The time leading up to the spring Holy Days is a meaningful time. We inspect our lives physically and spiritually for leaven and sin. We do our utmost to remove both from our lives.
But after all this, then what? What is the next course of action?
The name of the next festival in God’s plan gives us the answer: “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread” (Leviticus 23:6).
Yes, for the time leading up to this festival, we expend much physical and mental effort to remove leaven from our lives, but we don’t just stop there. And the seven days of Unleavened Bread aren’t just seven days of abstaining from leavening. Notice, God doesn’t call it the feast of no leavened bread. God puts the emphasis here on the unleavening.
The lesson we learn from bread is that it must either be leavened or unleavened. It cannot be both—nor can it be neither.
We must do the exact opposite of sin—we must do the righteous.
This is also known as repentance. To repent means to change. And once we see our sins, we put forth our effort combined with the necessary divine help from God the Father and Jesus Christ to remove those sins. That’s what the days of Unleavened Bread are about—they teach us how to live the opposite way of sin.
Notice how simply and profoundly Herbert Armstrong defined repentance in Mystery of the Ages: “Repentance means a change of mind. Godly sorrow is a much deeper sorrow than remorse. And godly sorrow leads to repentance” (emphasis added throughout). Notice here, repentance is not merely sorrow, though the right kind of sorrow leads to it.
“It involves not only heartfelt sorrow for past sins [so sorrow is an initial part of it], but a total change of attitude, of mind and direction and purpose of life. Actually, repentance is more concerned with future conduct than the past. The blood of Christ has atoned for the past” (ibid). Repentance is living the opposite way of sin—the unleavened way.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “Repentance is not penance. Nothing you can do can make up for past guilt. The blood of Christ has paid the price of past guilt. It has washed the slate clean.” We don’t live the opposite, righteous way to make up for something we did. Christ’s blood has to take care of that. But repentance means moving on in the contrary direction of sin. Repentance means to change our minds and thus change our actions—what Mr. Armstrong termed our “future conduct.”
And this, then, is the lesson of the days of Unleavened Bread: To every sinful action, there is a contrary righteous action.
The Apostle Paul expounded on this concept in Ephesians 4, citing several practical examples of sins that have what we could call righteous counteractions. He prefaces these examples with the following: “That ye put off concerning the former [conduct] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (verses 22-24).
We don’t just put off the old man. We replace it with the new man—created by God in “righteousness and true holiness.”
In the verses to follow, Paul stressed that it is more than just stopping the sinful action. It requires walking in the opposite direction. Living the meaning of these days is more than just abstaining from certain sinful actions. It’s more than just removing the leavening. It’s about eating the unleavened—living and acting upon the righteous way.
What happens if you take the leaven out and stop eating bread altogether—thinking of it spiritually? Think back to when the United States invaded Iraq and deposed its tyrannical leader. Sure, it deposed the dictatorial regime—but did it replace it with anything? Eventually—but for several days there was nothing but chaos! When Jesus Christ returns, He will depose human tyrants and Satan the devil, but He will immediately establish His new government—a structure being formed right now!
God’s spring holy day plan includes the removal of sin and what we replace it with. In fact, replacing the sin with righteousness is the only sure way to remove the sin! It’s the principle of overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).
Notice the example Paul uses in Ephesians 4:28: “Let him that stole steal no more ….” So Paul says to overcome the sin of stealing, you have to stop stealing first. That is what it means to get the leavening out! But just abstaining from stealing doesn’t rehabilitate a thief. A thief who isn’t stealing is just a thief between jobs. To really overcome this sin, Paul says that he must do the opposite! And what is that? “[B]ut rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
So you get the leaven out. You stop walking in the direction of sin. But you must turn around and walk the way of righteousness—the way of repentance, the way of unleavening. A thief overcomes being a thief when he learns to work for his wages—and even learns to give of what he earns to those who need it! He must stop walking according to the way of get and walk according to the way of give!
Paul uses other examples in this passage: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (verse 25).
In verse 26, Paul says instead of letting anger get control of you and cause you to sin, the righteous opposite is to deal with the anger before the sun goes down, so you have it under control and remove the proclivity to sin.
Verse 29 reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” If we have a problem gossiping, Paul says to replace that type of speech with words that build others up—find something positive to say about another.
This is the key to a spiritually enriching feast of Unleavened Bread. We come to these days with a list (perhaps mental, maybe even written down somewhere) of things that we need to overcome. What God wants us to do is take that list and understand what the righteous counteractions to those sins are. What is the righteous opposite? Don’t just abstain from the sin. Do the righteous!
It is important to note the two types of sins that we generally commit—sins of omission (things that we should be doing that we don’t do) and sins of commission (things that we do that are directly in violation of God’s law). During the Days of Unleavened Bread—and throughout the year—as we discover our sins, God wants us to realize that if it’s a sin of omission, the next course of action is obviously to start doing what we should be doing. If it’s a sin of commission, then we must find the righteous opposite to that sinful action. Ask, How do I repent of this sin? What is the righteous conduct I should take in the future to come out of this sin?
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
We purge the leaven. We accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But it is all so we can move on—to become a new unleavened lump. We replace the leaven with unleaven! We replace the malice and wickedness with sincerity and truth!
Remember, repentance of sin means going the opposite way of sin. It involves overcoming sin by committing the righteous counteraction.
As we search and find the leaven, let’s strive for a deeper understanding of the unleaven that we can put into our lives. As we examine ourselves and find more sins and spiritual leaven, let us examine the way of repentance—the righteousness and unleaven to counter those thoughts and actions that so easily plague us. Doing this will help us to make this year’s feast of Unleavened Bread the most meaningful ever.