There also was a meal involved with Passover Feast, although
it was nothing that approached what we today would call a “feast.” God
instructed Moses that the people were to eat the meat of the lamb on that
night, roasted over a fire and not boiled. They were to leave no leftovers
until the morning. If it was not all consumed, then the people were to burn any
part that was left. In addition, it was to be eaten along with unleavened bread
and bitter herbs.
This was to be a meal hastily eaten. “You must be fully
dressed for travel, with your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand,”
God told the Israelites (Exodus 12:11).
This was the Passover
meal. As I mentioned in the previous sermon, although it is properly part of
the Feast of the Passover, the meal could also be considered a part of the next
of God’s Old Testament Holy Days—the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, since that
holy day, which was actually seven days long, also began at that point.
Here is what God said concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
This day will be a
memorial for you, and you are to celebrate it as a feast to the LORD, as a
permanent statute for the generations to come. For seven days you must eat
unleavened bread. On the first day you are to remove the leaven from your
houses. Whoever eats anything leavened from the first day through the seventh
must be cut off from Israel.
On the first day
you are to hold a sacred assembly, and another on the seventh day. You must not
do any work on those days, except to prepare the meals—that is all you may do.
So you are to keep
the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your divisions
out of the land of Egypt. You must keep this day as a permanent statute for the
generations to come. In the first month you are to eat unleavened bread, from
the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.
For seven days there must be no leaven found in your houses. If anyone eats something leavened, that person, whether a foreigner or native of the land, must be cut off from the congregation of Israel. You are not to eat anything leavened; eat unleavened bread in all your homes.” (Exodus 12:14-20 BSB)
The striking aspect of this meal is the emphasis on the
unleavened bread and the effort that was to be placed in removing any leaven
from the houses. In the reading, one might get the impression that bread that
was made using yeast, or another leaven was evil, and needed to be eliminated.
But eating leavened bread is not evil, and the ancient
Israelites customarily did prepare bread using leaven. The prohibition against
leaven was only for this period. However, the emphasis on it for this observance
did mean to teach something about the purification of one’s life. We shall come
to that shortly.
The teaching of the unleavened bread carried with it another aspect as well. This was a memorial or commemorative aspect. These first two feasts, the Passover and the Unleavened Bread, were especially meant to commemorate the hurried nature of the night when the Israelites began their long, forty-year exodus from Egypt and travels through the wilderness.
Concerning the unleavened bread, God told the people, “You must not eat leavened bread with the meal. For seven days you are to eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left the land of Egypt in haste. May you remember the day you left the land of Egypt for the rest of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3 BSB).
Baking bread with a leaven is a lengthy process. It takes hours
to go through the procedures of mixing the dough, adding in the yeast, kneading
it and letting it rise. Then, once it has risen, punching it down to rise
again. Then you must divide it into loaf-sized portions, put it in pans to rise
again before finally baking it.
In Venezuela we lived across the street from a man who had a
bakery in the market—a panadaria. His name was Orlando, and Orlando had
to rise early in the morning to get to the bakery to begin making the bread so
that it would be fresh when the shop opened. When I say early, I mean 2:00. We
know it was this time because his alarm was right by his open window in the
front of his house. The way that the of the alarm sounded, it seemed to amplify
as it crossed the street and come into our open windows in the front of our
We would hear it, but he always got up right away, so it did
not bother too much. Afterwards, we got used to it and just went back to sleep.
However, he once left for a vacation for a week or so, but forgot to shut off
the alarm. For that period, from 2:00 AM the next morning and onward, the
electronic alarm sounded continually for the entire period that he was gone. This
was many years ago and it is all a bit foggy to me right now, but I do remember
my evil thoughts of breaking into his house and smashing the clock.
In our home we also always have home-made bread. From early in our marriage, I have been thankful that Vivian has taken on this task. It has always been a treat for our entire family to be in the kitchen when the fresh loaves come out of the oven, to cut a thick portion from the heel of the loaf, top it with generous slices of butter, and eat it hot, even while the butter is still melting.
The Bread of Affliction
The Israelites however, did not prepare the bread that they
ate with the meal of unleavened bread in this way. Baking leavened bread is a
lengthy process, and it was especially for them. They could not go the
refrigerator section of the local supermarket and buy a prepared yeast to begin
making bread. They first had to cultivate the yeast before they could begin the
process of baking.
There are several
lessons to be learned from the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For the Israelites of
that time, chief of these lessons is where their true home was. The
Israelites were living in Egypt at the time, but that was not their home—not
their true home. For the people living in Egypt at the time of the Passover, it
may have seemed like their home. Several generations had been born and died in
Egypt, and that land was the only home that they had ever known. Certainly, it
had been four hundred and thirty years since the Israelites arrived in Egypt. In
fact however, they were slaves in that land. It was their place of bondage.
The unleavened bread, the “bread of affliction” was to show them that this was not their home. They were to prepare it hurriedly and they were to eat it hurriedly, sandals on their feet and staff in hand. The entire affair was to convey the sense that they did not have much time to make the meal and may not even have time enough to sit down and finish eating.
Feet Sandaled, Staff in Hand
This also is perhaps the first of the lessons that we can
learn from the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. Despite the fact that this world
is the only existence we have known, and despite the fact that we have even perhaps
come to feel quite at home here, this is not actually where our true home
lies—at least it is not if you know Jesus.
Shortly before he was crucified, Jesus told the disciples,
and he also tells us, “In my Father’s home there are many places where you can live, and I am going there to make your new home ready. I will be coming back
to welcome you into your true home where you can be with me. It is there where
you can be comfortable and be at peace” (a rather free and amplified version of
I do not mean to imply that we should not seek to live at
peace and security here on earth, but we do well to remember that this is not
our true home. We are, in fact, in a foreign land where we were raised as
slaves—slaves to the standards of the world.
You may disagree with part of what I am saying. Like many
people of Jesus’ day, they could not see themselves as slaves. The Israelites
living in Egypt during the days of the Pharoah may have realized their slavery,
but by the time Jesus was born, this same nation of Israel considered
themselves a free people.
They told Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants. We have
never been slaves to anyone.”
But Jesus told them, “I tell you, everyone who sins is a
slave to sin…but if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John
What those people did not understand is the same thing that
many people today do not understand. “We are a free people,” many people also
say today. “We live in a free land and I do as I please. Besides that, I am
self-sufficient and I depend on no one!”
The people who speak words such as these actually have no
true home. They may think that they have made a good life for themselves in
this world, but they do not understand that they do not control their own
destiny. Indeed, they do not even control their own thoughts. Their entire existence
is determined by the standards of the world.
But for those of us who are looking beyond this world, as we
live for the present in this foreign land, we live with our feet sandaled and
our walking staff in our hands. We know that at any moment, God will call us to
our true home and welcome us with outstretched arms. If you do not have that
assurance, I truly feel sorry for you.
But you do not need to feel that way. The verses that I
earlier quoted in rather free form were from John chapter 14. Before Jesus
talked about our true home, he said this: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You believe in God; believe in Me as well” (John 14:1 BSB).
It is in our life with Jesus where we find our freedom, our
peace, and our assurance of life in an eternal home.
This is perhaps the first lesson that we can glean from learning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but there is more.
God Speaks of Unleavened Bread
We have seen that during this feast of seven days, there was
to be no leaven of any kind found in the houses of the Israelites. In fact,
other passages which speaks of the feast states that no leaven must be found in
their entire territory (Exodus 13:7, Deuteronomy 16:4).
Why this prohibition of leaven? What was God trying to
convey to the ancient Israelites, and what is he trying to convey to us?
As far as the lesson for the ancient Israelites, the lesson seems to be primarily commemorative. In every instruction given in the first five books of the Bible, which we call the Pentateuch or the Torah, the emphasis is placed on remembrance:
So Moses told the people, “Remember this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; for the LORD brought you out of it by the strength of His hand. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. (Exodus 13:3)
You are to explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It shall be a sign for you on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the Law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For with a mighty hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. Therefore you shall keep this statute at the appointed time year after year. (Exodus 13:8-10 BSB)
You are to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, you are to eat unleavened bread as I commanded you. For in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt. (Exodus 34:18 BSB)
You must not eat leavened bread with it; for seven days you are to eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left the land of Egypt in haste—so that you may remember for the rest of your life the day you left the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:2-3 BSB)
As we can see, there is nothing in these first books of the Old Testament writings that speak of leaven in a derogatory sense, and it is not as if the Israelites were prohibited or even encouraged to abstain from leavened bread for the remaining parts of the year. The avoidance of leaven during the time of these special days was intended entirely for the remembrance of the time when the Lord led them out of their slavery in Egypt.
Hosea’s Example of Leaven
In the remainder of the Old Testament, there are very few
references to leaven—actually only two (Hosea 7:4, Amos 4:5). In one of these
passages, leaven is spoken of almost in passing, but in the other, we find that
there is a negative connotation to the presence of leaven in the bread. It has
to do with presenting an offering to the Lord.
These are the words God gave the prophet Hosea to say regarding the shallow worship of the people. This is what the prophet spoke to the people of his day whose devotion to God was only outward and whose worship was primarily for the benefit of demonstrating to others how “religious” they were.
Hosea proclaimed: "Go to Bethel and transgress; rebel even more at Gilgal! Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. Offer leavened bread as a thank offering, and loudly proclaim your freewill offerings. For that is what you children of Israel love to do." (Hosea 4:4-5 BSB)
In these words voiced by the prophet, leaven speaks of the corrupting influence of leaven in the worship to God. The words remind us of something once said by Jesus soon after he had crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat with his disciples.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
We are not told anything of the conversation which may have
taken place while Jesus and the disciples were in the boat for the several
hours, but after they had reached the other side, he suddenly declared to his
companions, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (The
Pharisees and Sadducees were two groups of religious leaders who took great
pride in the outward appearance of holiness, but inwardly, they had no true
relationship with God).
When Jesus told the disciples to beware of their leaven, for
some reason the disciples took this as a sort of rebuke from Jesus because they
had forgotten to bring anything to eat with them. Jesus, hearing what they were
saying among themselves, assured them that this was not the reason.
He said to them, “You have such little faith! Why are you
debating among yourselves about having no bread? Don’t you remember the five
loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or what
about the seven loaves for the four thousand and how many basketfuls remained
at the end? How can you not understand that I was not talking about bread? What
I meant is that you must beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
With these words of Jesus, the disciples at last realized
that Jesus was not speaking of the leaven used in bread, but rather of the
teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12).
This is not the only time in Scripture that we hear Jesus speaking to the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We read them again in the Gospel of Luke. In that passage, we see a little more about what Jesus meant by the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees:
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops. (Luke 12:1-3 BSB)
Leaven in the Kingdom of Heaven
At yet another time when Jesus was teaching his disciples,
he said to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and
mixed into three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened” (Matthew
This little nugget of instruction was one that Jesus gave to
teach them about the nature of the kingdom of heaven. It is one of several parables
that he told to them at the time. Another of these stories is what we call “The
Parable of the Sower,” in which we see the farmer planting seeds that fall on
various types of soil, some good soil and some not.
Another is “The Parable of Weeds,” in which an enemy of the
farmer secretly sowed weed seeds among the good seeds of the farmer, so that
when the crop appeared, the farmer discovered that his crop had been corrupted
by the weeds.
Yet another is “The Parable of the Mustard Seed,” the
smallest of all seeds but which grew into a tree large enough that birds of the
air came and made nests in its branches.
And then we have The Parable of the Leaven. In this story, the leaven was “hidden” in the flour, but then
inwardly grew and multiplied until it had spread throughout the entire batch of
In considering these teachings as a whole about the kingdom
of heaven, there are two things that stand out to us. The first is the aspect
of growth. We see it in each of the parables: seeds and leaven. But we also see
that not all the growth was beneficial. We see this especially concerning the
weeds planted in the farmer’s field. Even the presence of the birds of the air who
come to the branches of the mustard tree may have a mixed connotation, since
although examples of birds used in Scripture are usually put in a positive
light, they are not always.
There are good birds and bad birds. When Abraham was making
a covenant with God, “the birds of prey” descended on the offering of animals
presented to God, and Abraham had to drive them away (Genesis 15).
One of the curses of disobedience that God spoke to the
Israelites was that they would become “objects of horror to all the kingdoms of
the earth,” and that their corpses would become “food for all the birds of the
air and beasts of the earth, with no one to scare them away” (Deuteronomy
In the book of Revelation, the false church is depicted as “Babylon the Great, which is gigantic in its size and in its riches, but which is inwardly corrupt and evil. An angel appeared in that book, crying out this judgement against the false church: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a lair for demons and a haunt for every unclean spirit, every unclean bird, and every detestable beast” (Revelation 18:2 BSB).
All Growth is Not Good Growth
In the parables that Jesus told his disciples in his
teaching about the kingdom of heaven, we see that he meant to show them that
the “outward kingdom,” that is, the kingdom that people will see, will
experience large growth. However, not all of this growth is beneficial. There
is good soil and bad soil, there are good seeds and bad seeds, there are even
good birds and bad birds.
Is there good leaven and bad leaven? Perhaps. Certainly,
there is growth that is good, but there is also growth that is bad.
He told yet another parable at this same time which illustrates a growth that has both positive and negative aspects. Jesus told his disciples, “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the men pulled it ashore. Then they sat down and sorted the good fish into containers, but threw the bad away” (Matthew 16:47-49 BSB).
How the Apostle Paul Used Leaven as
In all of the teaching that we have seen up to this point concerning
leaven as an illustration in our spiritual lives, we have noticed that it is sometimes
in a neutral sense, but it definitely also often does carry a negative
connotation when it is used concerning our spiritual lives.
When we come to how Paul used leaven in his writings, we see that he does not prevaricate. He uses the illustration of leaven in a decidedly negative sense. He wrote to the church in Corinth:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old leaven, that you may be a new unleavened batch, as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old bread, leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and of truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 BSB)
Paul said much the same thing to the Galatians: “You were running so well. Who has obstructed you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the One who calls you. A little leaven works through the whole batch of dough” (Galatians 5:7-9 BSB).
The Importance of Purity in Worship
When we consider all of these illustrations as a whole, it
seems the best to say that when it comes our spiritual lives, leaven is meant
to demonstrate the importance of the underlying factor in our motivations.
Leaven works unseen, but it is always there. It may produce growth, and the
people of society respect something that shows great size, but all growth is
not necessarily good.
We see this in the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
They were large groups of highly respected individuals of their society, but
the underlying factor in their growth was their own pride.
We see this also in the account in Revelation about Babylon
of Revelation, “Mother of All Whores and of the Abominations of the Earth.” Her
popularity in the world will be great, but she is one who will be “drunk with
the blood of the saints and witnesses for Jesus, and those who dwell on the
earth were intoxicated with the wine of her immorality” (Revelation 17:6, 2).
In the feast of the Unleavened Bread, we see the importance
of a pure worship. We learn that all growth is not necessarily positive.
Indeed, it can lead to pride.
Jesus tells us, “Beware of the leaven of self-glorification
Paul tells us, “Let us keep the feast, not with the old
bread, leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of
sincerity and of truth.”
In the book of Revelation, after John was shown Babylon the
Whore, we are told, “Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in
her sins or contract any of her plagues, for her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 17:4-5).
Many are the references in Scripture regarding purity in worship:
Therefore the Lord said: “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is but rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13 BSB)
But a time is coming, indeed, it now has come, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is—that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NAS).
The Search is Worth the Effort
There is much confusion in the world about where to find the
truth, but you must never become discouraged in the search. The Lord has said,
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart”
In that series of short parables given by Jesus, there are yet two more. Here is how Jesus told them:
The kingdom of
heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it
again, and in his joy he went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went away and sold all he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46 BSB)
Our true home is not earth. Our true kingdom is not the
kingdom of the world. Some may try and convince us that what we see is all that
there is, but do not believe them. There is treasure to be found; there is a
pearl of great price that is waiting to be discovered. They are worth much more
than all of your worldly possessions.
Jesus tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 BSB).
Strong’s 2928 – kruptó