The Leaven of the Kingdom
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 6 April 2002
"The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal (flour) till it was all leavened" (Matt.13:33, NKJV).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag haMatzah) is over and we have begun the 50 day countdown to Pentecost (Yom haBikkurim). For eight days we have been eating unleavened bread to remind us of the necessity to remove all sin from our lives. We have seen the deadly consequences of sin and how we are powerless to do anything about it ourselves apart from Christ. The apostle Paul writes:
"Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor.5:6-8, NKJV).
Here we not only see that we are to continue observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread as Christians but are reminded that we are to eat a spiritual diet of sincerity and truth. All malice and wickedness, represented by the old leaven, is to be thoroughly and completely removed.
You will remember that that the Messiah (Christ) used this negative leaven to represent three types of person: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and wicked King Herod (Mt.16:6; 11-12; Mk.8:15; Lk.12:1). There are two things to note here. Firstly, all were rulers, and second, all we men. When the Master uses positive leaven to illustrate what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, he chooses entirely opposite figures: firstly, someone of no rank in society, and secondly, a woman. Knowing the importance of every detail in the Lord's sayings, we must not forget these things.
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. We have a commoner and we have a woman. We are to understand in this that the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritual world in which the New Covenant has moved from the Old Covenant, is not only to be seen in simplicity and unpretentiousness, but in female terms! The picture is of a homely housewife working in her kitchen. This is the model of the Kingdom of Heaven that we are to see. How very different from some of the grandiose ideas people have about Yahweh's world!
In actual fact, the parable of the woman and the leaven belong to a series of three 'Kingdom parables', and each are intended to illustrate the other. Many have wondered why Yah'shua (Jesus) mentioned the fact that the leaven was hidden in three measures of meal, and this is one of the reasons. Just as prophetic dreams usually come in groups of three, each dream being different from the one before it but being about the same theme, so these three parables are different ways of illustrating the same idea of the new Kingdom. Though there are more interesting things in this very short parable about the woman, in order to understand it properly, we need to go back and examine the two the preceded it.
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matt.13:31-32, NKJV).
On Thursday afternoon, while the sun was shining, we all went outside and I planted some poppy seeds. As you know, the seeds, unlike beans, for example, are tiny, and they give rise to plants about a foot high. The mustard seed is tiny too, but unlike your humble poppy plant, it gives rise to an enormous tree. Contrast this with an acorn, a fairly big seed, which makes an oak tree.
The point of the second parable, which I have mentioned to you in a sermon recently, is that that the Kingdom of Yahweh is built upon tiny principles - things which the world considers insignificant and useless: patience, kindness, and the kind of daily activities as represented by the woman baking bread in the kitchen. Simple rural and domestic pictures are what characterise the heart of the Christian life, not grandiose themes like empire-building, big business, and the like which carnal man takes such pleasure in. The Kingdom is like a microscopic seed which becomes great and mighty. But what is the purpose of this greatness? It is not so we can glory in ourselves or our achievements - it is to give shelter to the birds! That's right, the simple, humble and unpretentious activities of the Kingdom have, as their purpose, to give shelter to souls. The Kingdom is a family, ever growing, giving shelter and protection to souls who come seeking for it, which is what we talked about in our meeting on Thursday morning. You see, Yahweh notices the little things, like a sparrow falling out of the sky (Mt.10:29), which the carnal man is not because he is too busily occupied with his own grandiose schemes:
"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young -- a place near your altar, O LORD (Yahweh) Almighty, my King and my God (Eloah)" (Ps 84:3, NIV).
The Kingdom is about little things --- small details --- because these things matter. The Kingdom of Heaven is built by taking care of the little things round about us, especially people -- unimportant people, as far as the world is concerned, but important and greatly cherished in Yahweh's eyes.
The first Kingdom parable that Yah'shua (Jesus) gave is better known:
"Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."" (Matt.13:24-30, NKJV).
This parable teaches us that there are two kingdoms growing up alongside each other with two different masters: Yahweh and Satan. We're told that the Kingdom of Yahweh is a very fragile one and that the Kingdom of Darkness must be tolerated until Yahweh's seed has come to maturity and strength. That is why evil is permitted in the world because the means by which evil must be uprooted and finally burned is pretty drastic, and the good plants must first be fortified.
Every spring we set fire to the old undergrowth from the previous year. Amongst the dried vegetation are trees and young stems. And one of the amazing things is that though the fire utterly consumes all the dead material, the living trees and young shoots remain unharmed, even if they may get a little singed on the outside. Of course, one has to keep the fire under control otherwise you can indeed end up burning down the trees too. One of the casualties of the fire are the young shoots and leaves - most of these get destroyed.
We know, because the Bible tells us, that a great purging has to take place in the last days before Christ returns. And we are in those days now. The fact that the Body of Christ is being afflicted with disease, financial shortages, opposition, persecution, and such things ought to be sending us a signal. And that signal is that we are being fortified. Unless we are strengthened we will be burned up along with the wicked when the full force of the fire comes. Though it is unpleasant, and we have all complained, yet there is a divine purpose. The only way to uproot evil in the world is by first strengthening God's people to endure the punishing fire.
So it is that Yah'shua (Jesus) gives is three images of the Kingdom: (1) The counter-kingdom of darkness and the necessity of being fortified in preparation for the fire; (2) A kingdom which starts from humble beginnings -- a tiny seed -- but which grows to be great and mighty, whose purpose is to give shelter to souls seeking it; and (3) a kingdom which is represented by that little biological powerhouse we talked about last week called yeast, which is hidden by a woman in three measures of flour.
Three measures of flour - not one, but three, the biblical number of divine perfection, the number of the Godhead, a number possessing the necessary dimensions for substance -- length, breadth and height. In these three parables we see a progression and we are shown how Yahweh builds His Kingdom.
First, comes opposition in the form of Satan and his henchmen, the weeds, to test us and to see what we are made of. We must share this world with all kinds of people, and Yahweh permits us to dwell amongst them to refine and purify our character. He wants to see if we will keep separate from them or whether we will cave in and imitate their bad ways.
Second, we are reminded that the important things are not big or glittery. Small children choose big shiny gold coins over something dull and tiny like a mustard seed, but the mature and wise know that the glitter of this world is all illusion and ultimately only brings unhappiness. Those who have the heart of God choose the simple pleasures in life and are content to share their lives with ordinary people, for such is what the Kingdom of Yahweh is built up with.
Third, we come to the power of the kingdom, symbolised by yeast with its amazing capacity to multiply. And notice that the power is not given until later, after the refining has taken place and we have our priorities right. All too commonly modern Christians want wealth and power but want nothing to do with suffering or purification. They want spiritual gifts and dramatic miracles and power, but they don't want discipleship. They want something for nothing. And Satan gives it to them in all the false charismatic miracles taking place in such places as Pensacola where occultic spirits are causing gold dust to appear on people's hands, or ordinary tooth fillings turn into gold, for instance. Such miracles do not build the Kingdom but exalt the spirit of lust, and are given by Satan to distract God's people away from that which will save them.
The yeast of Yahweh's Kingdom is its power. But what kind of power is it? For one thing, it is associated with a woman. Note that well. It is a woman who is the instrument of Kingdom-building.
To understand why we are given a female image, we must turn to a prophecy given in the Old Testament which points forwards to the New Covenant. Herein you will see the mystery explained:
"'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD (Yahweh) of hosts" (Zech 4:6, NKJV).
The Kingdom of Yahweh is not to be built by might or by power, but by His Ruach (Spirit). The Hebrew word for "might" (chayil) conveys the sense of "force" and the word for "power" (koach) is another word for "force", the first often used in connection with military might. What a contrast this is with "Spirit", or Ruach, which literally means "breath". The Kingdom is to be built by breath, a word which is supposed to connect us mentally to the creation of Adam where it is written:
"And the LORD God (Yahweh Elohim) formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Gen.2:7, NKJV).
By Spirit, then, we are to understand the life principle, and as we all know, the life principle or Ruach is exclusively seen in Hebrew Scripture in female terms. The first woman, Eve, is described as "the mother of all living" (Gen.3:20), her name, Havah, meaning literally "life-giver". And as you all know, the Scriptures develop this theme by showing us that the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is female consisting of seven personages - the Seven Spirits of Elohim (Rev.1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6).
The Kingdom of Yahweh is to be built up by female principle. And what exactly is meant by that? I think that will become apparent as we look at what the Bible describes as the fruits of the Spirit (Ruach) which are thus:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Gal.5:22-23, NKJV).
He says we are to
"... walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit (Ruach) in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit (Ruach), just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God (Eloah) and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph.4:1-7, NKJV).
In underlining this Kingdom-building principle, we must not, of course, suppose that male principle has disappeared or been replaced. Other scriptures speak of the Kingdom Order as consisting of male headship coupled with the firmness that such headship demands. The point is that it is by the power of love that the Kingdom shall be assembled.
Once started, love can spread quickly, but it does take someone to take the initiative to get it going, and it likewise requires that everyone else becomes a yeast cell for righteousness, multiplying love throughout the environment in which they live. And if we are in any doubt as to the source of this love, we need only return to a post-resurrection event that most believers ignore because they do not understand it. The resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
""Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit (Ruach haQodesh)" (John 20:21-22, NKJV).
The Spirit (Ruach), as we have seen, is Life, and it is female principle, but the ultimate source is Yahweh through Christ who said:
"Jesus (Yah'shua) said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (Yahweh) except through Me" (John 14:6, NKJV).
The Holy Breath, that which gives us life, is in all of us -- a female principle sent by the Father through Christ. Perhaps that is why genetically men possess both male (Y) and female (X) sex chromosomes (XY) whereas women only possess female (XX) ones. Perhaps this why Eve was taken out of Adam and why the Old Testament teaches that Hochmah, the female personification of Wisdom, was taken our of Yahweh our Heavenly Father. God has taken from Himself the female principle of life and given it to the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which is imparted to us through the Messiah (Christ).
And this may well be why Yah'shua (Jesus) inserted that little detail about the leaven being placed in three measures of meal (flour) for all three parts of us - body, soul and spirit (1 Thes.5:23), or heart-mind, body and spirit - must be leavened by this spiritual life.
We end with a single verb in this parable, "to hide", for it is written that the woman hid the yeast in the flour. Now this verb comes from a word meaning both to "conceal" and to "incorporate", and a very interesting word it is too. Why did Yah'shua (Jesus) not use some word like "put" or "place"? Why specifically "hide"? And the answer is that it is a secret or a mystery that is being spoken of here. Paul say, using the same concept:
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Eloah). When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Col.3:1-5, NKJV).
It is not easy for non-Christians to understand the salvation of Christians, as we have discussed before. The Christian life is a mystery to them. And the reason it is a mystery is because it is hidden from their understanding. You cannot understand the Spirit of God until you have obtained it yourself. And so it is we remain hidden. This is perhaps why so many believers get angry with Christians and persecute them because they want what Christians have but are not willing to obtain it on the conditions it is offered. They want to take it by force (Mt.11:12) or to buy it with money (Acts 8:18ff.).
The woman hid the leaven "till it was all leavened". To bake a loaf you have to see the process through. You can't interrupt it midway. And so it is with sanctification - you have to see it through to the end, or you may get a loaf that collapses in on you, or a loaf that is rocky-hard and inedible. No wonder the least of the commandments are important (Mt.5:19).
The leaven within is the Light of Christ, and we symbolise this total incorporation of Him in our lives by eating sacramental bread and drinking wine, representing His body and blood. The Christian life is all or nothing, because there's no such thing as an edible half-baked loaf of bread. The yeast must spread through the whole dough as Christ must spread through every part of us. And when it has, we fully belong to Him, hidden, safe, and liberated. Amen.
This page was created on 29 March 2002
Last updated on 29 March 2002
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