THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART SEVEN – LEAVENING THE WHOLE LUMP
We have been covering the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a couple of months now where we have been studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom works. Church, Jesus gave us these parables to teach us what His kingdom is like. Therefore, we need to get an understanding of these analogies and examples as well as apply these truths to our lives so that we can get these principles of how His kingdom works working for us.
Thus far, we have covered Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and last week, we looked at the Parable of the Growing Seed. And we saw how in this parable, we have what I consider to be the most concise description of how His kingdom operates.
I made the point that it could be considered the kingdom principle. That’s right—not a kingdom principle or one of the kingdom principles—This is the law that governs God’s kingdom. Now I understand that this is a strong statement to call this the absolute law of the kingdom, but I can assure you, just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the law of sowing & reaping is the way, the truth and the life of the kingdom of God. Amen!
We learned that when Jesus said at the beginning of this parable— “The kingdom of God is as…”, Jesus was saying, “This is how the kingdom of God operates! This is a law of the kingdom, and it will work this way every single time!”
Then Jesus went on to say it is “… as if a man should scatter seed on the ground …” We took note that by using the word “if” here, Jesus was saying that this principle of the kingdom is conditional. Conditional on what? Conditional as to whether or not this man should scatter seed on the ground! What this means is that it is not up to God! It is our responsibility if this kingdom law will take effect in our lives or not.
Now we also learned that the seed is the Word of God and the ground is our hearts. Jesus told us this in the Parable of the Sower. So, the condition to seeing this kingdom principle becoming effective in our lives is if we are going to take the time to sow the Word in hearts that are good, noble, and pure. But we saw something else that is very interesting: In His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus told us what both the seed and the ground represent, but He never told us who the sower was? And do you know why? Jesus doesn’t tell us who the sower is in these parables because it does not matter who the sower is. Yes, the seed will produce when sown into good ground every single time, and it doesn’t matter how the seed got there. That’s right church, the seed and the soil are no respecter of persons or we could say that they are no respecter of “sowers!”
But the main point we saw from this parable is that this man just simply scattered seed on the ground and then went about his business. He didn’t stay up all night, wringing his hands, fretting over whether he was going to get a harvest or not. No, Jesus told us that after he scattered the seed on the ground, he just went to bed and rested.
Church, whenever we begin to fret, get anxious and worry about the things that we need or desire to see change in our life, we are not operating according to this kingdom principle. No, when we are abiding in this law of the kingdom, we will enter into His rest. And this is such a super important part of kingdom living even though it is so hard on our flesh—for to enter into His rest is what faith does.
But we learned that resting does not mean we just kick back, relax, and let God do everything. No, we have a part to play in it, and that is to sow the Word! Yes, our only job is to sow the Word into our situation and sit back and watch God’s grace do the work.
This is why Jesus went on to say that “he himself does not know how,” which I believe is the most powerful statement in this parable. Why? Because when we are living in this kingdom principle, we will not be able to explain how all this fruit is being produced in our lives. Yes, we will be like this sower who had to respond when asked about the harvest he had in his field— “You know what? All I did was put the seed in the ground. I couldn’t tell you how those little seeds produced all this. It just happened on its own. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know how this happened!”
And the thing we learned last week was how Jesus then gave us the steps for how this harvest took place, and this speaks of patience. Therefore, patience is a big part of this kingdom principle because we cannot expect all this fruit overnight. How ridiculous would it be for a farmer to plant some seed and then after a week or two, when it hasn’t produced, dig up the seed and say this farming stuff doesn’t work? No, reaping a harvest is a process! And we learned that patience is certainly one of the most important virtues in the kingdom of God because the fruit we desire rarely comes when our flesh wants it to. No, growth in the kingdom is a process.
So, when we desire to see the fruit of God’s kingdom coming in our lives, sow the Word! When it comes to situations and circumstances in our lives that we know need to change, sow the Word! Find Scriptures that promise what we want to see and begin to let God perform His good Word and let it prosper in the thing for which He sent it! It works every time, my friends! We just have need of patience and knowing that God’s kingdom comes by grace as the God of grace does the work. Amen.
Now let’s move on into looking at the Parable of the Leaven—a parable that Jesus told immediately after the Parable of the Mustard Seed. And this particular parable is even shorter than it, in that it is only one verse.
Matthew 13:33 says, “Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’”
Now when Jesus began by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven …” this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was specifically likening God’s kingdom to the leaven itself. It can also mean that the kingdom of heaven works like leaven works. Therefore, He is just simply describing that in the spiritual realm, where the kingdom of God exists, this is how things work.
And the reason I make this point is because when we consider Jesus’ use of leaven here, we have to consider that every time leaven is used in the Scriptures as an example, it is not used in a positive sense. In fact, it is used to describe sin, false teaching, wrong belief systems, etc. So, for Jesus to compare God’s kingdom to this thing that is never used to describe anything but evil & wicked things would be inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.
However, there is a group of people that believe that is exactly what Jesus was doing here. Yes, they take this parable as an illustration of how God’s kingdom is infiltrating the earth. And while I believe that we can see how God’s kingdom is indeed doing just that, I also believe that what we are meant to see in this parable was how in the unseen realm, there is a hidden spreading of things from the spiritual realm that affects this natural realm. So, let’s look at this parable in detail …
Now “leaven” is not the terminology we would use today. Today, we would call this thing “yeast” because what Jesus was describing was that single-celled organism which belongs to the fungi kingdom. So, leaven is essentially a fungus. No wonder it is only used in a negative sense in the Scriptures because fungi aren’t usually good things!
But when it comes to the making of bread, “leaven” (or “yeast” as we know it) is indeed a good thing in some respects because of how it makes bread rise and provides it with a better flavor. But while those benefits of yeast are appealing to our flesh, they are not necessarily the healthiest things. Likewise, the things that the Bible uses as illustrations for leaven might be things that appeal to the carnal side of us but are not necessarily good for us spiritually. Let’s look at some of these Scriptural examples of “leaven”:
Of course, one of the first Biblical examples we have of leaven is in the Book of Exodus when the Lord instituted the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, telling the congregation of Israel to eat no leavened bread, and not even have any leaven found in their houses during that prescribed period of time.
Now we know all of those things were symbolic in nature—for God doesn’t have anything against yeast in and of itself. But what He is vehemently against is what yeast symbolizes.
You see, in First Corinthians chapter 5, the apostle Paul likens the toleration of wickedness in their church as “a little leaven leavening the whole lump”—and he continues to describe how purging out vices like malice and wickedness is how we today fulfill the feast of unleavened bread (See First Corinthians 5:6-8).
So, it is not about simply observing a feast and performing some rite or ritual; the issue is us purging wicked things from our lives that the leaven symbolizes.
THE LEAVEN OF THE WORLD
But Jesus also compared this leaven to something else: For example, one thing that Jesus spoke out against on a number of occasions was the leaven of the Pharisees, the leaven of the Sadducees, and the leaven of Herod (See Matthew 16:6 & Mark 8:15). So, what was He referring to here? It was the teachings, the way of thinking, and the agendas that these parties projected on people. No, it was not just the words they spoke, but the leaven in their hearts that inspired the words that they spoke.
Let’s look at the first example: In Matthew 16:6-12, we see where Jesus, in speaking to His disciples, said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’ But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Now let me explain what happened here: Jesus was attempting to give His disciples some spiritual insight and told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. But when the disciples heard this, they thought Jesus was giving them a subliminal message—rebuking them for forgetting to bring the leftover bread from the feeding of the thousands. And don’t we do this, church? Perhaps you were making some homemade bread for one of our church luncheons, but you messed it up, not adding enough yeast, and it fell flat. And then Pastor Robert stands up here during announcements and says, “Watch out of the yeast of false teaching out there.” You might start thinking what the disciples did— “Did Pastor Robert say that because he knew I messed up the bread I was bringing today?” We’ve all done things similar to this, but this is very eye-opening.
As Jesus goes on to explain to them that He wasn’t talking about physical bread when He spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, we need to understand that there is a tendency in our hearts to gravitate towards this natural, carnal way of looking at things. We might call this the “leaven of this world”—that is, the mindset and way of thinking that is in the world around us that just naturally adapts us into its mold.
So, we need to beware of this as well—that there is just this carnal, natural and “worldly leaven” that is trying to take us from all that is spiritual and eternal and “dumb us down” to where the truth of His kingdom is not on our radar in the least.
But notice that Jesus spoke specifically here of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and how Mark specifically tells us how He was referring to their “doctrine” (i.e., teachings).
THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES
So, let’s first look at the leaven of the Pharisees: What is it that they taught that had the capability to do this kind of damage? Well, the Pharisees were obviously very legalistic. They believed themselves to be such strict observers of the Torah to where they aspired to follow every jot and tittle of the law. However, they took it to another level to where they even added their own ideas and philosophies to it.
So, the leaven of the Pharisees is that subtle, religious, and legalistic way of thinking that enveloped their teachings. And it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the Torah in and of itself, but the spirit in which it was handled by the Pharisees and projected on the people from them was the “leaven” Jesus spoke of.
You see, even today, folks can take something that is as good and perfect as God’s Word and teach it in ways to where it affects people in a way that it was not intended to. For example, the Pharisees were known for placing these heavy burdens on people, telling them “you have to do this” and “you have to do that.” It was never enough. There was always more to do. And these Pharisees are still with us today, church. Yes, there are those who lace their teaching & preaching with a spirit that only brings people into bondage and condemnation—thus rendering them powerless. Yes, these modern day “Pharisees” might have good motives and think they are doing God a service, but the leaven is still there and it’s not God’s best.
But it’s not just the preacher’s fault. It can also be in the hearers’ heart already, so they take what it is being said and hear it in this legalistic, condemning manner when that was not at all the way it was being said.
The bottom line is that this “leaven” is here in the church today—preachers are proclaiming it like the Pharisees did back then and congregants have already been infected by it. So, these are things we need to guard our hearts against—from not letting this leaven pervert how we hear God’s Word and certainly not adding our own views and ideas to it like the Pharisees did. As Jesus said, this will make the Word of God of non-effect in our lives.
THE LEAVEN OF THE SADDUCEES
Which brings us to this other example of leaven that Jesus used—the Leaven of the Sadducees.
You see, while the Pharisees tended to strictly observe all that the Torah said and even add to it, the Sadducees were the opposite. Their tendency was to subtract from God’s Word.
In Acts 23:8, we have a concise description of their beliefs. It says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” So, here was the difference: While the Pharisees were the “Word-people” of their day in that they believed and embraced all that was in it, the Sadducees didn’t believe in all that supernatural stuff like angels, demons, a resurrection, etc.
Can you see how this same spirit is still in the church today? And the apostle Paul prophesied it when he said that in the last days people will have a form of godliness and deny the power (Second Timothy 3:1-9). This same “leaven” of doubting the supernatural and miraculous things of God is and has been at work in the body of Christ. It will try to explain everything naturally or scientifically, excluding any existing power of God. It believes that the signs, wonders and miracles died with the church of the Book of Acts. Many teach these things, and I would compare this to the leaven of the Sadducees in Jesus’ day.
Saints, God has not changed! Miracles still happen, angels are real, and the healing, resurrection power of the Holy Ghost is still with us! The only thing that has changed is the church’s faith in these things, which is due to this leaven of the Sadducees infiltrating people’s belief systems!
You see, these religious leaders had a way of instilling their doctrines and mindset on the people. So, the Lord was quick to tell His disciples to beware of this leaven. Why? Because if the Pharisees and Sadducees way of thinking and subsequent teachings were allowed to influence them, it would have a leavening effect on their hearts.
THE LEAVEN OF HEROD
But Jesus did not just warn His disciples of the leaven of religious leaders. In Mark 8:15, He warned them of the leaven of Herod as well. So even the king had his own leaven—that is, his own agenda and mentality that he projected on the people—showing us how even secular leadership can easily influence people just like religion can. And Herod’s influence obviously came from his position as king, but it was his self-serving, wicked, political wheeling & dealing example that Jesus referred to as the “leaven.”
So, likewise, we need to beware of even the leavening effect that those in secular leadership positions have on us—for it is easy to get swept away by the indoctrination & agendas of those who seem to be somewhat among us. And in case you haven’t noticed, that is exactly what the world has been successful at doing because people have been conditioned to think a certain way and do certain things because of what has been projected on to us by the media, etc.
HIDDEN IN THREE; HIDDEN IN THEE
And don’t be mistaken: This is not done in some overt manner. It is a sly, cunning, and subtle “leavening” just as the woman in this parable was said to have “hid” the leaven in the three measures of meal (i.e., dough). The fact that Jesus describes her as “hiding” it shows us that it will not be on the surface, apparent to everyone, but will work underneath everything doing its corrupting work.
But notice that this woman in Jesus’ parable hid it in three measures of meal. Why three? Why did Jesus choose to use three measures here and not some other number? Well, there are various opinions and speculations regarding this, but let me give you why I think three was used. It is because the god of this world is looking to affect and infect all of who we are. Yes, he is not just after your spirit, he is not just after your soul, and he is not just after your body. Like God wants to sanctify you completely that your whole spirit, soul, and body remains preserved and blameless (See First Thessalonians 5:23), the devil would love that your whole spirit, soul, and body are set apart completely unto him and that you are utterly and thoroughly corrupted by his leaven. And he doesn’t accomplish this by kicking down your front door wearing red pajamas and carrying a pitchfork. No, he does it as an angel of light, in a cunning and crafty manner, sowing a little tare here and injecting a little leaven there, here a little and there a little, until the entire meal is perverted.
I’m reminded of how Balaam did this in the Book of Numbers: We know the story—how Balak paid off the prophet Balaam to curse the children of Israel. But when Balaam tried to curse them, only blessings came out. Why? Because you cannot curse whom God has blessed. So, realizing this, Balaam came to Balak with another idea. Since he couldn’t defeat them from the outside, he would try to do it from the inside—by tempting the men of Israel to break God’s law. This worked and brought swift judgment on them, thus accomplishing what Balak wanted all along.
This is called the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14, and we are warned that the enemy of our soul is using this same principle against us—attempting to sow this leaven in us by getting us to make poor choices and wrong decisions. Contrary to what a lot of people say, the devil cannot make you do it. He cannot put this leaven in you without your consent. It’s up to us what we let in and what we keep out. The Lord ultimately does the sanctifying work in us, but we must let Him do it. Which leads to my final point …
WHERE’S THE GOSPEL?
Now while this is certainly referring to the negative side of it all, I don’t want to leave it at that: How many of you know that all of this works in the positive too—for if we will allow the Word of God to influence our way of thinking and let the Lord Jesus determine how we view things, that good leaven can infiltrate our lives and cause us to “rise” and be more “flavorful.”
Psalm 119:11 says it best— “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” That means that you and I can choose to hide His Word, the Gospel, in our hearts like that woman hid the leaven in the meal, and when we do so, it can keep us from sinning against God! Hallelujah!
Now I believe this has a two-fold meaning:
Number one, God’s Word can remove any and all of the bad kind of leaven out of us as we sow it into our hearts and allow that seed to germinate and grow. In other words, the Word of God hid in our hearts can eliminate the sin and grow us into maturity.
I had someone ask me not too long ago what is the thing that I would attribute my spiritual growth to, and while I might tend to think hard about things like that before I answer, I didn’t need to with that question—the answer was God’s Word!
You see, while I know it all begins and ends with the Alpha and Omega Himself—the Lord Jesus. And while I know that the Holy Spirit plays such an integral role with helping us walk this Christian walk. I have personally found that by reading, studying, speaking, and meditating on God’s Word, I have been grounded and have grown up in Him. Yes, all these things work together, but as Jesus said, as I have continued in His Word, I have come to know the truth, and His truth has made me free. Amen.
Number two, God’s Word also can keep us from stumbling when we are exposed to the leaven of this world.
You see, by studying to show ourselves approved, we can be so familiar with the light that the darkness is exposed every time. And, church, this is how the counterfeit—all the bad leaven out there—is detected. It is by knowing the true genuine article!
Like I have learned through years in banking, the best way for one to recognize a counterfeit is to study the genuine article thoroughly. When I handled money for hours on end, I found that when a counterfeit bill was presented to me that it stuck out like a sore thumb. Now the client who accepted the fake bill didn’t recognize it when someone passed it off on them nor did they recognize it when I told them it was fake. But to the person who handled money all day, a counterfeit bill was obvious.
It is for that reason that I strongly believe Christians should spend the majority of their time studying the truth as opposed to error. I have seen believers spend their time studying this false religion and this bad doctrine in an attempt to become more familiar with it. They do it for noble reasons, such as wanting to reach the people who ascribe to those wrong beliefs, or to make sure they don’t fall for those lies. But I am of the persuasion that we need to be doing the opposite—both becoming so familiar with the Word of God and spending time getting to know the Word Himself. The reason is because, as it is with recognizing counterfeit currency, the more we know the true, genuine article, the more we will be able to distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
So, the key is us learning to sow God’s Word in our hearts and letting that seed spring up and affect all the issues of our life. That’s what we’ve been learning for weeks now—that the kingdom of God works like this—seedtime and harvest. But the devil has perverted this kingdom principle and now is trying to hide his leaven to where our whole spirit, soul and body is infected by his deception.
My prayer for us is that of the apostle Paul—that the God of peace Himself with sanctify us completely, that our whole spirit, soul and body are preserved blameless until the Lord’s coming. And how did Jesus tell us that He does this sanctifying work? By His truth—and His Word is truth (See John 17:17). Amen