Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When the Bread Does Not Rise

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Leslie Basham: Why is it so important to run from sin? Erika VanHaitsma says sin separates us from our lover God.

Erika VanHaitsma: You don’t marry your spouse and then keep your old boyfriends around—at least not if you want a good marriage.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The heart God purifies, for March 28, 2018.

We call this week Passion Week, and the backdrop is Passover. Over the last couple of days, Erika VanHaitsma has been showing us why Passover is all about a love story, one you’re invited to. Nancy’s here to introduce today’s message.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I want to welcome again Erika VanHaitsma to Revive Our Hearts. She’s guest teaching this week. She loves God’s Word. She loves Christ. And she loves seeing how the whole story fits together from Genesis to Revelation, and I’m sure you’re picking that up as you’re hearing her.

If you’ve missed either of the first two days, be sure to go to ReviveOurHearts.com, and you can pick up those two sessions.

Today we enter into a session that, well, let me just say those of you women who’ve ever made bread, you’re going to especially relate to this. I told Erika a few moments ago, “I’ve never baked bread, so you’ve got to help me with this illustration to really understand it.” But if you’ve ever done that, you’re going to especially get this.

Erika and her husband Bryan serve as part of our Revive Our Hearts family. All things digital—Internet, our many different websites, our digital communication, our social media—Bryan oversees the team that leads all that behind the scenes. They’re amazing, faithful servants of the Lord.

Erika, you said that you have five children, nine and under. How did you have time to prepare for this series, because that’s amazing?

Erika: I have a wonderful husband who was very gracious and helped with it.

Nancy: So you’re a team in this.

Erika: Yes.

Nancy: Thanks for sharing a little bit about your crazy, busy life, because I think sometimes people hear sessions like this and they think, Well, she wouldn’t at all relate to anything that I experience. But you told us, in fact, you mentioned to me last night as we were having dinner that this past Christmas one of your children actually swallowed an ornament? Your two-year-old, was that it?

Erika: My two-year-old. I was down doing school with my nine-year-old, and my seven-year-old comes running down, “Mom! She ate an ornament!” I run upstairs just to see her swallow.

Nancy: Wow! I’d be freaking out, but you were this calm, godly mom. “I’ve got it covered.” (Laughter.)

Erika: Oh, yes, perfectly calm. In fact, I think I said to her, “That was stupid!” Well, never tell a two-year-old something they do is stupid because that becomes her favorite word.

Thankfully my husband, who works from home, came out of the office, found the ornament on the floor in pieces.

Nancy: So she didn’t swallow much of it?

Erika: No. If she swallowed anything, it was very little.

Nancy: And she lived through it.

Erika: Yes.

Nancy: And just to say, whatever season and circumstance in life you may be in today, the gospel comes to us in our frazzled, harried, crazy moments and circumstances, and Jesus is the Savior and the Deliverer in those very real-life moments.

Erika: Amen.

Nancy: So we have a very real-life woman here. Erika, thank you for the study, for the teaching, for the digging into God’s Word, and for helping our hearts love it more.

So, Lord, we commit this session to You. Thank You for Erika. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the Passover that we’re celebrating in this season, that the Angel of Death has passed over our lives if we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world for our salvation. How precious is that!

So give us ears to hear and hearts to receive all that You have for us this day, I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Erika: In the book of Exodus, we learn God the lover has freed His beloved people. He rends the heavens and leapt over the mountains to get to the one He loves. He went through Egyptian gods and goddesses and even the mighty Pharaoh himself finally had to acknowledge the power of the God of Israel.

After celebrating Passover, Moses is able to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The very next morning, at last, she’s free—free to be with the God who loves her so much. The only problem is, another obstacle arises, but this one comes from the nation of Israel itself.

God was able to get the people out of Egypt, but now He needs to get Egypt out of the people.

Have you ever noticed, God didn’t set Israel free from Egypt and then leave them to just wander around in the desert doing whatever they wanted? God didn’t create a free nation simply to have one more free nation on the planet. God had something far greater in mind.

Before Israel left Egypt, Moses told Pharaoh numerous times, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Let My people go that they may worship, serve Me.’” Depending on your translation, it could be worship or serve because it’s the same word in the Hebrew. There’s actually a very close connection between worshiping and serving, so it makes sense that it’s one word. The truth is, what we worship, we tend to serve, and what we serve is usually what we’ve been worshiping.

God wants Israel to worship, serve Him alone. He wants Israel to belong to Him alone. He wants exclusive rights, like a husband can claim with a wife.

In Deuteronomy 6, verse 23, Moses is recalling the exodus, and he states, “But he (God) brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors.”

God brings you out to bring you in—out from Egypt into relationship with Himself, out of Pharaoh’s kingdom so He can bring you into His kingdom.

So after bringing Israel out of Egypt, instead of letting them just wander around, God takes them straight to Mount Sinai where they enter into the kingdom of God through a marriage-type covenant.

Here at Mount Sinai, God binds Himself to the people, obligating Himself to them forever. He declares, “You will always be My people.” You could see it almost as a renewal of vows. With what He did with Abraham, He’s now renewing with the entire nation.

No longer is Israel under Pharaoh, but Israel is not their own either. Israel belongs to God. They now have a new Master, and the reason for this is: intimacy, so God can dwell with His people. Remember, He’s the lover that wants to take His beloved’s hand and walk with her.

In Deuteronomy chapter 4, Moses declares in verse 34:

Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you before your very eyes in Egypt? You were shown these things that you might know the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength (vv. 34–37).

He continues in chapter 30, verse 19:

This day I call heaven and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, that you may live and that your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life (vv. 19–20).

Forsaking all others and betrothing themselves to God alone—this is Israel’s call. This is her purpose. It’s not that Israel is without a master. Israel now has a new Master. They are to belong to God alone.

But what does it look like to belong to God alone? Well, God is a very creative lover, and He has a plan, and it starts with a festival of unleavened bread. The festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread are very closely connected.

Leviticus 23 tells us that Passover is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of the first month, so the very next day, starts the Festival of Unleavened Bread. One follows right after the other. During the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Israel is not allowed to eat anything with yeast. For seven days she has to eat a flatbread called Matzah.

Did you know that yeast is actually the bread decaying?

I like to bake a little bit, but I don’t bake enough to really understand, so I had to do some research to understand yeast myself, Nancy. So I’m right there with you. Yeast is the bread decaying. What makes the bread rise is the decaying process. It’s actually rotting. It’s breaking down and fermenting, but as it’s rotting, it’s releasing gases, and that puffs up the bread.

I love fresh, homemade yeast-filled bread. I’ll be honest with you. But what would happen if you left that bread dough out and just let that decaying process continue? The bread would rot. If you did not cook it, the bread would rot and become unedible, completely. So they stopped that rotting process by cooking it, and you slow it down.

Well, what does that have to do with Israel and Egypt? Have you ever been given or heard of Amish Friendship Bread? For those of you, if you bake, you understand probably where this story is going.

I was given Amish Friendship Bread when I first married my husband. I was in a new community, a new wife, and I had never done any baking besides chocolate chip cookies. So this was a big deal for me.

Amish Friendship Bread, in case you don’t know, you’re given a bag of bread dough, and all you have to do is stick it in the oven and cook it. It’s very good bread, I think.

But before you cook it, you’re supposed to take out a little piece of that dough. It’s called a starter piece. Then you let your bread cook. You take that starter piece, and you take another bag, and you put all the ingredients for another loaf of bread in the bag, but no yeast. You take that starter piece, and you stick it in the bag of dough, and that starter piece acts in place of the yeast because it’s got the yeast in it, and it permeates the entire bag of dough with yeast.

You take that bag, and you’re supposed to give it to someone else, and then they’re supposed to take their dough and then pull out another starter piece. So you’re constantly pulling forward this little starter piece from person to person.

Well, I drove my husband crazy with it because I didn’t know who to give the bag of bread dough to, and I didn’t know you don’t have to pull out the starter piece. So I pulled out a starter piece, made another whole bag of bread dough, and didn’t know what to do with it, so I shoved it in the oven.

Well, I had pulled out another starter piece, and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I made another bag of bread dough and shoved it in the oven. We had, like, three or four loaves of this Amish Friendship Bread, and my husband was finally like, “Stop it! Stop pulling out the starter piece. You don’t have to do that.” Oh. I didn’t know that. (laughter) For some reason I thought you had to pull this out, it would ruin the bread. You don’t have to. But it is yummy dough.

Well, that was the way it worked back then. They didn’t have grocery stores. They didn’t have quick-rise yeast. They didn’t even have bread machines to help. You had what you made with your own hands. So every morning the women would get together and make their bread dough. Then you’d have to wait to let it rise. But to help it go faster, after the bread had risen, you pulled out a starter piece, and you’d hold that starter piece for the next day because the starter piece quickens that process. It makes the bread rise faster.

So every day, they’d pull out a starter piece, bake their dough into bread, and they’d have a starter piece for the next day’s dough. And, in fact, it was common, when a woman got married, for her mother to give her her very first starter piece for her new family, her new loaf of bread.

So what does it mean when God commands Israel, “For seven days, you can’t eat bread with yeast”? It means no starter piece. You can’t hold a piece of dough for seven days and reuse it—at least not back then. It would rot.

Because of the timing, picture this: You’ve got Israel celebrating Passover. The very next morning, they leave Egypt. And that very morning they leave, is the start of Unleavened Bread. So that means no letting the bread rise. They just immediately make their bread and cook it. It doesn’t have time to decay. It doesn’t have time to rise. There’s no starter piece. They do that the next day—immediately put it in the oven and cook it. They do that for seven days straight, after they’ve left Egypt.

What happens on Day 8? Now they can let the bread rise, and now they get a starter piece again, but it’s a brand new starter piece. It’s a starter piece that didn’t come from Egypt. It’s untainted. It’s fresh. It’s clean. It’s new.

And not only once, but yearly, the nation of Israel is called to celebrate this festival. So every year they’re to start over with a brand new starter piece, a brand new loaf of bread. Every year they’re to cut off the old and begin anew.

I think God is showing Israel a picture, and through Israel, He’s showing us: “You leave everything of Egypt behind you. Even your daily bread must be made new because now I’m going to make you new. We need to get Egypt out so I can bring you in. And every year I’m going to remind you of the new nation, the holy nation you are by making you start over with a brand new loaf of bread .”

And the Festival of Unleavened Bread, for seven days, Israel eats bread without yeast. On the one hand, that means no starter piece. On the other hand, it also means for seven days, they eat bread that’s not allowed to decay. It is given no time to rot. It is clean. It is fresh. It is free from yeast, free from decaying.

If Passover is a once-a-year date night, the Festival of Unleavened Bread is a week-long celebration where Israel was called to remind herself daily of her amazing relationship with God and how He made them His own. Every time they sat down to a meal, they were reminded of the new nation they were because of the bread they were eating.

When God messes with your food, it gets your attention, doesn’t it? (laughter)

No longer was Israel under the kingdom of Egypt. Now they were part of the kingdom of God. They are to worship and serve Him alone. And God reminds them of this in this festival.

But the purpose of all of this is not to be mean. It’s not to give them diet restrictions. It’s so a holy God can dwell in the midst of His people and have a relationship with them so they can become one.

The Jewish people look at Mount Sinai like a marriage ceremony, and they say it was there as a nation they married God.

Why do people get married? To be one, to be with the one you love until death. That’s what God wants with Israel, and that’s what God wants from Israel.

You don’t marry your spouse and then keep your old boyfriends around—at least not if you want a good marriage. When you marry someone, you say, “It’s you and I forever until one of us dies. Forsaking all others, I belong to you.”

This is what God wants—for Israel to forsake Egypt and its plethora of gods and goddesses and to bind themselves to Him alone.

So for God to dwell with Israel means Israel must be holy. She must be set apart, unique. Otherwise, God’s presence would be dangerous to her. You can’t be like the other nations and have God dwell in your midst.

Read through the Old Testament and watch how God is constantly going after Israel. He loves her dearly. He has them build a Tabernacle, a dwelling place for His presence where He’s surrounded by three tribes on each side. Later He has them build a Temple. It was meant to be a permanent place where He could dwell.

But the reason God has to continue going after Israel is because she continues to fail and to wander and to walk away. And I understand that struggle.

I love that hymn, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

The reason Israel struggles? The people no longer belong to Pharaoh, but they still don’t belong only to God.

Think back to that first day when we talked about how in the Garden of Eden God promised to send a Deliverer. The disobedience of Adam and Eve infected an entire universe. Through their disobedience, another master had now been allowed to come racing in and claim ownership of mankind. The world is now under the rule and reign of sin and death. And mankind as a whole is being oppressed. There’s a new master in town.

And as hard and ruthless as Pharaoh was, sin and death are even worse. They are ruthless, forever trying to keep God and His people apart. And just like Pharaoh, sin and death use people, lose people, and abuse people. There’s still a separation between God and His people.

So, for true intimacy to occur, God now needs to deal with this other master. He needs to deliver a decisive blow to sin and death. They need to be defeated. Our God does not give up. He loves His people too much for that.

As gracious as Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread are, the reminders of God’s love that they are, the reality is no festival can remove the kingdom of darkness, can it? God knew that even with this blessing, and with all of His reminders, Israel would still fail. Yet God was always right there, ready and willing to forgive, constantly calling the nation back to Himself through the prophets.

“Repent!” He says. “Return to Me. I’m waiting. My arms are open wide. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have inscribed you on the palm of My hand. Can the mother forget the child nursing at her breast? So I could never forget you. You are My people. I am in covenant with you. And no matter how hard you may try, it cannot be broken. Just wait. I will come and set you free. My Deliverer is on the way.”

And we get to talk about Him tomorrow.

Nancy: Thank you, Erika VanHaitsma. You’ll never think about bread the same way again, will you? And just some really precious reminders, and what a great week for us to be focusing on this.

God has brought us out of Egypt, slavery, sin, under the old dominion of Satan and his kingdom of darkness so that He can bring us into a new place, a new kingdom, the kingdom of light. That doesn’t mean we have no master any longer. We have a new Master, Christ Jesus.

And the process of God bringing us out is a process of Him weening us from Egypt, removing Egypt from our hearts and giving us new hearts. In fact, as you were talking, Erika, two passages came to mind—one in the Old Testament and one in the New.

The first, in Jeremiah 31, a passage that you see God stating in different ways throughout the Old Testament, but here in Jeremiah 31, He says,

“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel . . . declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, [Not Pharaoh’s law. Not Egypt’s law. Not their own law. God’s law. God’s holy law] and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (v. 33 ESV).

This relationship that God’s after that Erika’s been pointing us to.

And what does all that have to do with Passion Week, with the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf? Well, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we commemorate this whole feast day, this feast day of the unleavened bread, of the Passover, the slaying of the sacrificial lamb, and then the eating of the unleavened bread.

In some churches, they still use actually unleavened bread when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper—sometimes not, but when they do, it’s a very significant thing because Christ is our Passover Lamb, and He is the only Bread free from any leaven, rot, destruction, decay, totally pure.

So as we partake of Him, of His body, symbolically with that unleavened bread, we are partaking of Christ coming into our lives and giving us a whole new fresh start. There’s nothing of Egypt in Him. Nothing of sin in Him.

And so we read in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, where Paul’s taking to the whole body of believers here, and he says,

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. [That’s what we celebrate this week. Every time we take the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate it again—Christ, our Passover Lamb.)] Let us therefore celebrate the festival, [We lament and grieve His death, but it’s Good Friday coming. It’s Resurrection Sunday coming. It’s a festival that we celebrate] not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (vv. 7–8 ESV).

And, Oh, Christ, how we praise You that You are that unleavened bread, and we partake of You and of Your new law being written in our hearts. You have brought us out of Egypt, out of sin, out from under Satan’s dominion to bring us into Your brand-new kingdom of light and holiness.

And so we celebrate this festival and pray that You would remove from us all malice, all evil, all bitterness, all sin, all selfishness, and instead, we would eat and drink deeply of Christ, our Passover Lamb, the Living Water. Your blood shed for us. Your body broken for us. The unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. And for all of this we give You praise, in Jesus’ holy name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Earlier, our guest teacher, Erika VanHaitsma, showed us why the Old Testament Festival of Unleavened Bread matters so much to us. We’re able to provide in-depth teaching like you’ve heard today thanks to the support of our listeners.

When you support Revive Our Hearts today, we’d like to send you two copies of the updated book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. This is hot off the press. The entire book has been updated and 30 percent of it is completely new content. The reason we want to send you two is so you can keep one and share one with a friend. We’ll also include two study guides and two bookmarks.

Nancy, how can our listeners get this package?

Nancy: Well, Leslie, as we’ve been sharing throughout this month, they can get it by joining the Revive Our Hearts Monthly Partner Team. This is a group of listeners who see God at work in Revive Our Hearts, and they’re raising their hands and saying, “I want to be a part of this ministry.”

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Leslie: The crucifixion that we mark this week is an important part of a grand love story. Tomorrow, Erika VanHaitsma will remind you that our Savior was also the Bridegroom who loved us and wanted to win a people for Himself. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you to an intimate relationship with Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted.