Rise to the occasion?

Day 25

Prayer for the day

Our help is in the Name of the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth.

Scripture for the day

Exodus 12-13, Matthew 16

It’s funny, the Bible seems to have a hate-on for yeast.In the Exodus story for today, God says that anyone who eats bread with yeast in it during this feast is not only in trouble, they must be CUT OFF from their people. Jesus warns his disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples take him a little too literally and Jesus has to explain to them what a metaphor is. Regardless, yeast gets a pretty bad rap.

So why the hatred for little ole yeast? After all, it’s what makes bread big and puffy, fluffy and delicious. Yeast is a good thing in cooking. I remember many times in my youth when mom would make a dough that would need to rise (usually for pizza), and she’d put it in a container covered with a cloth and lay it in my (heated) waterbed. A few hours would pass and that thing would be busting through the cloth, all huge and delicious smelling. How could God be angry with something that makes bread so excellent?

The problem with yeast in these two accounts is not actually yeast, as you may expect, but is symbolic in several ways:
1. Yeast takes a long time to work. The bread the Israelites were to eat was to symbolize the speed with which God delivered them. They had to leave so quickly, they couldn’t wait for the bread to rise!
2. Yeast pollutes the purity of the grain offered to God. While this doesn’t mean yeast is bad, the symbolic purity was important in celebrating a feast to the Lord’s goodness.
3. Yeast invades. Just a little bit will invade the whole dough.

Each of these points guides us to Jesus’ words about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. His concern with them wasn’t actual yeast, but the fact that their teachings could pollute, their teachings could take a long time and their teachings could invade. Their teachings sounded a lot like truth…but the way they acted fought the truth.

I think it’s true that few Pharisees or Sadducees joined up because they were awful people who wanted to hurt the people of God. But it’s also true that that’s the case for most of us. Most of us don’t work in positions of leadership or influence because we want to hurt people. It’s because we want to HELP people. The problem is when we lose sight of the goal, when we forget that purity is the purpose and not checkboxes for our laws. The problem with yeast is not the yeast. The problem is that we forget the purity.

In Exodus as in Matthew, God is not putting down bread, or hating on real yeast. His concern is for His people, that we understand the truth, and that we follow it unerringly. That we never lose sight of the goal, which is union with and purity in Christ.


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