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Yogurt, Yeast, and the Bible

Made a batch of yogurt this morning. At least I think I did. Packed away a gallon of brew in a couple of thermal containers and will wait now for about 30 hours to find out if the little animals multiplied. The long wait is because I like yogurt extra sour. I’ve had it that way in some middle east foods and developed a taste for it. Or maybe it fits my natural temperament.

While working with the “starter culture”, began thinking about the story of yeast in the Bible. In the New Testament, for instance, the Apostle Paul reminded his readers in Corinth that “a little leaven (yeast) leavens the whole lump.” He wrote that after suggesting to his Corinthian readers they themselves were “puffed up” (i.e. like raised bread). Instead of being proud of their ability to show grace, he wishes that they would be humbled by their failure to confront a brother who was damaging the reputation of the church by living in an incestuous relationship with his step-mother (1Cor 5:1-8).

On the basis of this text I’ve thought of leaven (yeast) as a symbol of sin that spreads if it is not stopped. Have thought, as a result, that this must be why the Jewish people are told to remove all leaven bread from their homes as they remember the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

But while in Israel during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread, I’ve noticed that modern Jewish people don’t necessarily think of leaven as a symbol of sin. I’ve heard some say that they’re not really sure why they work so hard to remove all of the leavened bread from their homes prior to Passover except that it is “tradition.” Others explain that the Jewish people were in such a hurry to leave Egypt at the time of the Exodus that they didn’t have time to let their bread dough rise. Instead they left quickly with their kneading troughs on their backs (Exodus 12:34). Moses therefore called unleavened bread “the bread of affliction” (Deut 16:3), and used it to remind the Jewish people of their oppressive stay in Egypt, before the Lord rescued them.

Decided to check a little further and found in the New Bible Dictionary this explanation for why Old Testament law forbids the use of leaven in some ritual sacrifices:

“The prohibition on leaven, as that on honey (Lv. 2:11), was possibly made because fermentation implied disintegration and corruption, and to the Hebrew anything in a decayed state suggested uncleanness. Rabbinical writers often used leaven as a symbol of evil and of man’s hereditary corruption (cf. also Ex. 12:8, 15-20). Plutarch echoes this ancient view when he describes leaven as ‘itself the offspring of corruption, and corrupting the mass of dough with which it is mixed’. fermentum is used in Persius (Sat. 1. 24) for ‘corruption’.”

So… if that’s the case, seems like we can use a “culture of corruption” as a way to tell the story of the Bible. It’s a picture of the corruption that soon filled the lives of our first parents when they decided to distrust God after second-guessing why he had told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It helps us explain what happened to their children. It illustrates why subsequent generations needed the powerful deliverance of the Exodus. It explains why we all needed a much greater deliverance and a much greater Passover Lamb. And that brings us to the center page not only of the Bible– but of BC/AD history.

A “culture of corruption” explains why we all need the Passover Lamb offered by God. — at the request of Jewish leaders, and carried out through Roman Execution and torture, under the oversight of Pontius Pilate.

According to the Genesis to Revelation story of the Bible, it took this inexpressible act of self-sacrifice to “stop” a “culture of corruption”, and to give us every reason to think about what it means to choose life over death– now and forever.

Leaves me not knowing what to make of the fact that I just used a yogurt culture to “corrupt” a gallon of milk. But do sense in this moment a renewed appreciation for the last words of the Bible, “Even so come, Lord Jesus,” and “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Rev 22:20-21).

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19 Responses to “Yogurt, Yeast, and the Bible”

  1. sitsathisfeet says:

    Hadn’t known about the ramifications of unleaven bread and yeast before, but it certainly makes sense spiritually. It is always amazing how sin is often not identified as sin. I have not been at the blog for a week or so as I was ill and things moving forward with foreclosure of home, and divorce (requested and initiated by husband). I was confiding in a Godly sister who said, this doesn’t sound right, and I said it isn’t in a Godly sense, but it is of the world. There are ways that seem right to a man, but lead to death. After we prayed again I have the peace that passes all understanding, wisdom beyond my abilities, and assurance that God is in control, and will never leave or forsake me. Thank you Jesus for being the perfect husband and father!And thanks to God for this blog and the prayers of the faithful.

  2. DarleneJoy says:

    Thanks for the insights, Mart. The illustration of a “culture of corruption” is a fitting way to describe the way sin permeates our lives and alters our way of thinking – which then affects the way we act.

    As I was reading your post and reflecting on the thoughts, a thought occurred to me. In the process of fermentation, the product sits untended for often long periods of time. Do we not sometimes find that when we neglect to address issues in our lives that they begin to ferment and smell and turn something good into something rotten? All the more reason to remember just how much we need the Passover Lamb – and to RUN to Him with the problems, issues, struggles AND SIN so that He can remove the “culture of corruption” before it spreads too far.

    Thanks again for your thought-provoking notes.

  3. SFDBWV says:

    Mart, realy enjoyed your story, sounds like you may have some hillbilly in you. Making your own yogurt.
    I hate to admit this, but I’m guilty of making home brew. I haven’t for many years, but yeast is what makes the brew, brew.

    Following along with the topic, I am reminded that perfectly good food, hops, malt, sugar all can be used in eating. But the yeast corrupts it.

    I have found that in studying the scripture the term of yeast is always affiliated with corruption. And sin is the greatest corruption. Every good thing we come up with in this world, sooner or later is corrupted.

    But I have read of one who will not see corruption. Not in life nor even in death.

    All of my hopes all of my everything, I give over to my LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS the CHRIST

    I remember when I was a young believer how exciting it was to discover the connection between the Passover Lamb and the LAMB of GOD. Between the lambs blood over the doorways of the houses and the BLOOD of CHRIST over me and my house.

    Of course because I had just learned it I wanted to tell everyone about it. I am glad so many, more mature Christians let me enjoy my moment.

    Thanks Mart for a warm and enjoyable Post.

  4. wretch-like-me says:

    A very insightful dissertation on leaven, sin and the spread of Christianity. I found particular pleasure in the ‘positive’ aspects of ‘infecting the world’ with the only ‘immunization’ against death. I have for sometime had a heighthened awareness of how Satan likes to pervert the processes as well as God’s creations. It all fits with my personal downfalls and successes.
    Marti, I have one question…
    Would you agree that God, the perfect parent, and Christ, the perfect Brother/Husband, should not be viewed as a threatening,abusive judge who doles out punishment when we step out of His Will; rather, as a loving, self-sacrificing, all-knowing, merciful teacher/savior who seeks to us succeed in walking the right path to eternity??

  5. plumbape says:

    Home made yogurt that is extra sour…? sounds soooo… organic! Especially the little animals part, lol.

    I have been left feeling uncertain the way some things in the Bible describe them. This is one that is hard to grasp.
    Thanks Mart

  6. poohpity says:

    You know there is a positive and a negative about this. The negative being corruption spreading but the positive could be that the love could spread as well. I think that this is one reason we are to be on our toes about showing the love of Christ to everyone we come in contact with rather than spreading the yeast of judgment and criticism.

    When we have the yeast of the love of God in our hearts it will show by our attitudes and actions. It will spread through out our body and over flow to others which is good and will show the bread of Christ in us.

    One bad apple will spoil the barrel shows that we need to take it out and it will stop the spreading of rottenness. If it is left in the barrel it will affect the other apples.

    We would never have known about penicillin without mold. No cheese without mold or yogurt. We would have never had been set free from sin without Jesus because the yeast of the Pharisees would have ruined the bunch.

    As you can tell I am thinking a little to much LOL.

  7. Mart De Haan says:

    wretch-like-me, yes, I believe you have captured the heart of our Father and Savior. And to the rest, interesting perspectives!!!

  8. BruceC says:

    I’ll pray for you sister. My wife and I were split up over ten years ago for several months(my fault) and it’s the most gut-wrenching thing we ever went through. It was the power of God; the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that brought us back together.

    Years ago I used to bake bread. When the dough was done rising and the yeast had done its job, I put it in the oven and baked it. The bread was done and the yeast was “killed”. So too, when the fire of the Holy Spirit enters our lives when we put our faith in Christ the fire of the Holy Spirit begins to kill off the yeast in our lives and continues to do so. When I leave this world I will see my loving Baker. And as we all see this world spiraling downward in sin and rebellion; we are reminded that God will destroy with fire and kill off the yeast; and re-create the world anew. Let’s not tarry in pulling as many loaves out as we can so our Lord may apply the “heat” of the Holy Spirit!

  9. kaliko88 says:

    I love illustrations like this. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who finds lessons from the bible in odd places. The other day I found one in a toy dinosaur while playing with children in the church nursery. And the more we read and keep our mind on God, the more illustrations we will notice. It’s fun in it’s way and keeps the learning interesting. Keeps the basic daily stuff interesting, too. I like to think that is what is meant when people say God speaks to us in whispers. His whispers are in these little daily “reminders” and all we have to do is pay attention.

  10. daisymarygoldr says:

    I love yogurt, don’t have time to make it myself but eat store-bought yogurt everyday! It is very healthy…replenishes the friendly bacteria in our gut that not only help digest some complex sugars in food but also their acidity prevents the growth of those harmful dysentery/diarrhea-causing ones …but please don’t eat that entire 1 gallon all by yourself!

    Since, Christ, our Passover lamb delivered us; we are dead to our old sins. Obviously, even if one of us fails to put away our “old sinful selves”, the sin could permeate and “corrupt” the whole body. This puzzled me for a long time as I used to think that each one of us is accountable for our own sins and will eventually face its consequences individually…

    Thinking back about the time when I had chicken pox and my parents were trying to quarantine me from the rest of the brood. Their “loving and merciful” efforts failed and I did succeed in spreading the virus to all my unsuspecting siblings. Paul is also talking about “yeast” that multiply to spread throughout the entire lump of dough.

    The Israelites made their homes and its vicinity, yeast-free and anyone eating anything leavened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread was cut off. Yes, yeast symbolizes sin and false teaching that spreads like gangrene. (2 Tim 2:17). Although, not individually guilty of the same sin, the entire body gets contaminated by a single disease-causing cell. Hence, the need for eliminating the subtle agent of corruption right in its earliest stage…When we put on Christ and become a “new creation/” we are no longer slaves to sin… instead, we walk in the newness of life (fresh lump), created to be like God- truly righteous and holy!

    sitsathisfeet, stay strong in the Lord- for yourself and for your children and don’t let things stress you during this time…do feel your pain and praying for you everyday…

  11. rokdude5 says:

    hmmmm….sounds like youre getting ready for Thanksgiving, Mart. What time do you want all of us to show up? lol

    Im wondering if any of us who is well verse in Judeo traditions could give us their perspective on the unleaven bread. I know during Passover, the matza is put into the inner compartment of envelope made of cloth then it is hidden so that kids can have fun looking for it.

    This tradition has been symbolic for us Christians of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. With that in mind, perhaps no yeast is added to represent that there is “no outside life” when Jesus died and by only the power of His Father, He was resurrected. I could be wrong but thats my take on this.

  12. plumbape says:

    Moses is calling the unleavened bread affliction but this is bread without yeast. That is eaten to remind them of the hasty escape. This is how it becomes confusing without further explanation because it seems to me that something considered an affliction would be what we should avoid. Although I do get the meaning now.

    I wonder if there will be a need for plumbers in heaven? :>) I don’t see myself as one of the great teachers!
    God Bless

  13. Uneke says:

    Dear Mart,
    I don’t know about God’s view of the corruption of milk using yeast because I am also a yogurt lover. However I do believe that corruption is in this world and it has become very subtle.
    Incidentally I was pondering with my wife this morning on the subtility of corruption. There was a time when it was abominable to claim to be homosexual or even atheist. However these days men declare these freely and boldly.

    Within the Christian fold falsehoods and deception have found a manistay in the fellowship of God’s people. This has been born out of the need to do things because of the convenience they offer than for the effects they will have or how God sees it. I honestly pray God to help us christains to guard against the subtle corruption that is in the world today.

  14. desert rose says:

    Mart, I always learn a lot when you explain the ‘whys’ that are symbolic. I would like to hear you explain the mildew in the Old Testament and how they had to clean the houses. Also, why is it that we as Believers do not do symbolic feasts etc now – except for the Lord’s Supper. I do not know how you can eat yogart that is sour. I like store bought, Dannon light. Is this the first time you’ve made it?

    I also learn a lot by those who leave comments and would like to tell them thank you. I hope all of us will support this dear sister whose husband wants a divorce in prayer.

  15. poohpity says:

    All through the bible God has given metaphors so that we can associate with how something works. Adultery, yeast, nakedness, and many more things. I believe that the one thing that we have spoken of the most in our posts is forgiveness. From Genesis to Revelation, to me the most important theme is the Lord pursuing us with forgiveness in His heart. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the same motive in our hearts as we live our lives in regards to every other human being. That could be our yeast or bacteria.

  16. Mart De Haan says:

    desert rose, Have made yogurt a few times now. Am still experimenting with the process :-). Bet the sour thing must be an acquired taste because I remember in the past not liking store bought plain (unsweetened).

  17. wretch-like-me says:

    Aside for plumbape, If heaven is a joyful place (and I believe that is biblical) and plumbing brings you joy, why wouldnt there be a place for that in heaven; especially if you praise God with your labor of love?

    Uneke, I submit to you that since the fall of Satan corruption has been in the universe. He certainly took others down with him, infecting them with his sin of rebellion. On earth the ‘yeast’ continued to spawn sin creating the ‘Giants’ when fallen angels mated with the daughters of Adam. Isnt it a natural progression to expect ‘yeast’ to have spread into the church because we all enter the church from a sinful condition? I am reminded of one of my teacher/pastors who said the church is a ‘hospital for sinners’ rather than a ‘countryclub for saints’.

    Marti, One might say that ‘Christianity is an acquired taste’ considering that it goes against our nature. What do you think?

    I, too, wish to express my thanks to all who take the time to consider, comment, console, and even contradict. Dialog is good. It builds relationships. Is that not how we became christians… with a relationship that led us to Christ?

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