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The Sixteenth (Leaven)

This week is about leaven. Specifically, what leaven is and what it is used to represent in scripture. You may have heard sermons talking about leaven, so this topic may not be new to some of you, but I hope there's something interesting you can learn from it.

I'm not much of a hardcore baker, so I had to look up what leaven actually is. According to Miriam-Webster, it's a substance or material used to produce gas in dough (or liquid) by fermentation which lightens the dough. So basically, it puts pockets of emptiness in dough to puff it up, making it bigger and not as heavy as a similar sized loaf of unleavened bread.

How is it used in the scripture? Let's start from the beginning: The first use of the word leaven in scripture is in reference to Passover (Exodus 12:15). The Israelites were commanded to eat unleavened bread for seven days. Even more, they have to take all the leaven out of their house. Not a big deal? No, a very big deal. Because if anyone ate of leavened bread during that time they would be cut off from Israel, meaning no longer one of God's chosen people. That's a serious consequence!

Sacrifices and offerings were required to be leaven-free (Exodus 34:25, Leviticus 2:11, 6:17). But something interesting happens in Leviticus 23:17. These loaves presented as firstfruits to God were REQUIRED to have leaven. Fifty days before, a wave-sheaf offering was made (Leviticus 23:15), which by its nature has no leaven. It's just a bundle of wheat. So why all of a sudden does God require leaven in His offering?

To answer this question, we need to get to the representation, or meaning, of leaven throughout scripture. Let's jump to Matthew 16. The chapter starts with the Pharisees and Sadducees tempting Jesus to show a sign from heaven. Once He and His disciples walk away from them, He warns the disciples of their leaven (Matthew 16:6). He was warning of their corruption. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, the Corinthians are told boasting, malice and wickedness is leaven and it needs to be purged because a little bit of it causes the whole lump of dough (or person, or more commonly seen in this case as congregation) to be leavened.

So if leaven is corruption, and sacrifices and offerings are supposed to be clean, why the leaven in the loaves offered in accordance with Leviticus 23:17? Because God gave us the blueprint of His plan for us from the beginning! Those loaves represent God's elect, chosen people that will live and reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom. Christ was the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20,23) wave-sheaf of Leviticus 23:15 upon His resurrection from the crucifixion. Then, fifty days later, as represented by the leavened loaves, sinful and corrupt man was given gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), where they spoke in tongues, and chosen by God to be for Him if they follow His commandments (Those apostles would not have been there to receive the Holy Spirit if they had not followed Jesus' commandment to go and wait in Jerusalem).

That brings us to a parable that sometimes causes confusion. The woman which hid the leaven in three measures of meal (Matthew 13:33). Some get confused on the association with the Kingdom of Heaven and leaven, which we know means corruption. It sometimes gets twisted to say that despite the fact that all the other references to leaven mean corruption, in this one place leaven is a good thing. No, leaven doesn't mean something completely different all of a sudden. When Jesus says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." He is speaking more of the idea of the Kingdom, rather than the physical Kingdom itself.

The sower of Matthew 13:24-30 has the Kingdom of Heaven. And he sowed good seed, which is the truth about the Kingdom. The mustard seed of Matthew 13:31-32 is the Kingdom of Heaven. In this case, the truth of the Kingdom gets pruned and modified by the man that sowed it such that it turns into a tree instead of its normal bush form. This results in the birds of the air coming and taking up residence in the branches. The birds of the air, sometimes translated to fowls of the air, are represented as a bad thing in parables (Mark 4:4, Matthew 13:4). So this means the pruning and modification created something that attracted bad people to it.

If we take a step back, we can see the progression Jesus made in these parables with the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the first parable, the sower (Jesus) put out the seed (the truth about the Kingdom). In the second parable, the seed (the truth about the Kingdom) was manipulated (corrupted) by man to grow into something it isn't. In the third parable, the natural transition is for the leaven to be this false teaching (or corruption) about the Kingdom. Women are represented as churches allegorically in scripture. So this false teaching is hid by the church in the dough (the congregation, or people, specifically), unbeknownst to them.

I hope this makes sense, and you learned something! If it doesn't, just comment and I'd be happy to discuss! Shabbat Shalom and God bless you!

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