Summary: This ’most misunderstood’ parable is one of the most telling ones for our generation today. The parallels are powerful to consider! Link included to formatted text, audio, and PowerPoint Template.
Parable of the Leaven
Just one verse is all it takes tonite to have a big spiritual spread to feast upon.
How many have ever made homemade bread? What do you put in the dough to make it rise? Yeast. And what is the Bible word for yeast? Leaven. It’s just another word for yeast. It is used to produce fermentation and it caused the dough to rise.
Here’s the common interpretation of this parable:
The leaven is the gospel, the woman is the church, and the meal or dough is the world. Logic says then that the leaven represents the expanding power of the gospel in the world until the whole planet is eventually influenced. Just as the leaven overtakes the meal, so the gospel will overtake the world. That is the common interpretation…but there are several problems with that.
First of all, the Bible does not teach that the whole world will be influenced by the gospel. Yes, we are to take the gospel everywhere, to every tribe and nation, and we’re trying, but failing.
II Tim. 3 says that in the last days perilous times shall come. That doesn’t sound like a spiritual awakening. The Bible says that just before Christ returns it will be ‘as it was in the days of Noah.’ That is eating, drinking, and being merry.
How is 2007 similar to the days of Noah?
1. Preoccupation with physical appetites. Everyone is always looking for new ways to please their flesh.
2. Disregard for the sanctity of marriage. It is viewed as disposable, or unnecessary.
3. Widespread violence.
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
Our hearts go out to families of 3,000 soldiers who have died in Iraq in the last few years. But did you know that our prisons today hold living convicted killers of more than 100,000 Americans? That’s twice the number killed in Viet Nam! Did you know that more than 15,000 Americans are killed each year by drunk drivers? Did you know that more than 4,000 Americans are killed each year by illegal aliens? Add that all up and you’ve got another 100,000 Americans violently killed just since Sept. 11th! We think of the attacks of that day as violent, but WE are a violent nation in a world that is FILLED with violence!
4. Rampant illicit sex.
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Man continues to find new ways to express their perversion…and it’s all over TV, the internet, and now on public display on college campuses and beaches, and every street corner it seems, and it all begins in the wicked imagination and thoughts of man!
The similarities between the pre-flood world and 2007 are astounding. The Bible says that men shall wax worse and worse, not get better. We are spiraling downward, not evolving.
The Bible speaks of a great falling away, apostasy, just before Christ returns. Men will not endure sound doctrine…they will turn away their ears from the truth and be turned unto fables. Is that today or what?!
Here’s 1 reason to rethink whether leaven is used in a positive way:
The world will not be completely affected by the gospel until the millennial reign of Christ…His kingdom come to earth.
Here’s an even better reason to reject the common ‘first glance’ interpretation of this leaven being a good thing:
Every other place in the Bible in which leaven is used it symbolizes that which is evil. Here’s some references: Luke 12:1—symbolizes hypocrisy, Matt. 16—symbolizes false doctrine, Matt. 22—symbolizes worldliness, I Cor. 5—symbolizes evil conduct, Gal. 5:9—symbolizes legalism.
If leaven is suddenly good in our text, that is not consistent w/ the rest of scripture.
So what is the correct interpretation of the meal, the woman, and the leaven?
A. The Meal
If you were a Jew in those days and heard this parable, you would have caught the phrase, “3 measures of meal.” It was a common purchase. But when you hear that some woman has hid leaven in the meal, you’d say, “what a dirty trick…what an abominable woman!” Why? The key is the 3 measures of meal. That’s what you’d take to the temple as an act of worship. The OT book of Leviticus speaks of the meal offering, which was typically made up of 3 measures of meal. They would grind up the meal very fine, then add oil and frankincense and bake a cake. They would take it to the priest in the temple where the fire of God would consume it…it was a meal offering.
The finely ground meal represented the even, sinless character of the Lord Jesus…w/ no lumps or inconsistencies. What do you think then that the oil would represent? The Holy Spirit! The frankincense represented the sweet savor of His holy life, and the fire stands for His sufferings on the cross.