The Growing Season of the Kingdom
                                       Part 2: Passover/ Unleavened Bread
                                                   (Leviticus 23:4-14)
   A brief review ….
   1) We saw that Israel’s agriculturally-based calendar starts with the final harvest feast & the Day of Atonement (late Sept./ early Oct.). We shall see God’s genius in this when we get to the Feast of Tabernacles/ Booths. 
   2) The early rains started shortly thereafter (Oct.), and lasted into early Feb. It was not uncommon for 5+ inches of rain to fall in Jan. alone.
   3) These rains facilitated the turning over/ plowing of the ground. It was during this time that the barley and wheat crops were planted (Nov./Dec.), followed by millet, peas, melons, lentils & cucumbers (Jan./Feb.). The cold temperatures and rain kept the soil cool, hindering germination until warmer weather came. It also made for a miserable work environment. I am uncomfortable walking from my car to a store when a cold rain is pouring down. Those people worked out in the fields, planting the season’s crops, in weather like that. Ps.126:4-6 Prov.20:4 highlight the fact of the unfavorable conditions that were present while sowing seed.
   4) The sowing consisted in scattering seed followed by plowing the soil, which buried the seed. Jesus spoke of Himself as a unique Seed (indeed, He was One-of-a-kind) that needed to ‘fall into the earth and die … in order to produce a rich harvest (i.e. many others like Himself)’ (Jhn.12:24 AMP). The work was not easy, … but gathering in a bountiful harvest depended on properly sowing the seed.
   Now let’s look into the next phase of the growing season ….
   Read Lev.23:4-7 – “… Passover …” – (Ex.12:1-13) The NT significance of this OT ritual is easy to see. Our Lord Jesus is pictured all over this annual remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. We shall return later to see that the Passover offers us another ‘type’ of our Messiah.
   “… Unleavened Bread …” – (Ex.12:17-20) In Israel’s growing season, the latter rains began falling in March and lasted through early May. They were not as intense as the early rains, but provided just enough moisture which, along with the warmer temperatures, started the germination process. The very first crops to come up were flax barley (note: flax is an appropriate initial crop as a type. When we summarize the growing season at the end, we shall see how it prophetically fits in). The bread eaten during the Feast of Unleavened Bread was undoubtedly made of barley with no yeast/ leaven. Barley was a common, inexpensive grain that was often used for animal fodder. A community sheaf of this grain, …the Firstfruits, … was brought to the Altar, along with a lamb for a Burnt Offering. The sheaf was offered as a wave offering before the Lord, Who designated this offering to go to the priest. Since this was an offering to and for God, the lamb was offered, along with the customary grain and drink offering, as “… an offering made to the Lord by fire, a pleasing aroma …” (v.13).
   We must also note the caveat in v.14: the Israelites could not do what was commanded of them with the ‘new’ grain in vs.4-8, baking and eating unleavened bread, until the Firstfruits had been brought in and dedicated to the Lord God. This discipline is repeated throughout God’s Word concerning His people; our God doesn’t get what’s leftover, …. He gets His portion first! From our money, to our time, … God wants His people to acknowledge and praise the Giver of all good things for His supply. We cannot miss the focus of the offering of the Firstfruits: the sheaf for the priests (God’s servants are to be cared for) and a Burnt Offering for God (representing the self-sacrifice and yielding of the offeror to His Lord); …..God sees both as necessities.
   Now let’s see if we can tie this altogether with what we already know about God’s Kingdom:
   #1) Has God’s Kingdom been opened to humans, … to us? ___ yes, it has (Jhn.3:3; Eph.2:17-20; 2 Thes.1:3-7)
   #2) How was that done? ___ through Jesus blood shed on the cross; … the fulfillment of the Passover (Rev.5:5-10). In Christ, death is no more a part of the believer’s life. Oh, sure, these flimsy tents we live in will cease to function. But on that day when that happens, we will exhale one final paltry breath here, … only to inhale our next glorious breath in paradise. The stinger is removed from death!
   Look at what God was doing in Israel’s first growing season after their deliverance from Egypt. God was showing Himself strong and powerful. His Word (seed) and Spirit (water/rain) were abundant and consistent. The early rains and the sowing of seed took place, but for Israel, …because of their idolatries and adulteries, … the latter rains, promoting the initial harvest, did not materialize (Jer.3:1-5). Only one small, unique Seed was harvested from that growing season, … direct from David’s Throne and God’s Throne …. and He was laid in a manger.
   Then God ordained another growing season for Israel. And the early rains and Seed sowing came again in holy abundance through Jesus. God’s Word was proclaimed and His power and authority revealed through His Son. Jesus, this One-of-a-kind kernel, was able to bear fruit even before He was planted. Only the Almighty can produce a Seed like that!
   #3) What does Passover show us? ___ The Seed being ‘germinated’, … and then quickly springing forth out of the ground/tomb in a Body that this world was not worthy of. So the resurrected Jesus breathed into His disciples the Holy Spirit and sealed them as His (Jhn.20:21-28).
   #4) So are the disciples the Firstfruits? ___ In a sense, they can be considered as such. Paul hints at this in Rom.16:5, 1 Cor.16:15, 2 Thes.2:13. But since all of the OT Feasts point forward to Christ Jesus, the more prominent fulfillment of this type is found in the Ascension/ ‘harvest’ of Jesus into the clouds. Paul elaborates on this in 1 Cor.15:20-24. We will not officially become ‘harvested’ until Jesus returns to take us home.
   #5) Then what are we, if not Firstfruits? ___ We have become unique seeds, like unto our Master, … only with sin-infected bodies. We are flesh and divine Spirit of God, all wrapped up in one package. And like our Master, we can bear fruit before we are ‘planted’ (Gal.5:22,23). And we don’t mind losing this life here, …. laying it down on a cross, … drawing men, women, and children to our Savior by denying ourselves for His sake.
   #6) Lastly, the feasting on Unleavened Bread depicts …? ___ The number seven denotes ‘completeness’; …’a finished work’. In Christ Jesus, the finished works include:
   A) …the fulfillment and satisfying of the Law; B) …the complete atonement for sin; C) … establishing a Doorway into the Kingdom of God for man; D) …  reestablishing God’s fellowship with man (indwelling of the Holy Spirit); E) …creating a ‘body’ so that He (Jesus) can continue His ministry in Heaven and here on Earth; etc. etc. etc. Indeed, we are ‘complete in Him’ (Col.2:9,10).
   The unleavened/ sinless nature of Christ’s Body, the church, must be our goal. The church is to look like Christ Jesus, … not like the fallen world wearing a ‘Jesus name tag ‘. Paul speaks directly to this whole subject, …  even using the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in his exhortation, …in 1 Cor.5:4-13. 
   We have gotten through the initial harvest and Firstfruits of the Kingdom’s Growing Season. This Sunday, …. the Feast of Weeks, … Pentecost, … and the height of the grain harvest.
   Stay close to Jesus, dearest saints.