Harold Bennett - Leaven - Capetown II - 2006

Matthew 13:33, “Another parable spake He unto them, 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.'” I have often been amazed at the ability of the Lord Jesus to make the truths of the Kingdom so simple that even a child can understand them. Some illustrations were from the agricultural kingdom, others from the commercial world, and this one from the domestic scene. God has put us here to feed Him. This parable features the same thing. God not only wants us to have bread but to be bread to feed God and others. Three measures of meal were used and the leaven was put into it – like the Spirit. Just as the leaven was put into the meal, so God wants to put His Spirit into us. The seed was put into the soil; the wine was put into the bottle and the well of water into you and me, and He wants to put His spirit, like leaven, into our lives. God wants to get something working within, not so much us, but into a thing. That woman was making bread to feed. You can be thankful in your Sunday a.m. meeting for those who are feeders in both having bread and in being an example. Moses was a feeder, Gideon was a feeder, and the Lord Jesus was a feeder. On the judgment day, some will hear the Lord Jesus say He was hungry and they fed Him. Leaven is from an outside source. To become a child of God, it is not through the good of us or due to some latent talent but the Spirit that’s given from an outside source. We could have every ingredient but still not make bread. Baking powder is a chemical reaction, not like the working of leaven. We could have the finest of wheat but if it’s not broken, then the leaven would not work. That is why God’s people are of a contrite Spirit. The kernels are broken. Life is destroyed, but the life of the Spirit is another life. Religious people may have all the knowledge of the Bible, but they are like whole kernels and the working of the spirit is not there. It takes leaven working to make bread. When I was a student, I was working in a large bakery to pay for my studies. Early in the morning, the dough man would come. There was a huge room with huge mixers. They would mix all the ingredients together, and then they’d toss out the dough. This was put into a trough and placed in the trough room. This was a room with warm moist air, and the dough was left for a while. After an hour, it had mushroomed up over the sides of the trough. It was punched down and again, it was put into this room. God puts this rising power into us. In Psalm 119, the Psalmist says, “his soul cleaveth to the dust.” If we no longer have the rising power within, then we will never rise up. In Romans 8:31 we read, “…If God be for us, who can be against us?" That same spirit in us quickens us. We are raised up by the spirit, but at other times we are punched down – “Many the crushing defeats I have known.” We need defeats to bring us back down again, and this makes for good bread. If a lid is put over the dough, it could lift it. It works in the right atmosphere. This is like saying, “Yes” to God – welcoming His will. At some bakeries, they make frozen bread. The leaven is left to work for a while, and then stopped by putting it in a cold place. We can stop the working of the Spirit by giving God a cold “No.” This can be through rebellion or withdrawing from Him. He wants to put His Spirit in us and allow that Spirit to work. It takes time and it works slowly and transfers that dough into another shape. We are changed from glory to glory. It will be evident that something is working. There are six kinds of leaven in the Bible. Sometimes, it is a type of the bad spirit, and at other times a picture of God’s Spirit. We need to be alive and be aware of the spirit that is in us. Mathew 16:11, “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?" This related to doctrine. With every doctrine there is a spirit that accompanies it. For example, the Catholics have a spirit; the Methodists have a spirit; the Apostolics have a spirit, etc. When the Lord Jesus was talking of the leaven, He was talking of a bad spirit that could work and influence our lives and make for bread.

I once visited with a religious man and he said to me that leaven always refers to a bad spirit. At first I didn’t know what to say, and then I answered him. In different parts of the Bible, symbols change. The devil is referred to as a roaring lion but at the same time, the Lord Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The righteous are like a tree (Psalm 1:3, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper”), but the wicked are also like a spreading green bay tree (Psalm 37:35, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree”). The good leaven works to salvation and the bad leaven to hinder. Jesus said beware of the leaven.

1) Luke 12:1, “… Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The Pharisees said but didn’t do. We wouldn’t get far in the way of God if we say and don’t do. My Grandmother said, after listening to the Truth, “When the workers spoke of love, I saw it; when the workers spoke of sacrifice, I saw it; when the workers spoke of service, I saw it; and when they spoke of humility, I saw it.” She understood that which she had not understood before. We need to narrow the gap between what we say and what we do. When all is said and done, far more is said than done. I know more of the Truth than what I have ever done.

2) The leaven of the Sadducees is unbelief. Mathew 22:23, “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection…” and Acts 23:8, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” Some of the greatest attacks on the Bible are from religious people. They don’t believe the story of creation; they don’t believe the story of Noah or Jonah or of Christ’s birth. They are leavened with the leaven of unbelief. This same leaven could work in us. We would like the love of God to be real in our experience. We want to believe that God’s promises are ours and that His will is always best and to believe that His grace is sufficient for us. There was a nobleman that came to Jesus asking to have his unbelief helped. Sometimes we can be a complicated mixture of belief and unbelief.

3) Mark 8:15, “And He charged them, saying, 'Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.'” He was warning them of the leaven of Herod. Herod was a man who was captivated by the world. He was taken up with his place, position, and glamour. We also could have the spirit of the world working in us. There’s a saying that goes: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” We are in the world and could do as the worldlings do. The love of the world is enmity with God. This is not the world of nature, of trees and of lakes, etc., but the world of humanity referred to in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Mark was writing of the spirit that is in the world. We could let the fashions of the world, sports, and money get a hold of us. We could practice what others in the world are doing. If that Spirit affects us, it will change us and make for poor bread. If any are born of God, then they will overcome the world, 1 John 5:4, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

4) 1 Corinthians 5:4, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This was the old leaven. They were to purge that out and keep the new feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. When we gather on a Sunday morning, we don’t want to keep the feast with the old leaven, which relates to our past life – the old life with all its sins. Christ our Passover lamb is sacrificed for us. Exodus 12:18-19, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.”  No leaven was to be found in their homes. They were to thoroughly search their homes, and verses 23-24 say, “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons forever.” They were to be cleansed and sheltered by the blood. We need to get rid of the old ways, and then we can come and enjoy the shelter and cleansing of the blood of the Lamb. Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” This says the same thing: Repent and get the right order, and then your sins can be forgiven. We first must be cleansed, and then we can enjoy the blood of Christ.

There was a lady from Oregon that had decided but went out again. She could never clean out the old leaven, the old wrongs, etc. Exodus 34:25, “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left unto the morning.” They were not to mix leaven and blood together. In Leviticus 23, we read of the seven feasts of the Lord. Fifty days after the Passover was Pentecost. This was held on the first day of the week. The Feast of Passover centered around the Lamb. On the feast of Pentecost, Leviticus 23:17, “Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.”  Two wave loaves were to be baked with leaven. This was to teach them that when God cleanses our lives He doesn’t leave us flat and empty, but fills us with the Spirit. At the last Passover of the Lord Jesus, the Jewish nation felt He was the worst kind of leaven. They wanted to get rid of that old corrupting leaven that was corrupting the Jewish nation. Fifty days after He held that Passover, we read in Acts 2, the description of the Holy Spirit being sent as leaven from heaven in a dramatic way that filled the house. This was a sign and seal that God was right. They were there on the first day of the week and the Spirit was signifying to them that they were keeping the right day. When God sent the Holy Spirit, it didn’t land on the temple or the synagogue but on the home were they met. The Holy Spirit, like a rising power, enabled them to go forth and stand against governments and face opposition. It filled their lives and they felt their lives were complete and rich. They felt this was too good to withhold from the world.

5) The leaven of the flesh – of malice and wickedness. If we are leavened with this, then we can’t have fellowship. Every effort of the Gospel is to promote fellowship. Malice is when a person does a thing you resent and you hope that someone else will harm them. Wickedness is a deliberate desire to go ahead and do what is wrong, even though you know what you should do. That spirit will never produce fellowship. When we come on a Sunday a.m. meeting, don’t come with that spirit. Titus 3:3-4, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” is like Paul’s testimony. Can you imagine serving God in that manner? With hatred! It makes for poor bread. Matthew 13:33, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand”—that’s the good spirit of God. It was present when the right atmosphere is there. Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The Spirit of God makes us one of His. Three measures: what we are in our bodies and our lives. It’s made of three parts: the past, present, and future. The leaven can change them all: Forgiveness for the past, privileges for the present, and a hopeful future. Also 1st Thessalonians 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are made of spirit, soul, and body. Leaven works in all three parts. If it works in all three parts, we will be preserved at His coming. The body is the physical part – like the animals made from the dust. The soul is the mental part- we can communicate with the spirit and with God. The body is the home for the soul and the soul is the home for the spirit. Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  By nature, the soul is dead, but when we get connected to God’s Spirit, this leaven not only connects us to God but also has a bearing on our attitude to our fellow man. The body is the home for the soul and the soul is the home for the spirit. When the leaven is put in it, it works a change. I used to read this incorrectly, i.e.: Body, soul, and spirit, but it is spirit, soul, and body, as the spirit is the most important. That’s where God starts to work a change. Some come to the first Gospel meeting and sit at the back. Sometimes they are reeking of tobacco and drink, and straight after the meeting they disappear. Little by little, they get closer to the front and a change is evident. They learn to pray. They develop a taste for those things that they never had a taste for before. Some had never prayed before in their lives and now they cannot face a day without prayer. There is a change in their attitude. Now they like to talk of spiritual things. The second part is the mental part, whereby we communicate with others. It changes our attitude to mankind. We show a kindly good spirit to all mankind. The first four Blesseds all relate to our attitude toward God, our need of God. First, they mourn for sin; secondly, they submit to God; and thirdly, they hunger and have a great desire. Fourthly, they are merciful and have a generous disposition.  They become pure in heart and have no pretence; i.e., something that is genuine. Peacemakers work toward peace, not compromise. “Blessed are the persecuted”—the spirit in us keeps us from retaliating or taking revenge. The third measure is the body. We begin to regard the body as the temple of God and we don’t use it in any common ordinary way. The word of God makes for a healthy man and a clean mind. Grandpa Jones was a taxi driver in Portland. He made various stops in the city to meet with his cronies and they smoked and drank and told off-colour jokes. After he had decided, he called at the various places and told them he would no longer stop off. One of the men asked if a preacher had told him to stop doing it.  No.  The Spirit of God had worked and He wanted to use his body to make good bread. It leavens until the whole is leavened and the loaf is complete. In John 6, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” He was the perfect loaf. The word used for bread here is Artos, which is a raised or leavened loaf. His life was emptied of the flesh but filled with the Spirit. John 3:34, “For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure of Him.”  The Spirit was given without measure. We should never be leavened with the leaven of the Pharisees—to say and not to do. Nor should we be leavened with the leaven of the Sadducees, of that wickedness or malice. The reason Jesus was the perfect loaf was because He was always leavened with the Holy Spirit of God. Colossians 1:19, “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” God has given us the example of His Son to you and me and we can feed upon every word and deed, upon  every attitude of Jesus. In Matthew 26, the Lord Jesus instituted the church service and it was in a man’s home. He took the bread and blessed it. The word for bread again is Artos: to teach us that when the old leaven is leavened out, then God doesn’t leave our lives flat and empty. When the bread is passed around in a Sunday morning meeting we remember the Lord Jesus, leavened with the right Spirit, and can feed on His every action.