“Ye shall put away leaven out of your houses”
What is leaven?
Well, we might best describe it by saying what it is not. When Jesus gathered His disciples in the Upper Room in the evening after His resurrection, “He opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, “revealing to them how that “All things which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms” concerning Himself had been fulfilled.
What did He do? He gave them a true insight into all that the Old Testament held which concerned Himself. Never had a day come in the world's history when the truth locked up in those 700 or more pages in our Bibles from Genesis to Malachi had been released, but now this had happened. How greatly those two to whom Jesus had talked on the Emmaus road earlier that afternoon, must have rejoiced, for they had returned to Jerusalem to rejoin the Twelve, and this was now a further opportunity to feed upon the wondrous truth which He had expounded to them as they had walked along together. (See Luke 24;27-45.)
Yes, this was truth, and truth is “unleavened”. What then is Leaven? In Matthew 16;5-12 we have some clear teaching on this matter. We read that “the disciples had forgotten to take bread.” And as we mingle with Christians today, when the business of living seems to leave no time at all for the ancient practice of meditation (Joshua 1;8) we find many who also suffer the same lack - they have forgotten to take “bread” - they may have had a few crumbs from the Bible but as for a solid meal when they have known themselves to feed upon the living truth of God, they are much like the Younger Son of Luke 15, who had to confess: “And I perish with hunger”.
So Jesus says to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees”. When they fail to catch His meaning He goes on (in verse 11) “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?”. Then they understood how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine (teaching) of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,”
The teaching of the Pharisees (who believed in resurrection) cannot have been far below the level of truth in those day, for later in Matthew 23;3 Jesus tells the multitude and His disciples: “the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All whatsoever they bid you observe, observe and do; but” He adds, “do not ye after their works for they say and do not”. In effect, Jesus tells them in Luke 12;1, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy.”
In Matthew 13;33, we find the briefest of all the parables, couched in these words: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened”
Each of the parables of the Kingdom, as we know, is all-embracing. The eyes of Jesus - and let us not forget that He is the Son of God, Whose “eyes are as a flame of fire” - took in the whole position of the world in which we are today, as the age closes in upon us - a world surfeited with how many thousands of tons of literature purporting to be “Christian” - a world whose skies are pricked with multitudes of steeples under which oceans of words are intoned in prayer or preached in sermons. His eyes did not miss the myriad “house-groups” where so many of His children seek freedom from the restraint of man, and meet to worship God in spirit and in truth. But what He sought He did not find.
“The whole was leavened”. The thoughts and traditions of men have long replaced the pure truth of apostolic days which Jesus had first told out in the Upper Room, and which had been disseminated throughout the early church, when Paul could still beseech the brethren “by the name of our Lord Jesus that ye all speak the same thing… and that ye be all perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement”. He could ask for this because still that pristine truth had not been lost - not yet! We know the beloved apostle perfectly foresaw what would happen after his departure, as he warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20;30 that “also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”.
No, as the eyes of Jesus searched the distant horizon of the end of our age, He saw nothing but “leaven” – a mixture everywhere of the “thoughts of men” and their “traditions” mingling together with “the truth of God”.
Perhaps you, too, have found this, and have longed to know just where on the surface of this earth today you might be able to trace again the “three measure of meal” (the Divine provision) of those early days. We shall find that there is a place, as we dig into the Scriptures.
In Genesis 18;1 - 6 we see an aged couple - a man of 99, who only recently has undergone the ordinance of circumcision - and his wife Sarah, as they sit in their tent door in the heat of the day. As the three strangers approach, we see Abraham -run to meet them, bow to the ground before them and invite them to rest under the tree. He gets water for their feet and bids Sarah to prepare a meal, saying, “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth”.
Have we discovered it? Surely, but in what context do we find it? What is this picture drawn for us in the life of Abraham? What relation had this to the closing moments of our age? We shall find out fully as we pursue into the chapter.
God has drawn near to Abraham, His friend, for He has said, “Shall I hide from Abraham, that thing which I do?” (verse 17). The time has come for Sarah to know that she must bear a son, and for those wonderful promises to be fulfilled that the seed of Abraham shall yet come forth, for the blessing of all mankind. But something must first intervene – something so terrible that it transfixed Abraham to the ground before the Lord.
In Genesis 19;1-3 we find the first mention of “unleavened bread” in the bible. As the messengers entered Lot’s house on the very last night before he and his daughters (and ill-fated wife) left the doomed city, we read that “he made them a feast and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat”.
Now we can see the connection. Immediately God comes to warn Abraham positively of the destruction impending over Sodom, we find “three measures of fine meal” are ready in the tent – prepared for the Lord to feed upon. And immediately the two men get in to Lot’s house, there is “unleavened bread” baked for them there on that last before the judgment breaks.
The next time in scripture we find unleavened bread is, of course, on another last night – the night of that great Passover in the land of Egypt when, under pain of death, “leaven” was excluded from all dwellings, and the people fed upon the lambs, roast with fire. Our Lord’s parable of Matthew 25;1-13 can have little meaning for us except we see that His eye had turned back to the Exodus from Egypt, as He spoke of the “Midnight”, when “the cry” was made, and whom all the redeemed “went out”. This parable clearly lights up the closing days of this our age, when the world’s great “Midnight” has come, and once again truth that is pure – bread which is unleavened – shall be available for all. Certainly there can be no bright light from the lamps of the “wise virgins” unless the spirit of truth were bearing a strong witness worldwide.
Yes, we are to bake bread “without leaven” before we, God's people, are called to make our “exodus” from this doomed civilization, as Israel did from Egypt. But it will be eaten “in haste” - it will be eaten as we feast upon the lamb, and it will be eaten “with bitter herbs”. Unleavened Bread is not the most palatable, for it is spoken of in Scripture as “the bread of affliction” (Deut. 16;3).
We should all be familiar with the Exodus story, and many are old enough to have lived through the days of the Great Exodus - in 1948, when Jews from eighty nations began to flow into the newly-formed State of Israel just 4000 years from God’s Covenant with Abram in Genesis 15 - a covenant confirming that his seed should possess that land. If we look at the chapter we shall, of course, see that Abram was told of a miniature “four hundred years” (in verse 13) which would elapse before the Exodus from Egypt - of the “horror of great darkness” and of the “smoking furnace” preceding the end of this period.
How great a privilege we should count it that we are actually alive to see the age-long “blindness” beginning to depart from God’s ancient people, as increasing thousands study the New Testament in Hebrew in the land of Israel. This all seems to have been timed to follow the close of a further span of 4000 years from when Abram was circumcised and Isaac born – and when “Unleavened bread”, as we have seen is first spoken of in the Bible. Modern Israel can now look back upon “the horror of great darkness” and the “smoking furnace” through which they passed in Hitler’s day, and a paean of praise springs forth from the heart of every true lover of Jesus that now, His people - His earthly people – have an open bible in their own language, available to them in their own land.
Yes, “Unleavened bread” is simply the Word of the Living God – with no additions from the mind of man.
Saul’s Last Night
Once again does Scripture reveal to us a last night which speaks volumes (if we will but meditate on it) concerning the fast approaching climax of our age. None can read 1 Samuel 28 without a sense of deep foreboding as we sense the typical message it conveys for the people of Christendom today. The kingdom of Saul - the first in Israel’s history - commenced at a “wheat harvested (Pentecost) and lasted for forty years (1 Samuel 12;17) but it was rejected from its second year (see chapter 13 to 15;35).
Saul, finding that God had departed from him finds that he has to recall Samuel even from the dead. God allows this momentary “resurrection” of Samuel that he might confirm the doom of the rejected king, in these words: “The Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines: and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me… (1 Samuel 28;19-25)
Saul, bereft of the Holy Spirit, falls to the earth, but still refuses to eat bread. However we read that the woman who had called up Samuel (to her amazement for she had expected a deceiving spirit) “hasted and took flour, kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof : and she brought it before Soul and before his, servants; and they did eat”.
(The woman also had “a fat calf in the house” which she killed for them, and we are reminded of “the fatted calf” in the Father's house at the homecoming of
the Younger Son, in the Parable of Luke 15;27, etc. which depicts the restoration of all believers in Jesus at the end of the age.)
The uncircumcised Philistines, who brought about the collapse of Saul’s kingdom, and his own death by suicide on the fields of Gilboa, appear clearly to be typical of “the natural man”, or the natural understanding of the things of God, which Christendom has yielded to down the centuries and which now are to be the means of her overthrow. Christians in the main have been feeding on the leavened bread of men’s broad interpretation of the scriptures for so long that, like Saul, they now have little taste left for the word of God at all. However, that does not mean that God is going to fail, for with Him it is a necessity to provide the pure truth – and all that “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” stands for, as the age closes and while the door of mercy still stands open for all to enter who will.
The account of Saul’s last night in 1 Samuel 28 reveals that we shall find the truth in places where we never dreamed it would penetrate; but this is in line with the parable of Matthew 25, where all those virgins awaken and arise, just before Jesus comes, whether they have “oil” (the Holy Spirit) or not, and there is light, a brilliant light in the Midnight Hour.
Light dispels darkness, and truth dispels error, and if we look at the miracle of 2 Kings 4;38-41, the meal dispels the “death in the pot”. This “meal”, no doubt, typically refers to the restoration of the truth concerning the life and earthly pathway of Jesus, which has been lost to sight more or less since the end of the first century.
So the putting away of “leaven” (our thoughts, which are not God’s thoughts) means the receiving of His thoughts – for if you put away darkness, you cannot help but have light!
The first lesson in the Bible, or one of the first, is that “the evening and the morning were the first day”. The Hebrew root of the “evening” means “mixture” or “mingling together”, while that of the “morning” means “separation” or “distinguishing between”.
The lesson this teaches is that those who are content with “mixture” of truth and error, are as certain to go on into darkness, as evening is to develop into night. The dawn-light of the morning goes on to the brightness of high noon -praise the Lord. Let us be those who refuse mixture, “leaven” and darkness and remember that “he that is spiritual (lit.) discerneth all things” (1 Cor. 2;15) and also that “in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1;5)
Excerpt from Miracle Of Time (p. 84)
God has a very positive reason for allowing the exact timing of the events to do with our Lord's First Advent to come to light at the present time. That reason is that 'leaven' must now be purged out from the houses of His redeemed people. And what is leaven? Jesus had to explain the meaning of this to His disciples.
The Son of God had perfect foresight of conditions that would prevail at the close of our age, and in His parable of Matthew 13: 33 He saw that 'the whole' of the pure teaching of New Testament days would be 'leavened' by thoughts and doctrines of men. It would commence as 'three measures of meal' (unleavened) but it would end as a wholly-leavened mass. He made it absolutely clear that the 'leaven' He had in mind was the liberty of teachers to think and say exactly what they would about the truth of God (Matthew 16: 6-12). Actually it was the 'leaven' in the minds of the Pharisees of His day which caused Him to be put to death (see John 19: 7).
Now, however, the hour has come for the Church of God when 'leaven' is to be purged out from all our dwellings, and this is pictured in Exodus 12: 19. It is well known that before Israel could leave Egypt, at the time of God's great 'midnight' intervention in that land, His people had to eat 'unleavened bread'.
In the counterpart illustration in Genesis 19: 3, before Lot and his daughters could be rescued from Sodom - the very night before they left the doomed city - he, too, 'did bake unleavened-bread' and eat it. And to complete the picture on the last night before King Saul died at the end of his 'forty years" (which are typical of our Christian dispensation of forty jubilee years) he also had to eat 'unleavened bread'.
So we see that it is not sufficient for God to require that the impure teaching of men be put away, but that there is need for this to be replaced by the truth, as it is 'in Jesus'. All down the ages men have tried to make God's truth palatable to the world and to explain it away (if they could not explain it), but it stands to reason that now, as we face the end of the journey, 'the true light' must once again shine out - for God is 'not willing that any should perish', and desires 'all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth'.