Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread - God Wants Relationship-based Obedience

Tomorrow evening after sunset, members of the Church of God will be observing Passover. Passover represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven by God the Father and given the gift of eternal life. Ancient Israel sacrificed a lamb on this evening in Egypt, and that lamb represents Christ.

We observe Passover by partaking of unleavened bread and wine as symbols of Christ's sacrifice. The unleavened bread represents the broken body of Christ and His suffering, and the wine represents His blood and His death. Because of His shed blood and His death, we can be forgiven and reconciled to God the Father and given eternal life. He paid the death penalty for us so we don't have to pay the death penalty for our sins. Because of His broken body and suffering, we can be healed both physically and spiritually. Our sins not only bring upon us the death penalty but also bring upon us suffering and pain. When we violate health laws, we pay the penalty in sickness and injury. But Christ suffered for us so we can be healed. His suffering paid the penalty of suffering that our sins bring upon us.

Also, our sins bring mental suffering because they build the habit of sin and a sinful nature in us. Our character becomes flawed and sinful, and that evil, carnal character and nature leads to more sin and to suffering that comes from sin. We need to be healed spiritually as well as physically, and Christ's sacrifice pays the penalty of all suffering that comes from sin, so God can heal our character by His Holy Spirit.

After Passover, the next evening begins the seven days of unleavened bread. That evening is the night to be much observed. It represents the night that ancient Israel began their journey out of Egypt. We observe it by having a special meal with brethren. For us, it represents our coming out of the sinful ways of this world.

The seven days of unleavened bread represent putting sin out of our lives. Before those days begin, we are to put all leavening out of our homes. For seven days we avoid all leavening (yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc.) and leavened products. This represents putting sin out of our lives and keeping it out. The diligence and mental alertness we are to exercise to remember to avoid leavening during this time is a lesson that reminds us that we need to be diligent and mentally alert to avoid sin.

But also, for the seven days we are to eat unleavened bread (matzos for example). My understanding is that we should eat some unleavened bread each of the seven days (if you like matzos with butter as much as I do, that is easy). This also is a lesson that we not only are to avoid sin, but we are to put the righteousness of Christ into our lives every day. In these lessons, leavening, because it puffs up, represents sin, which is based on a puffed up attitude of pride, vanity, and conceit. Unleavened bread represents the righteousness of Christ.

The first and last days of unleavened bread are annual sabbaths, holy days. We are to refrain from work on those days and the Church of God holds services on those days.

In addition to the meaning of what these days represent, for us in the Church of God in our time, the days of unleavened bread should remind us of Mr. Armstrong's and the Church's commitment to believing the Bible more than tradition and having zeal to preach the gospel to the world, because if it were not for their zeal in these two things, we would not know about these days. We would not know that we should keep them, and we would not know what they mean. And not knowing what they mean, we would miss out on the lessons they have to teach us.

As I think about the lessons of Passover, it comes to mind that God does not just want obedience to His law without His involvement, but God wants our obedience to be based on a relationship with Him. He wants our obedience to be something personal, something special, between us and God. He wants our law keeping to be based on trust in Him, faith in Him, and love towards God and man. Our relationship with God, our fear of Him and our desire to please Him, should be a big part of our motivation to resist sin and keep His commandments. Likewise, our love for the brethren and towards our neighbors in the world should motivate is to keep God's law.

God gives us His law for our good. God's law defines a way of life that produces blessings, happiness, and everything good. It defines God's nature, and we are blessed in the long run if we keep it.

The violation of that law is sin, and it produces pain, suffering, and death.

Mr. Armstrong emphasized this aspect of the law of God. He emphasized the truth that obeying the law of God produces blessings and breaking that law produces penalties. He said, if you break the law of God, it will break you.

That is an important truth to keep in mind. Obedience to God's law produces blessings and happiness, violation of that law brings curses and suffering.

But our relationship in this should not just be with the law of God only. Obeying the law of God to receive blessings that come automatically from obedience to that law should not be our only motivation for avoiding sin.

God's whole plan of salvation, including the sacrifice of Christ, is designed to build a relationship between God and us. It is to be a relationship of trust, faith, and love.

In other words, a motivation for us to obey God's law must be to please God and show our love towards Him. It should not be just an impersonal desire to reap the benefits of law keeping. We must obey God because He is our Father and because we want to fear, trust, believe, and love Him. Likewise we are to trust, believe, and love Christ and deeply appreciate what He went through to save us.

This lesson is evident throughout the whole Bible. Everything God has done to teach us His law and save us emphasizes the deeply personal nature of our obedience to God.

God did not have to save us the way He does. He did not have to make death the penalty for sin. He could have designed His plan of salvation so that Christ, the Word, would not have to come as a human being and suffer and die.

But God wants to make our salvation based on love, a very personal love between us and Him.

We should obey God's commandments because God gave them to us. We should believe what we believe because God teaches it to us. It is not just a matter of what we obey, but who we obey. It is not just a matter of what we believe, but who we believe.

Think about all the history and lessons of God's interaction with man, with Israel, with the Church, and with all of us individually that is in the Bible. It is God's program to bind Himself with us in an eternal bond of love and trust. That is why we should obey. In other words, we should not just think of ourselves as obeying the law of God, as if the law could save us. We should think of ourselves as obeying God personally, because we fear, trust, believe, and love Him.

That is why I say that our obedience should relationship-based obedience. It should be based on our relationship with God.