A Special Message for the Feast of Matzah
The religions of man do their best to prepare us for days and times of spiritual significance. Though many adherents do not strictly follow the schedule of their sects, these groups often—with all sincerity—establish systems to guide their followers into times of spiritual preparedness. To that end, many find significance in patterns, leading to the construction of doctrinal and devotional traditions.
For example, the biblically recurring pattern of the number forty—the days and nights of Noah’s Flood, the years Israel wandered in the desert, the days Yeshua was tempted by the Accuser—may have been what inspired fourth-century Christians to add Lent to the Christian liturgical calendar. This forty-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday is meant to be a time of prayer, repentance, self-denial and even fasting in preparation for Easter—Christianity’s commemoration of Yeshua’s resurrection.
We should also not be surprised to find a similar season on Judaism’s calendar. The month of Elul (which is the sixth or last month on the Jewish calendar, depending on how you count it) is also a nearly forty-day period when combined with the Days of Awe—the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Together, Elul and the Days of Awe represent a time in which one is supposed to self-reflect, make penitential prayers, draw close to God, and, yes, even fast (during the Days of Awe) in preparation for the holy days. So in both the Christian and Jewish traditions, times of penitence, abstinence, fasting and spiritual preparation have been added to their respective calendars in anticipation of highly significant annual events.
But what many do not realize is that during the Passover season, God’s word actually prescribes an extended period of preparation and fasting. In fact, it is built right into the calendar, specifically, as a major feature of the Feast of Matzah. שְׁמוֹת Sh’mot (Exodus) 12:15-19 and 13:7 say,
For seven days you will eat מַצּוֹת, matzot; surely—on the first day you will cause שְּׂאֹר, s’or [leaven] to שַׁבָּת, shabat from your houses… for seven days שְּׂאֹר, s’or [leaven] must not be found in your houses. For any one eating anything חָמֵץ, chametz [leavened], that person will have been cut off from the community of יִשְׂרָאֵֵל, Yis’rael… nothing חָמֵץ, chametz [leavened] is to be seen with you…. (mjlt)
Few think of any Feast as a fast, but that is exactly what the Feast of Matzah is. The Feast of Matzah (unleavened bread) is the seven-day period commencing the morning following Passover. During this time, Israel is instructed to “eat מַצּוֹת, matzot”—and lots of it. This is the “feast” part. But then the Scriptures go into detail about what is also supposed to be avoided—in other words, fasted.
For an entire week, not only is it forbidden to eat anything leavened (חָמֵץ, chametz), but even leaving agents (שְּׂאֹר, s’or) are “to שַׁבָּת, shabat from your houses”—that is, they must not be found in the home. Leavened things are not even “to be seen with you.” While this fast is meant to remind us of the manner in which Israel left Egypt, it can also be a seven-day preparatory pattern in the Scripturally designed annual renewal of our walk with God.
In the Scriptures, leaven is sometimes associated with sin (see 1 Corinthians 5). Applying this concept to the Feast of Matzah, we find that the Feast becomes a God-ordained, once-a-year, week-long practice of focusing on abstention from sin and refraining from the things that cause us to sin. Without any invention of man, the Feast helps us to establish a pattern of righteousness, preparing us to grow toward maturity through the Omer Counting, to be fruitful at Shavuot, to be awake and ready at Yom T’ruah, to deny ourselves at Yom Kippur, to rejoice in God’s presence at Sukot, and to live every day in between with a delight in uprightness, and an aversion to fleshliness and sin.
When we come to Yeshua, too often it is only with the hope for what we can receive. The pattern of the Feast teaches us the importance of also paying attention to what He is also telling us to give up. As you feast on the purity of Yeshua, don’t forget to fast the things that leave you “leavened.” This is the spiritual purpose of the Feast of Matzah, and the true pattern of your penitent preparation.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!