PRAYER UPDATE FROM ISRAEL (April 10, 2017)
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed, Messiah (Christ), our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”
As we write, it is the morning of Passover in Jerusalem. Jewish citizens are bustling around the markets, getting last-minute vegetables for the seder this evening. In many homes there has been Passover-cleaning (a bit like “spring cleaning” in the west!) going on for weeks. During the last couple of days and this morning the focus has come down to the Biblical instruction, “no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days.” (Deut. 16:4). Yesterday and this morning, one may see, in many places round the city—in fields, even on street corners (see below)—small fires set up by observant Jews. These serve as posts to which last remnants of hametz (leavening agents or food containing them) may be brought to be disposed of. This all in preparation for the beginning this evening of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hebrew: Chag- Matzot).
For seven days, in observant homes there will be no bread made with yeast. There are a growing number of “breads” without yeast now available. And there are many recipes for cooking or baking with matza meal, void of rising agents. But there will be no regular bread—and in Jerusalem, most stores have placed paper screens over the sections containing yeast—so that for a week it will not “be seen.”
Looking Back and Looking Forward
On Passover evening, we look back—remembering Israel’s deliverance from judgment, when the LORD went through Egypt and slew the firstborn. We drink the fruit of the vine, and we remember the blood shed by the sacrificed “Pesach” lamb, whose mark over and around our doors protected us. And believers recognize a prophetic significance in this lamb, for Israel and all humankind—the coming “Lamb of God,” who would carry away the sin of the world. (John 1:29).
As, on this same evening we begin eating Unleavened Bread, we also look back—to the “bread of affliction” carried by the Hebrews as the LORD that night delivered His people in haste out of bondage in Egypt (Deut. 16:3). And we begin a full week of seeing how the Matzah “looked forward” as another wonderful prophetic picture—to the coming Messiah, the “Father’s Bread” who would come down from Heaven to provide us throughout our weeks with an eternal nourishment!
* That as Israel enters and progresses through these seven days of “Unleavened Bread”—she will have a hunger awakened within her – with heavenly illumination– for the Bread which came down from Heaven.
* For the illumination of the Holy Spirit to grant understanding as His Word is read around seder tables, and throughout the week (see below)—pointing Israel and the world to the Lamb who was slain for our salvation from sin, to the Bread of Heaven who was bodily raised from the dead—providing eternal life for all who will believe.
* Divine Protection over Israel throughout this week, when children are out of school and much of Israel is enjoying a holiday.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
Pray for the presence of Ruach haKodesh—the Holy Spirit/Holy Wind—
READINGS FOR THE FESTIVAL OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
DURING THE WEEK OF PASSOVER, THERE ARE READINGS FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES EACH DAY IN THE SYNAGOGUES.
Day 1 (Tuesday 11 April): Exodus 12:21-51; Numbers 28:16-25
The Exodus passage recounts the first Passover, the slaying of the lamb and the placing of blood on the doorposts, the passing of YHVH through Egypt, the “skipping over” of those households with blood on the doors, the striking of the Firstborn of Egypt; the sending of Israel out of the Land, their going out arrayed as armies of the LORD 430 year to the day after being exiled to Egypt. The Numbers reading details the sacrifices to be offered on Passover during future observances (This reading will be repeated in some form each day throughout the week). The Haftarah from Joshua details the time, over forty years later, when the next generation, before entering at last into Canaan is required to be circumcised. After this is done and the reproach of Egypt was rolled off of them at Gilgal, the Children of Israel celebrate Passover in the Land on the plains of Jericho, the manna ceases, and the Commander of the Army of the LORD appears to send Joshua into the Land.
Day 2 (Wednesday 12 April): Leviticus 22:26—23:44; Numbers 28:16-25
The Leviticus passage enumerates the “Set Times of the LORD”—Shabbat, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, the Counting of the Omer and Shavuot (Weeks/Pentecost), Yom T’ruah (Festival of Shofars/Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Booths/Tabernacles). The II Kings Haftarah relates a great revival in the days of King Josiah in Jerusalem, in which he cleansed the land of idolatry (as it were, leaven); then the people celebrated a wonderful Passover, unlike any which had gone before, because Josiah “turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Torah of Moses” (vs 25).
This also marks the first day in the “Counting of the Omer” to Shavuot--the “Feast of Weeks”/ “Pentecost” (Leviticus 23:15).
Day 3 (Thursday 13 April): Exodus 13:1-16; Numbers 28:19-25
The Exodus passage recounts the LORD’s instructions immediately following the Children of Israel’s coming out on the night of the first Passover. Israel is admonished to consecrate to the LORD all the firstborn. She is regularly to remember this day in which she went out of Egypt, “out of the house of bondage”. She is to remember to celebrate this Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days each year.
Day 4 (Friday 14 April): Exodus 22:25—23:19; Numbers 28:19-25
The Exodus passage includes among a list of civil laws, a further instruction regarding celebration of three annual feasts to the LORD: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in the month of Aviv (First Month, Nisan) in the Spring; the Feast of (Spring) Harvest (Shavuot/Pentecost); and the Feast of Ingathering (Sukkot in the Fall). At these festivals, all males would appear before Adonai the LORD.
Day 5 (Saturday 15 April) SHABBAT CHOL HA’MO’ED
“Mo’ed” is a set time. All of the major feasts fall on times set by the LORD. The “set time” of Passover and Unleavened Bread is to begin and end with a holy (kadosh— “set apart”) Sabbath. The opposite of “holy” (kadosh) is “common” (chol). Thus the intervening days between the beginning of Passover are called Chol ha’Moed. When a Saturday Sabbath falls within Chol haMo’ed, the regular cycle of readings through the Torah is halted and the following special readings take place:
TORAH: Exodus 33:12—34:26
The Exodus passage recounts Moses’ pleading with the LORD to go with him into the promised land (after Israel had sinned with the calf and the LORD had refused to go); Moses’ remaking of the tablets he had broken, his ascending Sinai where the LORD passes before him. Verse18 recounts the LORD’s admonition to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the call for all men to appear before Him three times a year. In the Ezekiel Haftarah the LORD promises that exiled Israel shall one day be “like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast day,” its ruined cities filled with men. Then comes the prophecy of the “Valley of Dry Bones”, of “the whole house of Israel” receiving the breath of God and standing up as a Great Army. “‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I YHVH, have spoken it and performed it!’ says YHVH”(Ezekiel 36:12b-14).
Day 6 (Sunday 16 April): Exodus 9:1-14; Numbers 28:19-25
The Exodus passage recounts the LORD’s command to Pharaoh to “send My people away that they may serve Me.” If Pharaoh refuses, the LORD will “make a difference between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt” and his hand of judgment will be on Egypt. After this occurs and Pharaoh’s heart again becomes hard, God releases an outbreak of grievous sores on the Egyptians, then hardens the heart of Pharaoh. At the last, Moses rises early and stands before Pharaoh: “Thus says YHVH the Hebrew God, ‘Send my people away, that they may serve Me, for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth’” (Exodus 9:13b-14).
Day 7 (Monday 17 April. A “sabbath”): Exodus 13:17—15:26; Numbers 28:19-25
The Exodus passage recounts the Children of Israel going forth in orderly ranks by way of the Red Sea, led by the LORD in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. Pharaoh pursues them, the sea opens and they pass through, but the Egyptian armies are destroyed, and on the further shore they sing Shir haYam (The “Song of the Sea”), “Sing to YHVH for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and rider He has thrown into the sea!” Traveling on the LORD sweetens the bitter waters at Marah by having Moses throw a tree into it. The people are admonished, “If you diligently heed the voice of YHVH your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). The Haftarah from II Samuel is a wonderful Psalm which “David spoke to the LORD…on the day that the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies” (This Psalm also appears in the Psalter as Psalm 18): “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust…I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies…Therefore I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to Your name” (II Samuel 22:1-4, 50).
[Day 8 (OBSERVED ONLY OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL) Tuesday 18 April]
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