Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Season:  7 Feasts   Buy

Dannah Gresh: Let me ask you something: Is there some unconfessed sin you’ve been hiding? Erin Davis says that’s dangerous!

Erin Davis: Run! Flee! There’s no time to prepare, to clean yourself up! The need to run from sin is urgent!

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him, for February 19, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh. Did you know bread can teach us about our sin?

Erin Davis is back today with a powerful message. She’ll introduce us to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the second of the ancient celebrations we’re studying right now. We’re in the middle of a series called “7 Feasts,” and if you missed the first couple days, you can find the audio and transcript on ReviveOurHearts.com or listen on the app.

Here’s Nancy to start off today’s episode.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: In the church that Robert and I attend, we celebrate what is called The Lord’s Supper—or Communion—once a quarter. Some churches do it more often, and I love that, too. 

But I’ll tell you, when I walk into our church and I see the table set up at the front with the communion elements, the bread and the juice, my heart just gets so excited. I love Communion Sundays! I love celebrating The Lord’s Supper with the people of God!

And the reason we love that is because it reminds us of the gospel. It reminds us of Christ and what He has done for us. It points us forward to the coming of Christ and that feast we will celebrate with Him in heaven!

So many of the rhythms of our Christian life and worship are grounded in the Scripture and in the Old Testament—parts of the Old Testament that some of us don’t read much. I’m so thankful that this week Erin Davis is taking us back to one of those passages in the book of Leviticus, where maybe the pages stick together in your Bible.

I hope they won’t anymore. I hope you’re getting to know Leviticus chapter 23. I hope you’re reading it every day during this series about the seven feasts that God gave to His children in the Old Testament. These are important for us because they are tethered to the gospel and to Christ and to our experience of celebrating the gospel.

Today we’re going to look at the second one of those feasts. I believe that after you hear this teaching, your celebration of the Lord’s Table may look different and sweeter for the rest of your life! Let me remind you that we’re making available this week an eight-week Bible study that Erin Davis has written, that you’re hearing just a bit of during this series here on Revive Our Hearts.

I want to encourage you to get a copy of this book, 7 Feasts; the subtitle is Finding Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament. At the end of today’s program, we’ll tell you how you can get a copy as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Now, let’s listen to Erin Davis.

Erin: Right this moment in a refrigerator in Wyoming, there’s ancient sourdough. It’s an ancient sourdough starter; it’s older than the Wright Brothers’ airplane. And currently, it exists in the home of a woman named, Lucille. Lucille’s sourdough starter dates back to 1889.

That sourdough is a survivor! It’s lived through the Great Depression, two World Wars and the war on terror. That sourdough starter has lived under the leadership of twenty-five United States Presidents!

Now, the way I heard the story is that Lucille got that starter from her momma, and her mom got it from a student at the University of Wyoming and that student at the University of Wyoming traced it all the way back to 1889, and believes that it was started in the back of a Wyoming sheep herder’s wagon. What does Lucille do with her ancient dough? Mostly, she makes pancakes!

Today I am gathered with a small group of friends and we’re continuing to walk through the seven feasts recorded in Leviticus 23. We’ve come to the second feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Please keep your Bible handy as you listen to this series, and we’re going to pick it upright here at Leviticus 23. I would like to read us Leviticus 23, verses 6–8.

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.

If we disconnect the second feast from the rest of Scripture, this feels a little bit like a food lover’s heaven. No work, and eating unleavened bread for seven days in a row. But when we connect the dots between the feasts and the gospel, we see that this feast and all of the feasts are so much more. 

The process of bread baking is a parable, used throughout all of Scripture to teach us about the permeating power of sin in our lives. 

So as we turn our attention to the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a means to examine the sin that so easily works it’s way into our hearts and our homes, let’s consider Paul’s words recorded in 1 Corinthians 5:6–8. Paul writes: 

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

We’re just two feasts into the seven feasts, and already we’re seeing many connection points between the feasts themselves, both the Passover and, as we will see, the Feast of Unleavened Bread are being alluded to here in 1 Corinthians. But we’ll also see that all of the feasts are pointing towards the gospel. 

If we look at the verses surrounding this verse here in 1 Corinthians for some context, we see that Paul wrote these words about the leaven and the new lumps. He was responding to a specific sexual sin in the church of Corinth.

It is the kind of sin that makes your stomach churn. And within the context of sin in one church, Paul is giving us an analogy that applies to all believers in every church. 

I’m going to read this passage from 1 Corinthians again, and this time make a mental note or write in your Bible every time you come to the words “leaven” and “unleavened.” 

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Now, most of us pick up our bread at the grocery store in a bag, right? So, the nuances of what Paul is teaching here, as he’s talking about the leavened and unleavened and you really are unleavened, it can get a little bit lost on us.

In bread baking, leaven is the substance that causes the bread to rise. It is the difference between a warm chewy baguette and a tortilla. Leaven works by creating air bubbles within the dough, and that causes the bread to rise.

Now, we typically use pre-packaged yeast to accomplish that desired rise. But the Corinthians were more likely to have used fermented dough, carried over from week to week, year to year, just like Lucille’s sourdough.

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it uses what we know in the flesh to help us understand what we struggle to understand in the spirit. We understand Lucille’s sourdough. In the back of a wagon, leaven transformed flour into dough, and there was no going back. There is no way to extract the leaven and start over with pure flour.

And this is the way that leaven works. It works into every nook and cranny until the entire loaf rises. All this bread talk is making me hungry. 

Here in 1 Corinthians Paul is using this picture of leaven working its way into every nook and cranny of the dough to give us a strong reminder that sin has the same effect. 

Tolerating just a little bit, and if you’re listening you can’t see my fingers give air quotes but I am, because there’s no such thing as “little bit of sin” as we’ll discover as we examine this Feast.

But tolerating even a little bit of sin will change the structure of our hearts, it will change the structure of our homes, of our churches, of our culture. This is one of the messages that God was building into the Jewish calendar through the second feast.

All sin matters, because all sin is offensive to our Holy God. We’ve all experienced sin’s permeating effect. I bet that we would not have to reach very far back into our memories to think of an example from our own lives, and the lives of the people we love, where one seemingly insignificant compromise put us on a slow slide or in some cases a very fast slide away from holiness and toward gratifying our sinful flesh.

I think of the story actually very similar to the story that Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians of a church that I attended years ago. There were some families in our church who were together in a small group and those families started taking camping trips on the weekends. 

Those camping trips pulled them away from regular church attendance, just a little leaven, no big deal. And before long, those camping trips started involving a little drinking. And then a lot of drinking, which led to crude talking and joking, which probably at the time seemed like little compromises.

And within a few months, multiple marriages in that group were over, because of infidelity within that group. The swath of sin can still be seen in those families, although the Lord has done a beautiful redemptive work. 

But now many, many, many years later, the effect of sin is still there. It started out so small, but sin so rarely, I think I’d say never, stays contained. Most, often just like yeast, it works its way into every corner of our lives.

And where leaven is used in Scripture, it is used as a symbol for sin. That’s something I love about my Bible. You can find almost anything and start looking for the pattern. The Bible is so consistent in the Old Testament and New Testament. We’re here in Leviticus, we saw it in 1 Corinthians, leaven is a picture for the way that sin works in our lives, and unleavened bread is a picture of life without sin.

Jesus, lived a life in the flesh, and yet never sinned. He’s pure. Utterly free from the contamination of leaven or sin. He had none of that in His life. That is what set Him apart. 

Just as the spotless lamb in Passover is a picture of Christ’s purity, the unleavened bread God asked His people to eat during this second feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is a picture of Jesus’ sinlessness. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is untainted by the leaven of sin.

Consider again the instructions God gave the Israelites as He was preparing them for their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Before the final plague fell on Egypt, God gave His people instructions for both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread at once. The first two feasts are given to them together, here in Exodus 12.

Let me read us Exodus 12:15–20: 

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt.

Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. In the first month, from 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 is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.

Sometimes we need to hear the whole chunk of Scripture that way in order to recognize the repetition. Over and over and over God is telling His children, no leaven, no leaven, no leaven, no leaven.

And I have a hunch why, because I’m a parent. If I really want my children to obey, I’ve got to say it over and over and over, did you get it, did you get it, did you get it? And that is the approach that God is taking here with His children as He’s instructing them for the very first time on the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

A lot of it can feel like overkill. Why does God say that so often? Why do they have to remove all leaven from their homes? And the penalty for resisting God’s instructions here seems severe, doesn’t it?

If anyone ate leavened bread during the days of the feast, they were to be cut off from the nation of Israel. It says that twice, in verses 15 and 19. This is clearly about more than what kind of bread the Israelites ate. 

The removal of leaven from their home was symbolic of their commitment to flee from sin and to live under the commandments from God. An unwillingness to follow this simple and relatively painless command to remove leaven from their lives for seven days was evidence of an unwillingness to obey God in larger matters.

Thus, those who refused to obey the Feasts of Unleavened Bread were cut off from God’s people. Ultimately by their own disobedience, and again we see such a picture here of the way sin works in our lives.

Adding yeast or leaven to a loaf bread is a long process. You will know this if you ever decided that maybe you’d just whip us some French bread to go along with your spaghetti for dinner. It’s not going to happen. The spaghetti is going to be done long before your bread has that first proof to rise, and multiple rounds are required. It takes time for bread to rise.

If we continue the story of the Exodus, we know that they did get to exit Egypt, that's why it's called the Exodus. It happened quickly, the Lord had warned them that they needed to be prepared, but I don’t know that we could ever be prepared for the kind of life change they were experiencing.

They had to get up and go with only what they could carry on their backs. Scripture tells us that their bread didn’t have time to rise. They had thrown their baking bowls into bags on their backs and headed out. All of this communicates urgency.

Though it was a place of slavery, they were leaving behind what they knew. I, as a bread baker myself, if I think about having to leave behind all of the bread baking tools I have acquired and just go, that’s hard. But it's there intentionally. The Lord could have left it so they got to go when their bread came out of the oven, right? Or off of the fire. They got to go and take that with them in the wilderness.

But it was all meant to communicate this urgency, this need to go, to get away from sin, to get away from leaven, which represents sin, with great speed.

Unleavened bread on the other hand is quick, and it symbolizes a quickness to get out of sin. Run, flee, there’s no time to prepare to clean yourself up, the need to run from sin is urgent. We don’t want to wait and to allow sin to rise and have its full effect on our lives.

And then in Leviticus 23, we see that same thing where they are instructed to get rid of all leaven in their homes, and their families cannot eat leaven for seven days. As a momma, I can’t help but think about the inconvenience of that. All mommas have a picky eater or two around their table. Don’t you know that there were some mommas who just dreaded those seven days, because one of their kids wasn’t going to eat unleavened bread. That’s flatbread. It might not be the bread that they are used to eating, and they had to get rid of all of those ingredients. It doesn’t say they went bad; they just had to get rid of them.

So think back to Lucille who I had told you about, who’s had a sourdough starter for many, many, many, many, many years, that’s been passed through her family through generations. This feast would interrupt that. She would have to throw that sourdough starter out and start again after the feast was over.

All of the families would have to do that. If you’ve ever tried to start a sourdough starter, you know that’s not an easy process. So there is some representation of the cost, and all of it was meant to point to the fact that we are to do what it takes—pay the price—to get away from sin.

Rapid fire consider these three passages:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19)

Escape, resist, run away, repent, turn back, this is Scripture’s language for sin. There’s an urgency communicated through these verses. Rather than allowing the debt of sin to pile up in our lives, we respond quickly and eagerly when God calls us to repentance by His Spirit.

Understanding the corrosive and pervasive power of sin means we don’t let it sit in the dough, convinced that it won’t spread. God convicts; we repent. God convicts; we repent. God convicts; we repent. 

Now, I came to Jesus, kicking and screaming, and I still obey sometimes kicking and screaming. I am fond of saying that kicking and screaming obedience is still obedience. God will still honor it, even if I resist. I obey, but it's often hard for me, but I will say that after more than twenty years of walking with the Lord, I turn quicker.

The longer I walk with Him, the quicker I turn. I don’t let it sit in my life. I don’t justify it. I don’t come up with a million reasons why I don’t have to deal with my sin, because that person isn’t dealing with their sin. I want out of it. I want to run from it. God convicts; we repent. 

And just as God was establishing a pattern for the Israelites by writing these seven feasts on their calendar, He’s given us this pattern for our lives: I convict; you repent. I convict; you repent. I convict; you repent. And this beautiful pattern for our lives: we repent; Christ forgives. We repent; Christ forgives. We repent; Christ forgives. You don’t have to wait to deal with sin, because you’re worried that grace won’t be there when you turn from it, it will.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a beautiful reminder that God has graciously invited us into a new rhythm in which sin doesn’t have a final say. We are free to live as new lumps as Paul describes us, because we’ve been cleansed by the resurrection power of Jesus. 

So let's take this depth of understanding of all the Feast of Unleavened Bread was pointing towards, what it represents, and let’s let it carry us to the Gospels.

Consider Matthew 26:17, 

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 

If you’re paying close attention, you might notice that the Feast of Unleavened Bread seems to precede the Passover here, and that’s not how the feasts were outlined in Leviticus 23. 

The two feasts are mentioned separately in Leviticus 23, but they’re back to back. In Jesus’ day and for Jews today, the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits are all celebrated together as part of the Passover Feast.

So the disciples were preparing to observe the first of the seven feasts, and they came to Jesus and they asked Him for instructions. In keeping with Jewish tradition, Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover meal at sun down on a Thursday evening. And Jesus was crucified, the following afternoon.

It’s important for you to know that Jewish days go from sundown to sundown. Not, like our sun up to sun up. And what that means is that Jesus was killed on the same day that He observed the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The same day that Jesus celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with His disciples, He instituted the Lord’s Supper for us. 

The timing of the first Lord’s Supper matters, because even as Jesus gathered with His friends, even as He reclined at the table, even as He passed the cup, He knew that on that very day He would die, a horrific death. 

As He gathered with His friends in the Upper Room, He knew that by the end of that day, His body would be entombed in total darkness. It wasn’t just any bread that Jesus was breaking with those disciples, it was unleavened bread, symbolic of the sinless life He was about to surrender for them, and for me.

Way back in Leviticus 23, when the seven feasts were written into the Jewish calendar, God was telling a story—a gospel story of Jesus’ coming sacrifice. Jesus was crucified on Passover, and buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

That tiny cracker we pass for Communion, that little cup, it’s telling the same story as the Feasts: 

  • That Christ’s sinless body, Jesus our unleavened bread, was broken for us. 
  • That His untainted blood was spilled out on our behalf, why? So that the leaven of sin, which so permeates our hearts could be removed. 

The Lord’s Supper is the sweetest part of my week. I go to a Communion every Sunday kind of church.I sit with my small group, which is eight families all in the same season of life, that I’m in. We use the term “small group” loosely, there’s a lot of us. 

Most often one or two of us has a sick or cranky baby who didn’t want to go back to the nursery, and so between those families we pass those little chubby baby bodies back and forth among us. 

The Communion tray comes, and my husband started a tradition that we’ve never talked about in our small group, but we all do. Jason takes the tray first and he serves me Communion, and then he takes it himself. And somewhere along the line, I noticed all the husbands around, they probably got a little elbow from their wives, “See what Jason does?” All the husbands around us, they take the tray and they serve their wife Communion, and then they take Communion themselves, and I cry every week—every single week.

And two prayers bubble up inside my heart every week, “Thank You,” and “I’m sorry.” “Thank you for what You did Jesus for me, and I’m sorry that another week went by and the leaven of sin worked its way in again to my heart, to my marriage, to my parenting.”

I know those friends well enough to know, we’ve never talked about this, but I know they are all saying something like, “Thank You,” and “I’m sorry” as we pass what just seems like bread and juice around to each other. It’s a symbol of the victory Jesus has given us over sin. 

I am so grieved by my own sin, and frankly by the sins of the people that I love. I’m so frustrated by the way leaven creeps back into our lives, so often, and so easily. But I am so thankful for our Savior who made a way for sin to lose its power in my life, and in the lives of the ones that I love most. 

I want to take us back one more time to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:7, 

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

I love those words “you really are unleavened,” translation “you really are transformed by Christ’s power.” No, really, it’s true! I know it doesn’t always feel true, but it is. The process is hard to see at times, but God is at work to purify you, to make you more like Him. No, really, it’s true. Focusing on your sin, your powerlessness over sin, it will never make you a new lump. But you can shift your gaze to Jesus, our Unleavened Bread.

Pastor John Piper puts it this way, “Jesus did not come into the world mainly to give bread, but to be bread.” Shift your gaze to Jesus, our sinless Savior, our Unleavened Bread and see He is more than able to cleanse you completely to transform you into something brand new. 

Nancy: Thank you, Erin, for that sweet and tender reminder of what, for many of us, can just become a ritual as we observe The Lord’s Supper . . . maybe even something we get bored with. But how can we get bored when we consider what it all means?—the symbols of Christ’s body and His blood shed for us.

You don’t have to wait until the next time you observe Communion in your church. How about just right now if we could just take a moment to say, “Lord, I’m sorry; I’m so, so sorry for the sin I’ve tolerated, thinking it was just little amounts—in my thoughts, in my behaviors, in attitudes, and my words. I’m so sorry! That’s what put you to death!”

And then just to lift your heart up to Him and say, “Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You that You paid the price of that sin! You were the spotless, sinless Son of God—unleavened, no sin in You. You gave Your life so that the leaven could be removed in my life and I could stand before the throne of God sinless. How amazing is that!?” 

Thank You, Lord! Don’t let us ever forget what You’ve done for us, and don’t let us ever treat as trite or insignificant the sin that cost You Your life! We long to be free from sin and sinning. We look forward to spending an eternity free from sin with You. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: Amen. What a gift, to be free from sin! I’ve known that breakthrough in my own life, and I long for you to experience it, too. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on your sin and give thanks to the Lord for the blood He shed for you. 

Erin Davis has certainly been making the connection from the seven feasts in Leviticus to the message of the gospel. And as you’re letting this knowledge sink in, you can study this passage even deeper through Erin’s study, 7 Feasts.

As Nancy mentioned at the beginning of today’s program, you can get a copy of that study with your donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. It’s just our way of saying “thanks” for supporting this ministry as we reach women around the world. To get your copy, visit ReviveOurHearts.com and make a donation, or just call us at 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to ask for a copy of 7 Feasts.

Well, so far we’ve heard about two of the seven feasts in Leviticus chapter 23. Join us next week as Erin continues pointing us to the gospel through the feasts in the Old Testament. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Reminding you that sin doesn’t have the final say, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Support the Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Darkness. Fear. Uncertainty. Women around the world wake up hopeless every day. You can play a part in bringing them freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness instead. Your gift ensures that we can continue to spread gospel hope! Donate now.

Donate Now

About the Teacher

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.