(3) And Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten… (6) For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. (7) Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. (8) And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ (9) And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. (10) Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.
Purity in any element can be a difficult thing to attain. Whether we are referring to the refining process of silver, or more simply, we are struggling with the polishing rag in removing those streaks on our vanity mirror, in any case, getting things to a perfect decontaminated state can cause our hair to fall out. Concerning these things, my thoughts gravitate towards every new parenting couple. We begin the journey of training up our child with heightened aspirations of raising the next Einstein, or producing an upcoming Michael Jordan, or nurturing today’s version of Picasso. At first, it’s simple to propel the infant forward, filling sensory receptors with information …simple …until the infant’s individual nature starts splintering away and growing independently from our own. Baby has become toddler. After this point, daily routines are a test of endurance which grinds away at our happy stamina. We still try to pump in stimuli with the same ardency as we did before, yet now we find ourselves contending with stylized resistance. As a result of this day-in-day-out winning over the wills, we falter from the lofty ideals we once held at the beginning. We were under the impression that children’s growth could be systematized, and that having the perfect system would produce a pure zealot in the area we groomed our little darling for. And now, we as parents understand that attaining perfection and the purity of our idealism in our child is problematic.
In our text, Israel has been given a real tricky mandate to obey. The Hebrew people have been told they must strive for the total abstinence of leaven even unto all their borders.1 This is purity which would be most challenging to attain if taken at its fullest literal extent. In fact, I believe it to be impossible to carry out by human nature. Think about this: could you coerce your less than religious neighbor to get rid of their leaven; how might you set out to control the woman who, in her kitchen, has an addiction towards baking and eating the best leavened bread around? Think about the family who makes their money through yeast products; how ready will they be to empty their shop? What about the city commerce and the peddler walking into every town setting foot into the region with yeast for sale? Who would control the borders? Who would spot check each and every sojourner? You would need tighter security than a major airport to frisk people for leaven. You would need more lanes than the customs bureau of international travel. America has difficulty securing its borders of people entering in, what if you were looking for something as tiny as a germ of wheat? What of people who by nature are not tidy, could a yeast germ fall behind some counter space remaining undiscovered? What of a sneaky child who hides a loaf under the bed or some other dark nook in the house? Eradicating each and every speck of leaven, each tiny germ of bacteria, from the land for seven days out of a year would be inconceivable in reality. And yet this is exactly what the Lord demanded Israel to strive for. But that’s just it, they must work at it. One must wonder, “What power under the sun will be afforded to complete this mission and obey His command?” It is with this query that the Lord gets our attention! Four times over in this small paragraph of scripture Moses reminds the people that “by a powerful hand” they were able to escape slavery and exit Egypt.2 Whose hand was it that got them out of there? Not their own. They were considered to be dead men, unable to lift even a finger of their own hand towards liberating themselves.3 The bewailing over their oppression was evidence enough of that. It was God’ hand, a power not their own, that made the impossible happen. And now I believe the stage has been set; another impossible feat must be performed through the power of God—remove the leaven from the borders.
I haven’t the space here to tell of the many symbols we must work with in the passage in order for us to understand the poignant truths of the text.4 In short, the overriding story is one that proposes an impossible feat of removing SIN from our lives5 from the moment we began our spiritual journey with God. He has already raised us to walk in newness of life and given us escape from the world tyrant, but now something equally challenging and impossible is demanded: stop sinning in your body6—even in every extremity7 (in the lust of your eye, in the work of your hands, in the behavior of your walk, in the feelings of your heart, in the easing of your spleen, etc). Israel could not simply ignore the commandment to rid their borders of leaven without procuring the punishment and curse of God over their lives,8 and neither can we excuse away our sin without having vengeance poured out over us.9 God is insistent that we stop sin in our body, yet we are far too likely to think such a mandate is too wide in scope to be taken seriously. We throw up our hands in reckless abandon pointing out that His decree is unachievable. Indeed, we are supposed to come to this very fact: to stop sinning is quite irresolvable …by ourselves! But God wants you to turn to His “powerful hand,” for by it, anything is possible,10 even a life of purity unadulterated