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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.

  • 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.