you “saved”? Then this holiday pertains to you.

Some might say that since all this happened so very long ago, it’s fulfilled and not terribly relevant to us today. However, since the exodus from Egypt is the historical picture of the greater exodus with greater judgment and greater deliverance coming in the Last Days (see Daniel and Revelation, for example), I think we’d be wise to, as Paul said, “keep the feast” (I Cor. 5:8; Exodus 12:14). 

Happy holiday, everyone!

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