The Feast of Unleavened Bread & The Feast of First Fruits

G. B. Fyfe, London

Part 3 of 6 of the series The Feasts of the Lord

The second Feast in the series is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. While it is distinct from the Passover it is never separated from it. This feast began on a Sabbath, on the same night as the Passover, and lasted for seven days.

The Preparation

Intensive efforts had to be made to remove all trace of leaven from the dwellings of the people. Indeed leaven was not to be allowed to intrude in any sphere of life. Leaven had not to be eaten and enjoyed; here the individual life is in view, Exod. 12. 15. Leaven had not to be permitted in the house; this concerns a wider sphere and involves the family, 12. 19. Christians have a responsibility not only in connection with their personal fives but also in relation to their families. Then an even wider circle is envisaged for leaven had not to be permitted in all their territory, 13. 7. From the sphere of our business fives and our other affairs leaven must be expelled. All our transactions should be honourable, free from the corrupting influence of leaven.

But what does leaven stand for? In the Scriptures it is the invariable symbol of evil. Jesus warned His disciples against evil which manifested itself in three forms. He said “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” - which is moral evil; “of the leaven of the Sadducees” - doctrinal evil; and “of the leaven of Herod” - political evil. In other words, be on your guard against ritualism, rationalism and materialism. See Matthew 16. 6, 12; Mark 8. 15.

The Purport

The New Testament application of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is found in 1 Corinthians 5. 8, where we are enjoined to “keep the feast” (not here the Lord’s Supper, be it noted, but what spiritually corresponds with the Feast of Unleavened Bread) “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. It is God’s desire for us that we should be sincere in our living. Insincerity and unreality are things which God abhors. Now some may ask, “When does the Christian keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread?” Well, we keep it from the moment of our conversion until the end of our earthly life. Leaven, that is evil, must be continuously excluded from every department of our lives.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 5 the Assembly is viewed in the eyes of God as a lump of pure dough. This has reference to our standing and can never be altered. The statement “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”, on the other hand, relates to our state. So that in practice leaven must be purged out. The apostle writes in effect, Let your state correspond with your standing.

The Provisions

There are two provisions to be observed in the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

  1. The purging out of the leaven. That is negative.
  2. The feasting upon the unleavened bread, which forms the positive side of the operations.

To be wholly and introspectively engrossed in searching out the evil in our lives will soon make us morbid and depressed. We must feed as well upon the unleavened bread, which speaks of Christ.

The dominant thought connected with this divine appointment is that certain moral conditions must obtain before communion with God can be consciously enjoyed. Therefore “let us keep the feast . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.

THIRD FEAST - THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS

The seven Feasts of Jehovah, as has been previously pointed out, are divided into two main groups of four and three, or the spring and autumn feasts respectively. The spring feasts, in turn,, may be sub-divided into pairs of related feasts:

  1. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  2. The Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks.

The first feast in each pair sets before us Christ and His work, and the second in each couplet typifies Christians and what they enjoy in consequence of Christ’s work.

The Conditions

Several points associated with the Feast of First Fruits are significant. Firstly the place where it had to be observed, Lev. 23. 10. Not in Egypt, nor in the wilderness, but in the land of Canaan, the land of Israel’s inheritance, the land of fruitfulness, had this feast to be celebrated. From a practical as well as a typical point of view this was a necessity. The people had to be in the possession and enjoyment of the land before this appointment with Jehovah could be kept. Deuteronomy 8. 7-9 tells us this.

Secondly, the time is specified, Lev. 23. 15. The Feast of First Fruits had to take place on the morrow after the Sabbath. That is, as we know, on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day of resurrection. Our thoughts are thus instantly directed to the great truth of Christ’s resurrection. All the details of this feast point both graphically and unmistakably to this epic event and its tremendous consequences. So the First Fruits is a type of Christ risen from among the dead. Here again the symbolism, in which the sheaf occupies a conspicuous place, is instructive. On the day following the Sabbath when the harvest had ripened in the fields of Canaan, a sheaf of golden grain was cut and conveyed to the priest, who waved it before Jehovah. That is to say, he passed it to and fro in the sanctuary for Jehovah to examine it. The sheaf was the First Fruits, a term which tells us clearly that this particular sheaf was but the first of many more which would form a great harvest yet to be reaped. The sheaf, of course, is an apt symbol of Christ raised from among the dead. Whereas the paschal lamb of the first feast speaks of Christ in death, the sheaf of First Fruits in this third of the annual feasts typifies him in resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15. 20 plainly identifies Him with the wave sheaf, the first fruits of the coming harvest, “now is Christ risen from the dead”. The difference between the expressions “of the dead” and “from the dead” is great. All men who die will experience resurrection, but only those who belong to Christ will participate in this out-resurrection. All the dead will not rise simultaneously. Scripture does not teach such a thing as a general resurrection. The sleeping saints will precede the ungodly dead by more than a thousand years. The former, like Christ, will be raised from among the dead ones. This is the resurrection unto life.

The Ceremony

The ceremony connected with the Feast of First Fruits is described in detail but space limits our comments to a mere mention, Lev. 23. 11. 14. As Christ the Wave Sheaf presented Himself after His resurrection before His Father’s face He did so on behalf of all His people. In the representative character of the first sheaf of a ripening harvest He appeared in the presence of God, and the measure of His acceptance with God is the measure of ours also.

Furthermore, the presentation of the sheaf was accompanied by a burnt offering, a meat offering and a drink offering, a notable omission being the sin offering, for as far as Christ is concerned none was required. It is interesting to observe that here we have the drink offering spoken of for the first time in Scripture. The law of first-mention is an important one in Bible exegesis. The drink offering was of wine, which speaks of joy, and it consisted of a quarter of an hin of wine. There may well be a connection between the wine of the drink offering and the oil of the meat, or meal offering, for the quantity of the liquids was the same in both cases. Does this not suggest the joy which is generated within us by the Holy Spirit, since the oil is emblematic of the Spirit of God? The drink offering was poured out in the sanctuary, perhaps signifying that God himself finds great pleasure when his people rejoice in Christ, His worthy risen and beloved Son!