God’s Word for You
Luke 13:20-21 yeast
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 4, 2018
20 Again he said, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? 21 It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until worked all through the dough.”
In former years, yeast was one of the Bible’s many references that never had to be defined because everybody knew what it was. But like the rigging of a ship and the tack of a horse, fewer and fewer people have ever seen or worked with yeast. I have benefitted from my wife’s knowledge and experience as a cook. Yeast (ζύμη, zyme) is a yellowish-grey fungus usually obtained from the fermentation process from beer or malt liquor. When introduced into bread dough, it makes the dough rise (Hosea 7:4). The “measures” of flour here are the sata (σάτα), a large amount measuring about 21 pints. The Greek text says three sata, which would be 63 pints or more than ten gallons.
In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to get rid of their yeast supply once a year. We would probably agree that it’s good to get a fresh batch of yeast to prevent the growth of germs and disease, but the Lord used the scene of getting rid of yeast (Exodus 12:15) to illustrate the purge of false teaching (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Jesus’ picture here is different. He introduces the idea of yeast to show how the gospel permeates everything in the Christian’s life. A little goes a long way.
The yeast of the gospel makes us appreciate the love of God for us and recognize his hand in every part of the creation. We see how he provides for us through both natural means and miraculous. The yeast of the gospel moves us to worship God and proclaim his name. The yeast of the gospel beckons to us to set aside time for worship and for Bible study, to plum the depths of the Scriptures so that we understand how the law leads us to repent and the many ways the beautiful gospel soothes and comforts us. God assures us: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
The yeast of the gospel leads us to honor and respect our authorities, especially our parents. The Scripture says: “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). He wants us to recognize that when an authority is wicked or going mad, that God may be testing or even chastising us. Why? To lead us to repent of our sins or to focus our devotion on our Lord more centrally in every part of our lives. “For the Lord disciplines him who he loves; and he chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6, RSV; and see Proverbs 3:12).
The yeast of the gospel nurtures a love for life in us, not only to resist harming one another in word and deed, but also to appreciate our own bodies and to want to take care of ourselves with exercise and the right food, but especially to exercise self-control (1 Corinthians 7:9) and godly kindness (Jeremiah 9:24).
The yeast of the gospel works all through us to appreciate the gift of marriage, so that we turn ourselves away from tempting thoughts, and it compels us to support one another’s marriages, cautioning friends who might be tempted to stray and to encourage young people to choose a spouse wisely, one who shares our Christian faith. The yeast of the gospel teaches us just how seriously we should contemplate Paul’s words: “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28). The yeast of the gospel permeates and works its way even into our thoughts to keep us from the temptation to steal, or lie, or covet anything that is not ours.
The yeast of the gospel encourages us in every part of our lives and in every facet of God’s holy will. Our obedience is not compelled but comes gratefully and naturally as we apprehend Christ. Our many works are considered by God to be good works. They do not merit anything since they are imperfect and spoiled by sin, but they are declared to be acceptable to God because of the merits of Christ. “This faith,” we confess in the Apology, “gives honor to God, gives him what is properly his; it obeys him by accepting his promises” (IV, 309). This faith has been worked and kneaded all through our bodies and souls by the working and kneading of the Holy Spirit. We have been chosen “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood” (1 Peter 1:2).
Pastor Timothy Smith
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