Fox Byte 5775: Matzot (Unleavened Bread)
It was in May of 1986 that I first visited the great World War I battlefield at Verdun. Along with Auschwitz, Verdun is on my Top 10 list of places every human being should visit to learn the extent of evil that people can inflict on one another. Over the course of 10 months in 1916, nearly 2,500,000 French and German soldiers flung death at one another. Total casualties cannot be known, but the estimates range nearly as high as one million, of whom 300,000 were killed in action. The toll does not end with the soldiers; over the course of the battle nine French villages ceased to exist, and an area the size of Manhattan suffered such devastation that the French government deemed it unrecoverable and left it to nature to repair. To this day much of the battlefield remains a poisoned wasteland and graveyard for over 100,000 missing soldiers of both sides.
France has done its best to honor the dead. In 1932 President Albert Lebrun opened the great Ossuary at Douaumont, one of the villages destroyed in the battle. The Ossuary ranks among the most impressive monuments of Western civilization, attempting both to remember and honor the dead, and to remind the living of their sacrifice. Some might consider the reminders grotesque. Beneath the Ossuary is a crypt which contains the bones of at least 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers. They are there for all to see, together in death, having surrendered their lives that the lives of their nations might continue. Of course their nations did continue , and still do, although much diminished and much broken, even as the bones of their lost sons and daughters.
Looking at these bones one might be reminded of another collection of bones – the ones Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Can these bones live? The Lord knows. In some strange way the bones resemble matzah, the unleavened bread broken and eaten during this seven day feast after the Passover. Perhaps that is part of the reason the Jewish sages paired Ezekiel’s vision in the Valley of the Dry Bones with the Torah readings for the Passover season.
Why would dry bones be connected with unleavened bread? Consider the instructions YHVH gave to Moses about the feast:
For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 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. 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.” 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. Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year. (Exodus 13:6-10 NASB, emphasis added)
How very strange that eating what amounts to kosher crackers is a sign between the Lord God and His people. As with all the other signs of His Covenant, He explains the meaning of this one: that the law, or Torah, of God is to be in our mouths. This is more than just a metaphor; this is a consistent theme of Scripture. The Greatest Commandment begins with an exhortation to hear that the Lord God is God, and to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and might. It goes on to say that we are discuss His Torah commandments in every daily activity and be diligent about teaching them to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). In other words, the entire Word of God, all of His teachings, commandments, and instructions, are to be our food. That, too, is something Moses said, and which Yeshua quoted directly in His rebuke of Satan (Deuteronomy 8:1-3; Matthew 4:1-4). If we are not clear yet on this crucial point, consider the visual aid YHVH provided by having His prophets Ezekiel and John eat the words of Scripture He gave them to proclaim (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3; Revelation 10:1-11). It would seem, therefore, that there is some direct connection between what we eat (consume) and what is in our hearts. We know from Yeshua and from His brother James that what is in our hearts is what comes out of our mouths, bringing either blessing or cursing, holiness or defilement (Matthew 12:33-37, 15:1-20; Mark 7:14-23; Luke 6:39-45; James 3:5-12). In fact, that goes back to something else Moses said:
For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?” But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NASB)
If that sounds familiar, it is because the Apostle Paul quotes it in his letter to the congregation at Rome. Here is Paul’s treatment of the text:
For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law (Torah) shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Romans 10:5-11 NASB, emphasis added)
We see here that Paul connects Yeshua, the Living Word of God (John 1:1-5) with the written Word of God provided through Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles. The words of the Bible burn in our hearts because they are alive with the very breath of God Himself. They are indeed the words of Life, the peaceful, prosperous life (as God defines these things) in this present reality, and eternal life in the ages to come. The Word is food and drink to us, which reminds us of something else Yeshua said:
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:32-35 NASB)
So Yeshua is the Bread of Life. But how is that like matzah? And how can this matzah be a sign for us today? Think about matzah for a moment. How is it made? How does it appear? How does it taste? How is it eaten? Matzah begins as grain which must be crushed more than once to remove the chaff, break down the kernel, and be processed into flour. Then it must undergo hydration to become dough, after which it endures intense heat as it is baked into unleavened bread. The matzah which comes out of the oven does not appear very appealing, nor does it taste particularly delectable. It takes some effort to eat it for seven straight days, starting with a conscious decision to obey the commandment of the Lord to do so. And then there is the eating of the matzah. There is no neat and clean way to do it. Matzah must be broken in the process of eating, and bits of it get scattered about the table. Yet it does provide good, solid nourishment, and with it the eater is strengthened.
With that in mind, consider this passage regarding Messiah Yeshua:
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12 NASB)
Yeshua’s bones were not broken, but they were pulled out of joint (Psalm 22), and He was bruised beyond recognition, just like a cake of matzah. And that alone would be reason enough to eat matzah for seven days, to remember not only His sacrifice, but the deliverance of the Lord when He took our people out of Egypt. Yet there is something else that we cannot ignore. Yeshua is the firstfruits of those who sleep, meaning He is the first of all humans to be resurrected to life in complete righteousness and holiness (I Corinthians 15:20-24). Those who put their trust in Him as Messiah and who follow His example in obedience to the commandments of His Father may expect to receive the same resurrection. Such has been the Good News of the gospel for nearly two millennia, yet even that is not the end of the Good News. Personal salvation is but one component of national salvation, meaning the salvation of Yeshua’s Kingdom of Israel. And with the salvation and restoration of all Israel comes something spectacular: life from the dead, just as Paul explains:
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. (Romans 11:13-16 NASB)
Usually this passage is interpreted as referring to the Jewish people accepting Yeshua as Messiah, and that is a valid interpretation. But what if Paul has an additional meaning? What if this is the point behind his strange statement a few verses later that “all Israel will be saved”? What if Israel is more than just the Jewish people, but in fact includes the many peoples from the nations (Gentiles) who have proclaimed faith in Yeshua and are adopted and grafted into this nation started by Abraham at God’s invitation millennia ago? And what if those Gentiles who become Israelites are actually the regathering and restoration of the so-called “Lost Tribes”, of Northern Israel, called in Scripture the House of Ephraim, or House of Israel? Just supposing that might be so, would there be any connection to unleavened bread in the scattering of Ephraim’s tribes throughout the nations of the world nearly 3,000 years ago? Perhaps so. Consider this from the Prophet Hosea:
They are all adulterers, like an oven heated by the baker who ceases to stir up the fire from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with scoffers, for their hearts are like an oven as they approach their plotting; their anger smolders all night, in the morning it burns like a flaming fire. All of them are hot like an oven, and they consume their rulers; all their kings have fallen. None of them calls on Me. Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned. (Hosea 7:4-8 NASB, emphasis added)
In this case the imagery of bread is not a good thing. The Lost Tribes of Israel became lost because they rejected God and His Word, and for that reason God scattered them among the nations. Yet, as Ezekiel explains, He remained with them as a little sanctuary (Ezekiel 11:15-17), and in that way His Presence spread to every corner of the earth, sewing the world with the seed of the Kingdom. The leaven of Ephraim was wickedness, and even the unleavened bread is incompletely done. That is the reference to the cake not turned in Hosea 7:8. The word Hosea uses is uggah (עֻגָּה; Strongs H5692), the same word referring to the cakes of unleavened bread made by our Israelite ancestors as they left Egypt (Exodus 12:39), and of the cakes they made with manna, the bread of Heaven (Numbers 11:8). It would seem, therefore, that this non-Jewish part of the Kingdom of Israel has a direct connection with the Bread of God in every sense of the word. It is only in this day that the connection is becoming clear as many followers of Yeshua begin to understand their identity as the Seed of Abraham and fellow members of the Commonwealth of Israel with our Jewish brethren of the House of Judah.
But where is the connection with the Dry Bones? That, too, is something we learn from our Messiah’s example. Just as He was crushed and bruised beyond recognition, so has our nation been ground into dust. We are nothing more than dry bones and pieces of bones in scattered graves, just as the Lord explained to Ezekiel:
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:11-14 NASB)
With this we come to the next part of the Lesson of Matzah: YHVH redeemed our fathers and mothers so that He could prepare a nation for His purposes, and then He crushed and scattered that nation throughout the earth so that they could be His Heavenly Leaven into all the nations. Then He provided His Messiah as the Bread of Heaven to open the way of Life by which His nation would be redeemed, regathered, and restored, bringing with them peoples from all the nations of the earth to join in God’s salvation and eternal covenant of peace. That is how the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah (Revelation 11:15-18).
When we consider the Lesson of Matzah in this way, we open a whole new universe of meaning to the instruction Yeshua gave us at His Passover Seder:
And when He had taken some bread [matzah] and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19 NASB)