“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.” (Exodus 12:15)
These instructions were given to the Israelites concerning the Passover – a yearly festival of remembering how God delivered the emerging nation, when the Israelites were first instructed to paint their doorways with the blood of unblemished lambs. This was done so that the Angel of the Lord would pass over the household and not kill their firstborn, which was the tenth plague in Egypt leading up to the Exodus.
Complicated and slightly strange, I know, but this whole exercise was later revealed to be symbolic of the New Covenant, the blood of the perfect lamb Jesus Christ that covers over our sin and saves us from its consequence – death – into eternal life. Did you know the Jesus was crucified on the day of the Passover?
But let’s go back to the thing about the unleavened bread that the Israelites were told to include in their Passover feast.
Leaven, or what we know as yeast, was used as a metaphor for what is unholy, impure, within a person. For those of you who aren’t bakers, yeast is put into dough to cause it to expand, rise and become fluffy as the yeast drives fermentation in the mixture.
Yeast is small – microscopic, actually – so imagine the immensity of having to clear leaven from the home every single year when the Passover comes around. People are bound to get lazy, complacent, busy, or even willing to bend some rules to evade hard work.
“One speck of yeast? If I cannot see it and you cannot see it – who does it harm?”
And over the years, one yeast cell may be missed out, or a speck of 50.
But the fact is: Yeast multiplies – impurity can grow. It never starts out outrightly obscene, no. Yeast, like sin, is sneaky. It begins with the small, “seemingly” innocuous thoughts:
“Nah, I’m too lazy to read my Bible, I’ve had a long day …”
“Why do I need to pray, I mean, God can read my thoughts …”
“Who are you to judge me?”
It may even be that condescending look we throw at others who seem below us, a nasty thought, the curses that brew in our minds (because “Christians cannot swear”).
It could even be the jokes told by our friends – the accidental slippage of a sneer when they gossip about that weird kid in class (I’m guilty).
Consider this: “Huge” crimes like murder, theft and rape … they all began with a small bit of yeast. Jealousy, violent thoughts … Leading to planning, mental rehearsal, and then to execution.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9)
It is very easy to hide yeast under the carpet, under the guise of “oh, that’s being too legalistic and also, I’m not a Puritan.” But yeast still grows in the hidden places (facultative anaerobe – sorry, nerd joke), and inevitably, you will find infestation and infection that comes with the allowance of impurity.
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
(Psalm 51: 2, 7, 10)
Today, I choose to repent and seek God to help me to clear the leaven in my life – every speck has to go. Leaven shall have no place in the lives of those who follow Jesus; we are to deny ourselves, and carry the Cross daily.
This article was first published on Weiren’s blog and was republished with permission.