It is definitely one of the most unusual practices today, yet God commands it: Put out leaven from our homes each spring. Why? The spiritual lessons are deep. If we really think on them, we realize how life-changing they are.
The Days of Unleavened Bread teaches us the process of purging sin and hungering for perfection. Physically removing crackers and crumbs from homes, offices, cars and other possessions should direct our thoughts and focus onto eliminating the spiritual leaven of sin.
The most important thing to deleaven is not the toaster oven. It is your thinking. Encountering various forms and deposits of physical leaven illustrates how easy it is to accumulate leaven in our minds: vanity, error, false ideas, flawed thinking.
Use these holy days to recognize and reduce the devil’s influence on your mind.
Satan Attacks—God Delivers
The origins of the feast of Unleavened Bread are found in the biblical book of Exodus. And though he is not directly mentioned by name, one of the main characters in that epic history is Satan.
Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites in Egypt and made their lives “bitter with hard bondage” (Exodus 1:13-14). God uses him as a symbol of the devil. Satan is the god of this world, and he enslaves people in sin (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 8:34). The sinner is under his power just as surely as the Israelites were to Pharaoh and his taskmasters.
The anguished Israelites sighed and cried in their servitude. God heard and desired to free them (Exodus 2:23-25). He loved the Israelites like His firstborn son! (Exodus 4:22-23). He was moved by their suffering.
Realize: God wants His children out of Egypt! When He sees us suffering because of sin, He suffers. When He sees us crying out in trial, He is moved. He yearns to free us from the sin that causes such misery.
Slaves from birth, the Israelites had known no other life. God delivered them with a high hand (Numbers 33:3). They were ecstatic to leave Egypt, just as newly begotten Christians are in starting out their life with God.
But escaping Egypt didn’t end their troubles. And when God brings us out of this sinful world and begins working with us, to deliver us from sin—Satan does not stay behind. Pharaoh chased the Israelites down in a rage, just as Satan pursues new Christians to bring them back into bondage (Exodus 14:5-9).
Gripped with fear at seeing the Egyptian army advance, the Israelites turned against Moses, saying: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt?” (verse 11; Revised Standard Version). Even after experiencing a miraculous deliverance—and while witnessing the wondrous fiery pillar cloud accompanying them, the Israelites lacked faith.
Then they went beyond lack of faith: “Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (verse 12). That is utter fiction—revisionist history! They had cried out for freedom and were thrilled to receive it, yet they now ridiculously insisted they had only wanted to be left alone to continue enjoying their wonderful life in Egypt.
This reveals an important truth. Satan was pursuing Israel with the Egyptian army—but he was also attacking them from within the camp. The father of lies was broadcasting his warped attitudes, moods and emotions.
Even after we are freed from spiritual Egypt, we are still subject to Satan’s efforts to infiltrate our thinking. Keeping him out requires vigilance and help from God. We need to remain close to Him and follow the spiritual pillar cloud. We must also use a critical ingredient that the Israelites did not have: the Holy Spirit!
God intervened mightily. He blocked the Egyptians’ path with blinding darkness (verse 20), carved a channel through the sea, and ushered His people to safety on the far shore. Yet despite this jaw-dropping display of divine power, Pharaoh—the moment the opportunity arose—still pursued after them! After all the destruction and death he had already witnessed in his homeland, he refused to admit he was beaten! This shows how irrationally destructive Satan is: He will exert his will in a blind rage even against God Himself (Revelation 12:12).
Following the Israelites
God drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea. This symbolizes our complete deliverance from sin when we are baptized (Exodus 14:30-31; Romans 6:3-4). The people celebrated their liberation with joy (Exodus 15:1-21). They anticipated a triumphant march into the Promised Land.
Yet what happened? Within three days, on the Israelites’ Sabbath, they camped at a place where the water was undrinkable. This was certainly a challenge, but how did they react? “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (verse 24).
The Egyptian soldiers had drowned, but Satan had not! Along with his demon army, he continued stirring the Israelites’ carnal minds.
When challenges arise, even converted Christians remain susceptible to having negative, faithless thoughts. Rather than remembering even recent miracles and deliverance, we can easily fixate on present inconveniences and dilemmas. Being physical, we tend to walk not by faith, but by sight. Satan masterfully preys on this weakness. He stirs up negativity. He makes molehills look like mountains. He makes the path forward appear too daunting, and the retreat back into the life of sin so tempting.
Satan ambushed the Israelites spiritually. Just weeks after they had left Egypt in the most miraculous way possible, the whole congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying: “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:2-3).
Did you realize how good the Israelites really had it in Egypt? How they could sit around enjoying pots of delectable meat and all the bread they wanted? And how much they loved to serve the Egyptians? Of course not, because that didn’t happen! In truth, they had escaped from a society that was literally throwing their sons into the river to exterminate their race!
Yet here in the wilderness, the Israelites got hungry, they encountered some difficulties, their attitudes spiraled into negativity—and they made themselves vulnerable to Satan.
Prior to the Days of Unleavened Bread, we scrutinize the ingredients of every food product to determine whether it contains leaven. In the same way, you must examine the contents of your thinking. Search your mind for the tendency to forget God’s miracles, to overlook His promises, to focus instead on gloomy physical evidence. Search for thoughts that romanticize worldliness and sugarcoat its side effects. Identify the lies Satan tells to convince you to quit your journey, stop your struggle, and give up the Promised Land.
This feast of Unleavened Bread, don’t deleaven physically without also looking for and purging your spiritual leavening.
The Apostle Paul said we must study the Israelites’ history and apply its negative lessons: “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them …. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed …. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted …. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured …. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).
This is an ingredients list of spiritual leaven. And most of the specific incidents Paul referenced are recorded in the book of Numbers, which chronicles Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. Spiritually, this is exactly where true Christians are today.
Years after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were still recalling their enslavement as the “golden years.” Two rebels confronted Moses with this argument: “Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us!” (Numbers 16:13; New International Version). Oh yes, Egypt was “a land flowing with milk and honey”—a veritable paradise for them!
Such outlandish comments show the effects of Satan’s propaganda. To avoid such warped thinking, we must be aware of Satan’s devices and tactics, and of how pervasive his influence really is (2 Corinthians 2:11).
What about your thinking? Where has Satan’s influence sabotaged your mind? Where have you been infiltrated by error, wrong ideas, faulty assumptions, foul attitudes, resentment, bitterness, self-absorption, pride, vanity, arrogance or self-righteousness? Where are you commiserating with the enemy?
How much of your wisdom is worldly, and how much of it is godly? (James 3:14-18). Which of your thoughts and actions are works of the flesh, and which are fruits of the spirit? (Galatians 5:19-26). How is your responsiveness to the chain of command, from God the Father to Jesus Christ to His servants to you to your family? How do you respond to trial? How do you spend your time? What entertainment do you watch? What do you get excited about? Are your affections set “on things above”? (Colossians 3:1-2).
Answering such questions is spiritual deleavening in action! God orders you to examine yourself (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). This doesn’t mean to compare yourself to Satan’s world and assume you are in good shape. Use God’s standard of measurement. Measure by His holy law, and compare yourself to His and Christ’s perfect example (Matthew 5:48).
Ask God to show you even the hidden leaven in your thinking (Psalm 19:12; Jeremiah 10:23-24). Humanly, we cannot see the leaven in ourselves (Proverbs 20:24). God must shine the bright light of His Holy Spirit into our lives. In our daily prayers, we must come before God in a repentant spirit, with a clear-eyed, humble view of ourselves, and ask Him to show us Satan’s influence. Then be prepared—because He will show you!
In a 2007 sermon, Royal Vision editor in chief Gerald Flurry issued a challenge we should think about as we examine ourselves. He described how Herbert W. Armstrong always made changes when God showed him. “Just like David, he had a perfect heart and a perfect attitude. That’s what God wants from you and from me,” Mr. Flurry said. “He knows we’re going to make mistakes. But is your attitude right? … When you see something wrong, do you say Hey—I’m going to correct that! [If] it’s a deep-seated weakness, then it may take some time—but at least you must start on it! When you see you’re wrong, do you really say, This has to be changed, and changed quickly! And have a right and a loving attitude toward God, where God would say of you, You are a man or a woman after my own heart! You want to think like I do!”
That is the beautiful result of proper spiritual deleavening.
Get Egypt Out
The Israelites grew up as slaves to Satan, as well as to Pharaoh, and even after God freed them, they still thought like slaves. They came out of Egypt physically, but left their hearts behind! They “would not obey [God], but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt” (Acts 7:39). Spiritually, they never left.
God has miraculously delivered us from bondage to Satan, but we still live in a world that he rules. We need to realize how easy it is for us to pick up and retain Satan-inspired thinking.
God commands us to come out of the world and be totally separate (2 Corinthians 6:17; Revelation 18:4). The Israelites history proves how hard this is! It is not easy to come out and stay out of sin.
Study that history and remember it. Because it’s not just about coming out of a sinful world, it’s also about getting sinout of us.
It has been said that though it took God only one night to get Israel out of Egypt, it took 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites.
Life in the wilderness is challenging. Yes, Egypt is behind, and in a sense the enemy is drowned. Yet there are still trials and hardships, and satanic pressures.
Every true Christian must be on watch. God’s orders to each of us are to identify and repulse evil spiritual attacks. True Christians are part of God’s true Church, and Mr. Flurry writes, “The great responsibility that each of God’s members has is to keep the world and sin out of God’s Church. It is a continual battle when you have God’s truth. Satan is totally committed to destroying that truth” (Daniel — Unsealed at Last!). Just as no one else is going to deleaven your home or your car, each of us must deleaven our own lives. Each of us has a duty to keep the world and sin out of God’s Church by keeping it out of our own lives.
Be vigilant to Satan’s influence—yet never forget: God is with us. Tune out those satanic broadcasts, deleaven your thinking, stay close to the pillar cloud, and follow it all the way to the Promised Land!