Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Parable of the Leaven

The next parable that we come to is the Parable of the Leaven.

Matthew 13:33 (KJV)
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.

This parable is the twin to the Parable of the Mustard Seed. The meaning is generally viewed as similar to its twin, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts off small, but grows very big. But just like its twin, the meaning is not explained by Yeshua. Therefore, this particular meaning is not based on anything besides the commentators' own ideas. As we've seen in the previous parables it makes more sense to understand that the symbols or elements of all the parables must all remain consistent.

Let's examine this parable with that in mind. Let's start with the leaven. Although there are no clues given to us within the parable itself, the Bible has some interesting things to say about the connotation of "leaven."

Exodus 12:15 (KJV)
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
Exodus 13:7 (KJV) 
7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

These two passages in Exodus speak about the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where for seven days not only did they not eat bread with leaven, but leaven couldn't even be found in their homes or they would be cut off from Israel.

1 Corinthians 5:6 (KJV)
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

As we enter into the first century, we see that Paul's writings exhibit the idea of leaven being something bad that goes throughout the whole lump. In this particular case, it referred to the Corinthians patting themselves on the back for their tolerance of sin in their midst.

Galatians 5:8-10 (KJV)
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

In this passage of Galatians Paul warns about allowing someone's meddling to influence their thinking. Paul says that this someone's ideas are not from God. In these New Testament verses we easily see that leaven had become a symbol for sin, or, as in the case of Galatians, false teaching.

What does the meal represent?

Leviticus 14:10 (KJV)
10 And on the eighth day he shall take two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.

In this verse we see that this particular meal offering was made up of three lumps of flour.

Leviticus 6:14,17 (KJV)
14 And this is the law of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.
17 It shall not be baken with leaven. I have given it unto them for their portion of my offerings made by fire; it is most holy, as is the sin offering, and as the trespass offering.

The meal offering was to be made without leaven since it was most holy. This indicates again the status of our world (the hidden Kingdom of Heaven). What God meant for good has had some evil, sin, or false teaching hidden into it. This teaching will grow until it fills the whole lump.

So who does the woman represent? The main actor in the previous parables was a man who represented Yeshua/God. This woman is acting an an agent for Satan, planting evil, sin, or false teaching, that will corrupt the Kingdom of Heaven.

Taken all together, we find that the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Leaven are all very similar parables, differing only in aspects that Yeshua meant to highlight. The Kingdom of Heaven started off small, but as it grows Satan is working hard against the Kingdom. Satan planted his evil children into the Kingdom, he has infiltrated it by evil (demons?), and he has sown sin, evil, and false teaching. It would seem that the Kingdom of Heaven is in desperate need of help. What will the next parables tell us?

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

We have been discussing Yeshua's parables in Matthew 13. So far we have covered the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Between Yeshua's giving the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and His explanation there are two more parables that we have yet to analyze. Today we will be looking at the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

Matthew 13:31-32 (KJV)
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

This time Yeshua said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field (verse 31). Then in verse 32 He remarked that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but becomes a tree when it is grown. It is so large that the birds come and lodge in its branches.

This is all that we are given. So, if Yeshua did not give us any explanation, how are we to determine what Yeshua was trying to tell us? Most commentators believe that the message is pretty clear, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts out small, but grows to be so big that all kinds of people come to dwell within it. Specifically, the birds must represent Gentiles who come into the small Kingdom that Yeshua started. Although there seems to be a consensus on this parable's meaning, the reasoning involved is nothing more than guess work.

Instead, if we look closely, the four symbols used in the parable have already been defined by Yeshua. The man that sows the mustard seed must represent Yeshua, just as the man (sower) does in the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The field has already been shown to be the world and the mustard seed represents those who hear the Word of God. The birds represent Satan. When we put this together we now find that the Kingdom of Heaven, yes, starts off small after being sown by Yeshua into the world. It then grows to be very large, so large that evil (or Satan) finds shelter there.

But how is this possible that evil could be hiding in the Kingdom of Heaven? Actually, what the parable says is that evil infiltrates the world where God's people also exist. Isn't this the situation of our world? Isn't this what was being described in the Wheat and the Tares?

Perhaps our definition of the Kingdom of Heaven needs a little tweaking. These parables seem to indicate the condition of what is actually going on in the world today and not really what is happening in the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. It is as if Yeshua was already looking to His physical Kingdom of Heaven that will be in place during the Millennial Kingdom here on Earth. Is it possible that in some sense Yeshua is viewing His Kingdom as our world, even though it is marred because of sin? This change in thought serves to explain how we are to view these parables. And there seems to be some patterns developing. We'll talk more about this as we progress.

Note: While the mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, nor does it grow into a tree, the Jews traditionally used the mustard seed as an example of the smallest. Yeshua's use of hyperbole (exaggeration) was a common method of making a strong point.