"And Jehovah spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Exodus 12:1-2).
We started out in our previous meditation by indicating the connection between the Passover of the Jews and the Lord's Supper of the Church as brought about by the Lord Jesus Himself in the night in which He was betrayed, and what we set out to see was that the Passover or the Lord's Supper, and what they represent of the death of Christ, is the beginning of the history of the Lord's people. All history, from God's standpoint, begins there, and, although Christendom may have created its Calendar and we talk about 1941 A.D., you have to take thirty-three years of that away before you start history from God's standpoint. The Cross of the Lord Jesus was the zero hour of this universe from God's standpoint. The Cross of the Lord Jesus is the zero hour of the history of every child of God, and nothing is taken account of by God before that, and from that and what that represents as a basic thing in history, in spiritual history, from that everything is taken account of as being of God. Now, if we can understand that, we shall have the key to everything and find a very great deal of help.
One of the outstanding features of the Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Chapter 13 of Exodus deals especially with that. In Chapter 12 verse 8 it is mentioned. "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; with bitter herbs they shall eat it." Then that little clause "and unleavened bread" is taken up in Chapter 13, and we have a quite extensive paragraph on the matter.
"Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to Jehovah. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee, in all thy borders." (verses 6 and 7.) Now you notice that Luke makes much of that - Chapter 22:7: "And the day of unleavened bread came, on which the passover must be sacrificed."
It is already mentioned in verse 1. "Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover."
That introduces the Passover and the Lord's Supper, as you will see, and that feast of unleavened bread carried on for seven days - that is a perfect spiritual period, and gives a special significance to spiritual history. Until you and I have learned the meaning of unleavened bread we have not begun real spiritual history, for such history begins by a very definite, positive establishing, as a memorial, of the meaning of unleavened bread.
I think we know what leaven stands for. To say that it is sin is far too general; it is not specific and definite enough. Of course, it is sin; but leaven is the old nature; it is the natural or the carnal man; it is that energy of the old creation; it is that ferment of the flesh; it is that seething that is in us that is ever trying to work its way out, to express itself, to enlarge itself, to inflate itself, to make its presence and influence felt, to get, possess, to get hold - all that sort of thing which is the flesh, an active element in the old carnal nature. Now that history has to have a definite crisis and be brought to an end in that crisis, has to be smitten in the death of the Lord Jesus, and not until the seven days of the feast of unleavened bread have been completed can we begin our history in living union with God's Son. That is fundamental to spiritual history.
An End and a Beginning
We have said that God takes account of nothing until the Passover is fulfilled, and everything that is of God begins and takes its rise at the point where the feast of unleavened bread is completed. That is a tremendous thing to say, beloved, but because that has not been recognized, there is the tragic history of very much done for the Lord of which He takes no account, it did not originate with Him. Failure to recognize this, and failure to have this thing really established has been and is the ground of a very great deal of Christian deception. It is an assumption, an assumption that we are the Lord's and that all is well, and Satan loves an assumption, loves people to assume, for assumption is that ground which is most fruitful for his deceptive work. What I mean is this. If with us, with you, with me, there is a coming into the things of God with an unbroken natural will, with an unsubdued natural mind, with an uncrucified natural ambition, that is fertile land for deception. Satan can get a great deal where things are like that. Somewhere, secretly, deeper than our recognition and perhaps consciousness, there is an ambition, ambition for service, for ministry, to do something, to be something, to see something; the ferment of the leaven of the old nature still at work and is brought over to the things of God. The result? Oh, if not entirely, a very large proportion of what follows is not out from God; it is a history of something which is energized by us in the Name of the Lord; a life which has its spring in ourselves although for the Lord. It has leaven in it, it has the natural energy, the natural mind, the natural judgment, the natural reason, the natural will, the natural ambition, the natural emotion. God says that everything of Himself begins at zero where we can produce nothing.
That lamb slain in its representative capacity said that on that side everything was finished. It was made sin, made a curse and smitten - the Cross is God's zero hour for the old creation. From that time, only that which comes directly, immediately out from God Himself is spiritual history, is Divine history, in us. It is only that which counts, it is only that which knows the Lord, it is only that which gets back to the Lord, it is only that which accomplishes the Lord's purpose. Nothing takes its rise in us.
The feast of unleavened bread is a very serious business to be carried on throughout seven days. It says - No place with God for this natural life! It is corrupt, it has in it that seething ferment of pride. Somewhere behind everything there is pride. That is the poison which came into the race from the serpent who said, I will. I will exalt my throne. I will be equal to the Most High. I! I! - that is leaven. The leaven is the 'I' in some form or other. I am not saying, beloved, that you and I can track it out in all its forms, but what we have to recognize is that it is there, and not one of us dare for an instant say, It is not so with me! You and I have to come to God's position about ourselves, and not one of us must seek to justify ourself in God's presence. What we have to do is to say that God's verdict is a true verdict, and, by nature there is in me the deep, active poison of an 'I' life. It is there whether I am alive to it all the time or not. It is there whether I feel most devoted to the Lord or not. It is there. As truly as we have this blood coursing in our veins, the blood of this humanity, we have in that blood the seed of a fallen nature, and that fallen nature in its principle is 'I', and that 'I' is ever aiming at getting hold of the things of God. Let us not forget that. The very heart of that is to get hold of the things of God. Satan said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: ...I will be like the Most High". I will get hold of what is God's!
That was Jacob's terrible, terrible mistake. Yes, the birthright was for Jacob, but, mark you, it was God's. Jacob had a perception of the value of Divine things. Jacob had a sense of the importance of the things of God which his brother had not, but Jacob was not content to believe, to trust that God would secure in him those Divine things, and for him and to him. Jacob, recognizing the value of Divine things, in the ferment of the leaven of the self-life must act to get his hands upon those things. You and I may be quite right in our perception of the value of Divine things, but to get them into our own hands is quite another matter; to have blessing for self, to have power to use, to have position for influence, all of which may subtly be the bringing of us somewhere - that is leaven. God cannot go on with Jacob. Twenty years of deepest discipline must lie between that first act of putting his hand upon Divine things and his being brought into the good of them; deep, deep history. That is the history of most of us. History begins there, with a feast of unleavened bread. It begins with a repudiation unto death of the self-life, the "I" principle.
In Israel it had to be very thorough. They had to search their houses with candles for any hidden leaven, and even then in their ritual afterward, before they dare offer their sacrifice, having searched, they had to make a declaration to the effect - We have searched our houses for leaven, we have done that which is commanded us in the law, but if there yet be something hidden which we have not discovered, we forswear it! It had to be very thorough.
The Feast of Remembrance
And the Lord said, This shall be a memorial throughout your generations forever! And whenever the feast of the Passover came, year by year, the feast of unleavened bread led up to it, was bound up with it. What then was its significance? It was a remembrance of a great act of separation, separation from evil. As they sat down to the feast, the story was told year by year of what the Lord did to the Egyptians, and how the Lord brought them out of Egypt, and the Lord says, This must be throughout your generations forever.
Now beloved, if the Lord's Supper corresponds to the Passover in spiritual principle, do you not see that every time we come to the Lord's Table we are telling the story? That is exactly the meaning of Paul's words in 1 Cor. 11, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim..." declare, set forth, narrate. We tell the story in act, we act the story.
The Lord marked the beginning of our spiritual history with a feast of unleavened bread. He brought us out of Egypt. What is Egypt? Well, Egypt typifies the strength and glory of the flesh: and how God had to get Egypt out of the very bones of Moses! He was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and for forty long years in the wilderness Egypt was being smitten in Moses. He started out in the energy of Egypt, he started out in the wisdom of Egypt, he attempted the things of God with Egyptian resources, his position, his abilities - and God said, No! The feast of unleavened bread for forty years, and we start at zero! The man who is going to be used as an instrument for bringing people out on to heavenly ground must go through discipline. He must find heavenly ground and be emptied of all earthly ground, all natural ground. The Lord makes this divide very clear.
I know perhaps some of you are thinking, Well, where are we? We have been Christians for years; in some cases, many years. Where are we? What is our position? Well, beloved, we have to face God's facts. I am not saying that we are not Christians, that we do not belong to the Lord, but I am saying that you and I have to face God's position squarely and it is never too late to do that. God is working with us all the way along to bring us back. Oh, that we had seen it all at the beginning, but even if we had, I wonder if we could have accepted it. I wonder if it is not necessary for us to go through things in order to accept new light. We are never really brought into light by a presentation of truth. We really only come livingly into things when something has happened in us, and it takes time. However, here we are, and whatever may be said about this, here is God's position, and I ask you faithfully and solemnly, have you had a feast of unleavened bread, do you really know the consummation of that feast in the Passover in your history? If not, you have reason to question a great many things. Some of us know the divide which that makes. There have been years of very energetic, active, enthusiastic, exhausting Christian work, preaching and what not; but oh! how we look back on those years with regret and shame, that, with all the zeal and all the energy, how little, how very little comparatively of a real coming out from the Lord, and we have to ask many questions about those years. The one thing that is quite patent to us is that we were the energizers, we were the fountain of the activity, we were doing it, we were in it, and much more than that.
Then God brought to us the feast of unleavened bread. It was a dry time. Unleavened bread is not palatable - a good many bitter herbs are associated with unleavened bread. The flesh does not delight in that diet. But it was and it is a real thing; it is coming to God's zero, and, whatever may have been the sense then of weakness and failure and imperfection, we do know one thing, that that feast of unleavened bread marked a new beginning where the Lord was concerned, marked a new coming in of the Lord, and marked a new realm of life and work. From that time we know one thing if we know nothing else, namely, that from that time onward it is the Lord and not ourselves, and the Lord has kept us on that principle Himself, smiting, continually smiting, any deviation from the point where it was the Lord; and that has been a memorial throughout our generation. The Lord brings us back to that again and again I ask you, do you know that real crisis?
Life through Death
It is this to which the Apostle refers as being the very secret of life, the secret of Divine life. It is here that Divine life takes its rise. The river of Divine life springs out of the Cross, and he says, "Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). "Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus" - strange language! "The putting to death of Jesus". That is one aspect of the death of Christ, only one aspect. There are others, but that is a very important aspect. The putting to death of Jesus. Why was He put to death? He was put to death because He stood by choice, voluntarily, of His own will, in the place of the old creation; in your place, in my place. He was put to death as representing the natural life of the old creation which He took upon Him, not His but ours. And you and I are always to be bearing about in the body that putting to death. If that is so - the putting to death of the old nature, the 'I', the self, the flesh, the carnal principle, the leaven of this nature - then the life also of Jesus is manifested in our mortal flesh. You see, there is no life save by way of that death. All life comes by the way of that death. What is the value and working of this life?
Well, we are to reckon ourselves as alive unto God. What is it to be alive unto God? Beloved, this being alive unto God means a new kind of living knowledge and intelligence, which is not the knowledge and the intelligence of the old man. That old reason has been put to death, and now it is a new knowledge. I ask you again, is it true in your case that, because of a definite crisis in the feast of unleavened bread, that knowledge which you have is a living knowledge which has come after that crisis, or have you carried over the old man, the old reasoning, the old judgment, into the things of God? If so, you see, you are dead while you live, and I believe that is the reason why so many Christians are without living revelation.
Beloved, believe me, it is the birthright of every child of God to have living revelation of God, to know the Lord by revelation of the Holy Spirit. It is your birthright. Oh, if every Christian was there, had that, what a different situation there would be! If every child of God really was living in the light of direct revelation of the Lord in the heart! It may be through the Word, but it is ours, we have our own personal blessed enjoyment of the Lord revealing Himself to us. If that is not true, then I do not understand my Bible. I have to close a great deal of the Word of God and say, Well, that does not mean what it says! What is the meaning of the anointing that abideth in us and teacheth us all things, as John says? What is the meaning of this that the Lord has been saying about "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me..."? What is the meaning of it if it does not mean that every child of God should have, perhaps in small beginnings, but in ever-growing and enlarging measure, a direct and personal inward knowledge of the Lord, so that the Lord speaks to that child of God in an inward way regarding His will, His mind, His thoughts, and teaches them all the time. It is true, beloved, this is life, it is the life that does it. The Spirit of life will touch you on every point where the Lord has something to say. If you are alive to God, the Spirit of God will touch you as to the Lord's mind on everything where there is a need for Him to say something.
He will touch you on the matter of dress. He will touch you on the matter of your conversation. He will touch you upon some inconsistency in your life, some unrighteousness in your transactions. He will touch you upon the question of trustworthiness. He will even touch you on the matter of punctuality in keeping your engagements. He will touch you on anything where He has something to say on a matter of rectitude, conscientiousness. Oh, there is nothing more character-forming than a life in the Holy Spirit. This is life, and it is revelation, it is knowing the Lord. Do not think of knowing the Lord and revelation of the Lord merely as a beautiful unveiling of a wonderful God in glory. No, the revelation of the Lord is this, on these practical matters. Oh yes, we have been through it. I know it is true and you know it is true. To walk with God is to be checked up, and being checked up by the Holy Spirit is knowing the Lord.
Well now, being alive unto God as from the dead it cannot be until the feast of unleavened bread has been established. It does mean that our own will and mind and desire and everything that is of ourselves must have been smitten. There must have been a crisis. It is not done once for all, completely and finally, in an act, although something is done. Something has been broken, and from that time God has a way in, and as you and I respond to what God is putting through that way which He has secured, the thing grows and grows, and things which to us at one time were perfectly harmless we cannot do now. The Lord is gracious in these matters. He does not bring it on us all at once, but it is wonderful how, when we go on with the Lord, we change. We drop certain things, we change, and how does it come about? Well, if we put it into words, we would say, I came to feel the Lord did not want that or did want it. I believe that that ought to be the expanding experience of every child of God. It should be. Now, don't turn in and begin to go over your spiritual wardrobe, and see whether you can do without this or that. That would not be true spirituality. Walk with the Lord and you will find the wardrobe changes.
Oh, trust the Holy Spirit and He will put you right on everything. But, mark you, basic to everything, there has to be a feast of unleavened bread, that is, the whole life of nature must have been smitten at its root; the putting to death of Jesus must have had a radical start in us. But if the whole history of believers, of the Church, takes its rise from that, if that is where everything begins, then, from God's standpoint, there is no Church except on the basis of a feast of unleavened bread; and there is no history, nothing exists, until that has been done. That is why He stressed this matter so much, because there could be nothing, there would be nothing, and God was after something, but all of Himself, all out from Himself.
The Lamb Newly Slain
So the little clause "with unleavened bread" is taken up and expanded in a certain connection, the separation of the firstborn. The letter to the Hebrews tells us what that is. "Ye are come... to the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven", and when you come to see what that enrolment means, turning to the book of the Revelation, it has to do with the Lamb's book of life. The Lamb's book of life, and you look to see the Lamb and it is ever as though it had been slain, in the throne. When the Lamb has reached the final position in glory and exaltation and power, He is still presented as though He had been slain. There is an element in the statement there which suggests, 'as though it had just been slain, newly slain'. God keeps that thing fresh right to the end and the throne, and the Church of the firstborn ones whose names are enrolled in heaven in the Lamb's book of life are those whose history is based on the Passover, on the slaying of the Lamb, at the end of the feast of unleavened bread. That is not just typology. It is tremendously searching truth.
If every celebration of the Communion Service had that behind it, what a different state there would be in the world today. What a tragedy that God's thought about this matter has been lost. It has become a rite, a ceremony. Surely those of us who gather around the Lord's Table will have to take this thing very much more seriously.
All Israel is found together in this lamb. There may have been thousands of lambs in Israel, but in heaven there is only one Lamb. Carrying this over to the Lord's Supper, there is only one Lamb, and there ever was only one Lamb in God's eye. All feasted upon one Lamb, all united in one Lamb, all united by reason of sharing one Lamb, so that this was a fellowship, a feast of fellowship, a fellowship in feasting. What is the basis of real fellowship? We all agree that the Lord's Table ought to be the central thing in our fellowship, it ought to be that in which our fellowship is expressed more than in anything else. What is the basis of fellowship? Oh, what Paul says is so true to principle. Look again at the situation at Corinth - the Lord s Table was there, but there was anything but fellowship. All were divided, one against another in the church, and yet they were coming to the Lord's Table and contradicting its central thought. Paul says, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body". Our coming to the Table must be on the basis of fellowship which is without condemnation; it is unleavened bread. You know as well as I know that there can be no fellowship amongst the Lord's people until the 'I' has been smitten. It is the 'I', it is the self, it is the personal, that breaks fellowship; it is our reason, our desire, our wish, our conviction.
Oh, the tragedy of endless divisions and splittings up of the Lord's people! They are going on and ever going on. Well, it is simply man's mind coming into play about a certain Christian truth - splitting hairs, we call it. It is man's mind. It is because there is really no basic unleavened bread. The natural man has not been set aside. Well, we cannot have fellowship unless that is done. Unleavened bread is essential to a feast of fellowship, but, blessed be God, if it is true that basically that thing obtains, well, there may be all sorts of things about us naturally that would cause breaking up, scattering, but that basic thing has happened and we go on. We are all very different naturally and there is much about us all which would make it quite impossible for other people to get on with us, but I venture to say that in us some basic thing has been done. The Cross has done something somewhere, and that is the security of our fellowship. I believe that the thing that has been done, in measure at least, is that personal interest has been smitten, and it is just the Lord Himself Who reigns; for Him all that is personal can be let go.
We really must ask the Lord about this matter of unleavened bread, because, as I have said, our glorious history of life and all that that life means in its working out, springs out of this. Where there is leaven there is death because there is corruption; where there is no leaven there is life because the root of corruption, the seed of corruption, has been smitten. The Lord teach us the importance of this!