Changes are happening in Israeli supermarkets – cleaning products are on special offer, and sections of “Kosher for Pesach” goods are appearing with no traces of yeast in them. At this time of year, everyone gets busy spring cleaning, as the Festival of Unleavened Bread approaches, and the Bible commands that all leaven must be removed from the house. This requires cleaning away all possible traces of yeast, and so the house gets a jolly thorough clean.
In Passover tradition, leaven represents sin, and we remember the miracle of the Angel of Death passing over the Hebrew houses that were protected by the blood of a lamb. Isn’t it funny that about this time of year, Yeshua also gave the House of God a good spring clean?
Preparing for Passover
There are three holidays which all of Israel had to trek to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate: The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) in Spring, The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) just 50 days later, and The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) in the Autumn. In Hebrew, they are called Regelim, because ‘reglim’ are legs, and you have to use your legs to get there – they are pilgrimages. All of the tribes were required to assemble around Jerusalem, and lived in tents for the duration of the feast. It’s easy to imagine how panicked Jesus’ parents might have been when he went missing during one of these festivals!
Preparations for Passover begin before the feast itself, as the crazed cleaning commences. Here is how God tells his people to celebrate each year:
“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)
God says that this is an everlasting ordinance which is to continue throughout all generations. What is wonderful is that the Jewish people have kept this tradition, and it is alive and well and affecting the shops, economy and pattern of life in Israel today. But the message is still as powerfully relevant for all of us.
Get rid of leaven = get rid of sin.
Of course, we can’t get rid of sin on our own – we need the One who has conquered sin to take it as far as the east is from the west. Only his sacrifice will do the trick. But the cleaning process is a good time to reflect on cleaning out our lives. Reflecting on the sin that can accumulate if we don’t keep short accounts with God.
We can also see the association of yeast with sin in the New Testament. Jesus warned his disciples about the “leaven of the Pharisees and the Saducees”, spelling out in Luke 12:1 that it was their hypocrisy that they needed to be aware of. The Jewish association with leaven is pride, and being “puffed up”. We can also see this in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, when he warns them about being puffed up and prideful, and continues, in chapter 5:6-8;
“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.”
It’s time to purge!
Along with the sin of pride, one of the greatest sins is the sin of unbelief, leaven which God wishes us all to be free from.
In Iranian culture, they also do a mighty spring clean at this time of year, and call it “shaking the house”! Certainly Yeshua was shaking and purging the temple from the corruption that was defiling it, saying “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13). He wanted the temple to be pure and clean, undefiled by sin and corruption. A place fit for God.
We need light to clean
To do a good clean, you need a good amount of light to see all the dirt. Although glass windows existed in the Roman era, the technology was lost during what is fittingly known as the Dark Ages. It was not till much later, after the Middle Ages, that glass windows became popular again. By the seventeenth century, they had become common across Europe, and as light flooded into the houses through these wonderful clear windows, with them came an increase in hygiene and health. The lurking dirt was suddenly more visible, and it was easier to see it and get rid of it all more thoroughly.
Similarly, when thinking of cleaning out the leaven in our lives, the sin that so easily entangles, we need a good amount of light shining in our hearts to help us see all the sin. The Holy Spirit can come with his searchlight – as Yeshua says in John 16:8; “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”. This is the job of the Spirit of Truth. He helps us see where we are missing the mark, and the sin which we need to release to God. His light shows our pride, faithlessness and unbelief in all their ugliness for what they really are.
The good thing is that we only need to confess to him the truth about our sins, and trust him to do the cleaning. Here is the promise in 1 John 1:9:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Sin and dirt can hide in darkness, unmoved. Let the glorious light of God shine freely into our lives and show us what we need to get rid of. You might like to read through David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 and enjoy God’s willingness remove our sin, and wash us whiter than snow. Come Holy Spirit, shine in our hearts! Please cleanse us and the temples of our lives from all of our unrighteousness… and let it be a deep, deep clean!