Friday, April 22, 2016

Tonight Is the Night to Be Much Observed

Tonight, members of the Church of God will be observing the night to be much observed. This night is different from Passover.

This is the night that Israel came out of Egypt.

"Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night" (Deuteronomy 16:1). Notice, this says that God brought Israel out of Egypt by night during the month of Abib, the first month of the year in God's calendar. Though Passover is mentioned in this verse, it is a different night.

Passover is the night that God killed the firstborn of Egypt. God "passed over" the houses of the Israelites which had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, hence the name "Passover". But Israel did not leave Egypt that same night. They were instructed to remain in their houses until morning (Exodus 12:22). But the next night, after organizing in orderly ranks (Exodus 13:18), they left Egypt. "Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations" (Exodus 12:40-42).

God did not give detailed instructions on how this evening is to be observed, only that we are to observe it. Mr. Armstrong made the judgment for the Church that we would observe it with a special meal.

There is a lesson here for us today about government. God could have been specific and told us in scripture exactly how to observe this day, but He didn't. By instructing us to observe it, but not telling us how, God has in effect required the Church of God to make a judgment on how to observe it, and that requires government. God gave the ministry and leadership of the Church of God authority to make binding decisions and judgments. "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). See also Matthew 16:17-19.

Most members observe this day in small groups of a few families or individuals in our homes. We eat a special meal and enjoy fellowship. This observance takes place after sunset, and it is the start of an annual sabbath day, the first day of unleavened bread.

Before sunset tonight, we should get all leavening out of our houses (yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc., and products that contain these ingredients), and starting tonight at sunset, for seven days, we will keep leavening out of our houses and avoid eating any leavened products. We will also eat unleavened bread (such as Matzos or homemade unleavened bread) during those seven days.

The first and seventh days of the seven day feast are holy days, annual sabbaths, in which we are to assemble, those who are able, and we are not to do ordinary work. We may prepare meals on these days, however.

"So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread" (Exodus 12:14-20).

Leavening in the Bible is symbolic of sin during these days, and unleavened bread is symbolic of the righteousness of Christ.

"Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

As Paul wrote, we are to "keep the feast". The annual holy days and festivals of God are to be observed in the Church of God.

These feasts are described in Leviticus 23:1-44. Here are the instructions for the days of unleavened bread: "On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it" (Leviticus 23:5-8).

Although the basic instructions for keeping these days are given in the Old Testament, the understanding of their meaning comes from the New Testament.

Leavening represents sin, and unleavened bread represents righteousness. By keeping these days we are reminded that we are to put sin out of our lives and the righteousness of Christ into our lives. We are to feed on Christ, so in a sense the unleavened bread we eat for seven days represents Christ. "And Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst' " (John 6:35). "I am the bread of life" (John 6:48). "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:57).

As Egypt can represent sin and this world, the night to be much observed we keep this evening, which for Old Testament Israel represented coming out of Egypt, for us represents coming out of this world and its sinful ways. It represents coming out of sin.

God gave us seven annual festivals to teach us His plan for the salvation of mankind. Passover represents the first major step in that plan - the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven and saved. But the next step is something each of us must do - we must repent of our sins and strive to put sin out of our lives - and this lesson is taught by the seven days of unleavened bread.

God uses physical rituals to teach us spiritual lessons.

The night to be observed in particular represents our coming out of the bondage of sin. As Israel was freed from bondage and came out of Egypt on this night, so we observe this night to celebrate and remember our being freed from Satan's deception and the bondage of sin and the ways of this world.

Tonight is the start of an annual sabbath and also the weekly Sabbath, so the conversation during the evening should be Sabbath conversation and can reflect the meaning of the day. Many Church members use this time to talk about how they first were called and learned about the truth. This night represents our calling and our response to that calling when we repented.

Though we are freed from the bondage of the ways of this world and Satan's deceptions, we still have to struggle against sin. For some of us, that struggle may seem hard and discouraging.

But we are not alone. Paul also struggled, and God gave us the encouragement of his description of that struggle.

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

"I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

"So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:14-25).

Sometimes, in our struggle against sin, when we slip and fall and have to get up and repent and strive again to quit sinning, we may feel that we are still in bondage to sin.

But while we have to struggle against sin, and we sometimes lose that struggle, that does not necessarily mean we are slaves to sin. Rather, we are like soldiers waging war against sin. Sometimes we win a battle and sometimes we lose a battle, and over time we should be winning more battles. But a slave is not a soldier waging war against his master. There is a difference.

If sin were our master, we would not be waging war against it, for slaves do not wage war against their masters. Rather, sin is the enemy, and we fight our enemy.

Contrast our fight against sin with the world. The world is in bondage to sin. They do not know enough to consistently fight against sin for they do not fully understand the law of God, though they may understand part of it. They are deceived, held captive by Satan, and they do not even know they are deceived (Revelation 12:9).

But when God called us, He opened our minds to understand His truth, and as we accepted God's call and repented of our sins, we were set free from Satan's deceptions and the traditions of this world.

Paul describes us as slaves of righteousness, not slaves of sin.

"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

"For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:15-23).

Yet, our captivity to sin has not been totally ended in this life, for Paul also says, as I quoted before, "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:21-23). Notice, Paul said that the law of sin was bringing him into captivity to the law of sin.

But in a larger sense, we have been set free. The process has been started, and God will give us the help we need to win the battles, overcome, and endure to the end, so that we will be saved in the end and receive God's gift of eternal life fully at the resurrection.

Tonight starts seven days of eating unleavened bread and avoiding all leavening.

Today, before sunset, is a time to get all leavening out of our houses, if we have not already done so. We should search our houses for places where there may be leavened products such as bread, crackers, cookies, etc. in places we may have forgotten. Those of us who live in houses of the unconverted should deleaven our own space, even if it is just a corner of a room.

Then, starting tonight, for seven days we are to avoid eating any leavened products. This takes alertness. We might, for example, be at work, and there may be donuts on the snack table. It is easy to forget and eat if we are not careful.

There is a lesson in this, that we need to be constantly alert, constantly vigilant, to put sin out of our lives, because temptations are everywhere.

We are also to eat unleavened bread for seven days. This teaches us that we are to put on the righteousness of Christ and feed on Christ every day. We do this in a symbolic, physical sense by eating unleavened bread for seven days, but in the true spiritual sense we can do this all our lives through daily Bible study, prayer, meditating about God's law and way of life and how to apply it, and by active obedience to God's law and serving others out of a motive of love, as Christ did.

As Paul said, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" ( 1 Corinthians 5:8).

Here are links to some other posts in this blog about Passover, the night to be much observed, the days of unleavened bread, and putting sin out of our lives. Newer posts are at the bottom of the list:

"Do We Overcome Sin by Our Power or by God's Power?", dated April 20, 2011, link:

"Lying to God", dated February 10, 2012, link:

"What the Sacrifice of Christ Teaches Us", dated April 1, 2012, link:

"Physical and Spiritual Healing", dated April 2, 2012, link:

"Stay Far from the Edge", dated April 6, 2012, link:

"Repentance", dated April 11, 2012, link:

"Honoring Our Parents When They're Gone", dated June 15, 2012, link:

"Count the Cost", dated March 14, 2013, link:

"Why Did Christ Have to Suffer and Die?", dated March 21, 2013, link:

"Passover Symbols: What Part of the Sacrifice of Christ Makes Possible the Healing of Our Character? / Should You Partake of the Passover?", dated March 23, 2013, link:

"Right and Wrong Examples of Correcting Someone Over You", dated March 24, 2013, link:

"We Must Overcome by God's Power AND Our Power", dated March 25, 2013, link:

"How Faith Works with Repentance", dated March 26, 2013, link:

"Will There Be Anger In God's Kingdom?", dated March 27, 2013, link:

"Beware of Those Who Preach Against Organization", dated March 28, 2013, link:

"Building the Wall", dated March 29, 2013, link:

"Democracy Is Failing in the United States - What that Means for the Church of God", dated March 30, 2013, link:

"Do Not Cause Others to Sin", dated April 28, 2013, link:

"How Should We Prepare to Resist Satan's Deceptions?", dated May 5, 2013, link:

"Is It Always Wrong to Use to Pagan Writings in Teaching?", dated February 1, 2014, link:

"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:

"Passover", dated April 11, 2014, link:

"Night to Be Much Observed", dated April 14, 2014, link:

"Overcoming Sin", dated April 17, 2014, link:

"We Need to Respect the Office of the Minister", dated March 30, 2015, link:

"Observance and Meaning of Passover", dated April 1, 2015, link:

"Practice and Meaning of the Night to Be Much Observed", dated April 2, 2015, link:

"The Days of Unleavened Bread", dated April 4, 2015, link:

"Teachability and the Willingness to Be Corrected", dated April 5, 2015, link:

"Does God Test Us in Regards to Idols in the Church of God?", dated April 6, 2015, link:

"God Must Punish Us for Our Sins", dated April 7, 2015, link:

"Unbelief Is Sin, and We Must Put It Out of Our Lives", dated April 8, 2015, link:

"Showing Mercy", dated April 9, 2015, link:

"Our Calling Opens Our Minds to the Truth / Persecution", dated April 24, 2015, link:

"Motivations to Obey God", dated May 15, 2015, link:

"Easter and Passover - Differences in Motivation", dated April 1, 2016, link:

"Self-Examination, and the Three Weightier Matters of the Law", dated April 18, 2016, link:

"Passover and the Example of Christ", dated April 20, 2016, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

How to Obtain More of God's Help in Breaking Bad Habits, Chapter 7




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