“Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because YHWH brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast… For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to YHWH. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders… You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year” (Exodus 13:3, 6-7, 10).
Moses commanded the people of God to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread each year, beginning on the evening of the 14th day of the first month (this year, beginning the evening of April 6) and continuing until the evening of the 21st day of the month (Exodus 12:18).
Specifically, they were to get the yeast of out of their homes:
- Eat nothing containing yeast (Exodus 13:3).
- Nothing with yeast in it was to be seen among them (Exodus 13:7).
- No yeast was to be seen anywhere within their borders (Exodus 13:7).
At our house, in the days before the feast starts, we do some spring cleaning. It isn’t specifically required in God’s Word, but with 7 children and several pets, crumbs from yeast bread get into the strangest places! A few years ago, right before Passover, the kids and I carefully cleaned the kitchen. I felt ambitious, so we kept cleaning past the kitchen and dining room, where obvious bread crumbs might be found, down the hallway and into the bedrooms. Can you guess what we found under my bed? A big hunk of bread! I don’t even eat in my bedroom! How did it get in there?!
That year’s cleaning was a good reminder to me of how yeast can creep into the furthest recesses of our homes — and our hearts. In a stern letter to the first-century church of Corinth, Paul wrote that yeast was a symbol of sin.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).
Notice that Paul says we are not to associate with someone “who calls himself a brother,” or a fellow believer in our Messiah Jesus, if that person is
- sexually immoral
- an idolater
- a slanderer
- a drunkard
- a swindler
In fact, Paul goes so far as to say, “With such a man do not even eat.”
Note: If you want to study this further, compare to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Acts 15: 20, Acts 15:29, Luke 12:1, and Proverbs 6:16-19.
Why would he say this? Well, as all of you bakers know, when you add a few teaspoons of yeast to a large quantity of flour, the yeast mixes in and works itself all through the dough. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6, Galatians 5:9, Luke 13:20, and Matthew 13:33.)
Last weekend, the kids and I mixed up some unleavened bread on Saturday evening to take to church with us and show the children in our class. My daughter mixed up the recipe and left it for me to put in the refrigerator before bed — but I forgot! As it sat out for many hours, it must have started to mix with a few of the yeasts that are naturally present in the air. By the time we went to church in the morning, it was a little puffy but I didn’t think too much about it. Sure enough, all the children helped me roll it out on a pan and pop it into the oven in the church kitchen around 10:00 a.m. When we pulled it out a few minutes later, it had puffed quite a bit! I had intended to teach them what “unleavened” bread looked like, but instead, we all got a lesson on how “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
It doesn’t seem like it would be much of a big deal to eat a meal with a sexually immoral brother or sister in Christ. Or a slanderer. Or a greedy person. Or someone with idolatrous statues in her home. Or someone who occasionally gets drunk.
Yet Paul went on to remind the Corinthian believers,
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
In His mercy, God gave the blood of His dear Son to justify us. We were washed at great price! He is protecting us by warning us how important it is to stay clean.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirrorand, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).
So as we clean our homes over this next week, finding crumbs of yeast bread in the strangest places (the silverware drawer, behind the toaster, in the oven, under the refrigerator — and maybe even under the bed?), we are continually reminded that sin hides in dark places and does not want to be exposed to the light. As we look up recipes and prepare loaves of unleavened bread to eat during the feast, we are reminded that it takes research, study of God’s Word, and examination of our hearts if we want to avoid sin in our lives. As we carry the yeast and sourdough starters out of the house next Friday afternoon, we are reminded that we are to not tolerate sin in our local churches.
It sounds cruel. We aren’t to judge others, are we? Shouldn’t we only be worried about the sin in our own (private) hearts? Isn’t it wrong to be accusing others of sin?
No, not according to Paul.
Sin is everywhere in our world. Just as I’m cleaning my home next week, my neighbors will be oblivious to the feast God calls us to remember. They’ll be eating hamburgers at McDonald’s, hot cross buns on Easter, and pizza with their friends.
“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).
It was the same on the first Passover. The Egyptians went about their normal lives that fateful night, not cleaning out the yeast and not applying the blood of a Lamb to the sides of their doors. They didn’t realize the judgment that would fall at midnight!
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? …God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am YHWH” (Exodus 12:12).
“By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).
However, the responsibility to judge those inside our fellowships lies squarely on our shoulders. (Yikes!)
“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13).
There are right and wrong ways to do such an ugly cleaning job, and thankfully, passages such as Matthew 18:15-17 tells us exactly how to go about it. (Whew!) Jude 1:22-23 tells us that to some, we are to “show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 1:22-23).
But I think we are guilty of looking too lightly at sin, not loving what God loves and hating what He hates!
Note: If you want to study this further, look up the word “hate” all through Scripture, to see what God says we are to hate!
“For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:4-5).
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
“Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Do you keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in your home each year? What lessons has it taught you?
P.S. Ken Ham, from Answers in Genesis, posted an interesting review of a book this week. How do you think it applies to the topic of “getting the yeast out” of our fellowships? Tough topic, huh?