The Parable of the Leaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33

Last week I stated that the parable of the mustard seed is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted parable of Jesus. Well, I may have misspoke. I believe the parable of the leaven may be even more misunderstood. There seem to be two main opposing views of this parable. One view is that the leaven is a symbol of good, teaching that the gospel will permeate the entire earth until every human is saved. The other view is the opposite. It teaches that the leaven is a symbol of evil. Obviously, both interpretations cannot be correct. So, which one is correct?

I can’t get into every proof in the Bible in this short devotional, but I can give you a clue to which one is true. The word ‘leaven’ is mentioned ninety-eight times throughout the Bible and in every single case but one it is linked to evil. Now I must admit, the view that teaches leaven is a symbol of good is very encouraging, whereas the one that teaches that it is a symbol of evil is very discouraging. That is, unless you look at it through the lens of God’s Word.

The phrase ‘three measures of meal’ is found nowhere else in the New Testament, so to understand it’s meaning we must go back to the Old Testament. Good Bible students will always interpret scripture with scripture, and one way of doing this is known as the ‘law of first mention’. The first time the phrase ‘three measures of meal’ is used is in Genesis 18:6-15 where we find Abraham sitting in his tent resting, and when he opened his eyes three men were standing with him. Abraham saw that one of them was not human. This is known as a ‘theophany’ where God Himself visited Abraham. As Abraham talked with the three of them, Sarah prepared three measures of fine meal and baked cakes. So, the first time this phrase is mentioned it was over a meal, which is a picture of fellowship with God and one another.

Here is the good news. Even though it is clear evil is getting worse and worse in the world, we know that “God is faithful, by whom we are called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). There is a unique oneness with God and one another when we invite a friend over for a meal.  

Join us Wednesday night at 6:30pm at the Portillo’s home as we study the rich “Parable of the Leaven”. God bless you all and hope to see you there!