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Nobody would ever have believed that the slaves of Egypt could simply walk out of the nation that had held them captive for so long. The Egyptians never did think highly of shepherds, but under the care of Joseph, Israel was given good land and the ability to grow in numbers. Moses recorded the change in attitude that happened sometime after the death of Joseph. A new king arose and he treated the Israelites harshly. Israel had increased greatly in numbers and that was a concern to the Egyptians. Beside that there was the fear that the Israelites might join some enemy and turn on Egypt. As time passed the pressure was increased against Israel until things went so far that the male children were to be killed at birth. All of this is recorded in Exodus chapter one. God chose Moses and although he was reluctant, God promised great miracles until the Pharaoh would allow them to leave and they would not go empty handed (Gen. 3:19-22). What followed was a series of incredible events brought on by God that led to the plundering of Egypt, annihilation (of the army of Egypt and the freedom of the people (Exod. 14:28). One miracle after another was given, but the people of Israel never seemed to be content. Nothing was good enough it seemed and they murmured against Moses and God (Exod. 16:2).
God was deeply concerned about more than simply rescuing Israel. He wanted to make them a holy nation and a light to the world by means of the way of life God promoted (Exod. 19:5,6). God was training them and testing them. It was essential that Israel knew that He and only He was God and that they needed to conform to Him in everything they thought and did. Key to all of God's actions was the need for the people to obey His law. He taught and enforced the law and tested them about their attitudes toward Him (Exod. 16:4). One important lesson for Israel was that they could not survive without the direct contact they had with God. They needed water and food for themselves and for the herds of cattle they brought with them. Those herds were to be the seed of future herds that would supply food and wealth to Israel. God had heard their complaints and it angered Him (Exod. 16:8-10). Another great miracle was about to begin. Israel would receive bread from heaven along with water and meat to eat. He would do that for the next 40 years - every day except the Sabbath day. Israel was about to understand that the Sabbath was holy and that God was deeply interested in them obeying Him and keeping His commandments (Exod. 16:25-29). Moses wrote that they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan forty years later. (verses 31-35).
Nobody had seen "manna" before and so they called it "What is it?" (Man hu' in Hebrew). The manna tasted like coriander. They could bake or boil it in cakes and it could be ground like a seed and then baked (Num. 11:6-9). Since they baked it every day, it would not have risen like bread. It was called bread, grain from heaven and angel food (Psalm 78:24-28). Israel ate nothing that was leavened until they entered the Promised Land. The rest of the account about Israel is written in the pages of the Bible and the account of their separation from God as He removed them from the Promised Land.
All that happened to Israel is recorded for an example for people today (I Cor. 10:11,12). The Bible informs us that God is drawing a people out of this world today that are to be His holy people and a holy nation (I Pet. 2:9-12). God also reveals that this nation is to become a nation of kings and priests (Rev. 5:10). The parallels are too numerous and to rich to ignore. Jesus Christ explained that He was the true bread from heaven (John 6:31-35). God has instituted a better covenant through Jesus Christ (Heb. 8:6). It was founded on better promises but was needed because the fault in the first covenant was with the people (Heb. 8:8). God found fault with them because they refused to obey Him. Israel did not love the laws that God gave for them to live by and because of their stubborn and hard hearts, Moses was pressured to give laws that were not what God first intended. One example is found in the law governing divorce (Matt. 19:8,9). God did not change His requirement of obedience to Him or the definition of sin. He is correct and right in testing those who He is teaching because He offers the priceless reward of eternal life and membership in His family as His children (I John 3:1-4). John goes on to write that the followers of Jesus Christ strive not to sin because sin is from Satan and God expects His children to be free of sin (I John 3:3-9). The lessons that Israel refused to learn are only a little different that the lessons God's people are to learn today.
Paul explained the connection with the account of Israel and the church of God today. We are to be "unleavened" - that is free of wicked thoughts and actions and striving to be pure in mind and body (I Cor. 5:6-8). A little leaven (sin) soon leavens the whole person. Jesus said that if we offend in one point, we are guilty of all (James 2:10). Sin is defined by the magnification of the 10 Commandments God gave to Israel. If God should give a further direct command, that too becomes His word to us. We cannot use the excuse that it is only a "little sin." Two examples of how serious God is about mankind would be the command to Adam and Eve not to touch a certain tree or eat the fruit of it - even if it looked good. We have all been paying for their sin ever since. Another example might be in the attitude the Corinthian church displayed when they were gathering to observe the Passover. Paul had to tell them that he was ashamed of their conduct on that most solemn occasion. Some ate too much, some drank too much and some did not show concern and regard for those who had little or for the price Jesus paid (I Cor. 11:22).
The lessons not learned by Israel are lessons we cannot ignore. Jesus said we were to live by every word that came from God (Matt. 4:4). We are to keep His commandments for in doing so we abide in His love (John 15:10). We are to keep the Passover each year in remembrance of His sacrifice (I Cor. 11:24-34). We are to examine ourselves along with our conduct and struggle to overcome anything within ourselves that is not pleasing to God. Paul wrote that we are to struggle against sin even if we are hurt in that struggle (Heb. 12:1-7). The lessons of the Passover season stretch beyond only those days. The lessons are permanent and a sign of the people of God and their covenant with their Creator. It is evident that we humans are individually fighting against our attitudes and habits we have learned before God showed us what He expects of us. James noted that we all stumble in many things, but that cannot be an excuse (James 3:2,13-18). Not only do we fight our own battles, we are to encourage and support all who sincerely seek the truth and conform to God's word. Jesus set an example when He was confronted by some who wanted to stone a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Remembering that He was able to forgive sins, He removed her sin and said: "Go and sin no more." That is what God asks of His people. We are to resist sin and overcome our faults. There may be some difficult times ahead, but God does not waver. Jesus too had to suffer in order not to be overcome by temptation on our behalf (Heb. 5:7).
Just as Israel was tested in the past, God's people today are being tested. The goal is far too great and important for God to risk giving eternal life and an inheritance with those who have not learned the great value of obedience. Obedience to the commands of God is what changes us so we can be like Him. We take on His values as we learn to love His laws. That law which is reflected in the 10 Commandments, but includes any other command that comes from God - is perfect and keeping the law is what converts our minds (Psalm 19:7-11). They are also a warning to us as this Psalm points out. One of the most wonderful, simple and clear passages of Scripture is Psalm 119. This great Psalm extols the law of God and the value of walking in those laws. The verses speak of the need for diligence (verse 4), eternal obedience (verse 44), the law is our delight (verse 77), meditated on every day (verse 97), loving the law (verse 113) and keeping it (verse 115). These are our promises and God tests us every day - morning, noon and night to know if we truly understand and mean what we say (Job 7:17,18). God reveals the way to please Him and gives the strength when we need it - we are to choose to obey always. That choice ought not be so hard since it results in the greatest goal possible. To live forever in the family of God as co-inheritors with Christ of the future (Rom. 8:16-18). The Promised Land is His Kingdom and we are to be "unleavened" and eating the "bread from heaven" which is Christ each day until we arrive at that promised destination. God informs us that He searches our hearts and minds and gives all the help we need, provided we choose to obey Him (Rom. 8:27-30). His laws are good and holy (Rom. 7:12).
Each Passover, our minds are focused on that which is within us every day of the year. Passover is a time to remember and refresh ourselves with Christ. That is one reason it comes at the beginning of God's year. We rehearse the details of God taking Israel out of Egypt and taking them to a place where they could not survive without Him every day. They needed the supply of manna in order to live. Jesus taught that the lesson of manna pointed to Him. He is our "daily bread" sent from heaven and He gives life to the world (John 6:32,33). God expects His people to walk "unleavened" until they reach the Promised Land that the Bible refers to as the Kingdom of God. Each year in keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, we remember His pure and sin free life that was given for us and we renew our determination to go and "sin no more" as Jesus told the woman. Meditating on His law each day helps us add care to all we think and do.
Everyone has to change something in order to follow Jesus' example (I Pet. 2:21). Habits and thought patterns are not easy to change. Paul noted that leaven could include things like malice, wickedness and immoral conduct (I Cor. 5:6-9). The commandments contain laws like not coveting or lusting. Those are deep inner thought patterns that God commands we overcome. We continue to live in this world and if we are not watchful, we can be enticed by some of the wonders this world seems to offer. In Jesus' last hours in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked some of His disciples to watch with Him. They fell asleep due to the great weariness and sorrow they felt and Jesus used the event to caution them "lest you enter into temptation" (Matt. 26:40,41). Luke records the same conversation (Luke 22:46). God's people live in this world and Satan is doing his best to disrupt their walk with Jesus Christ their Saviour. But just as Jesus Christ was strengthened in His great trial (Luke 22:43), God also strengthens all who sincerely strive to overcome all that hinders them from living a life of obedience. Jesus faced the greatest suffering imaginable, but though He needed to dig deeply inside of Himself for courage and determination, He stated: "not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). That example of Jesus part of the great goal and lesson that the Passover season brings. When we contemplate His great sacrifice, we grow more determined to overcome anything and everything within us that could be considered sin or leaven. We are not condemned because of Christ's blood and we are to be clean and "go and sin no more."