We are in the season between Passover and Pentecost; a time very significant for Jews in the Old Testament and, of course, for us who see the fulfillment of all that this pictures as we journey from resurrection to the impartation of the Holy Spirit at the birth of the church.

Exodus 13:7 is in the context of the inauguration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread after Passover: ‘Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory.’

In Leviticus 23:16-17 it instructs for the 50th day (Pentecost): ‘Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, – they shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord’. I think it’s sometimes missed that this Pentecost bread was yeast-ed. That rather blows the theory that yeast is bad.

In the New Testament, the idea that leaven/yeast is a bad thing is also blown up. Yeast, as we know, is an internal influencer that affects the quality of what is produced. So, in the Matthew 13 series of parables, there is this: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened’.

Of course, the picture of leaven in bread is repeatedly used as a negative, where sin, and also traditions and customs that are relied on, rather than love for God and our neighbour. Mark 8:15, for example, reads ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod’. Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:6-7 ‘Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

But, I like the picture of ‘new grain’, held up and ‘waved’ to the Lord, ‘baked with leaven as firstfruits to the Lord’ – the new thing as Christ imparts his Spirit as the wonderful New Covenant on that Pentecost day, and again and again to as many as will receive him.

Oh, and ‘two loaves’ – a picture of community, the church ‘Christ-ed (yeasted) with Christ’.

A song on this theme by Keith and Kristyn Getty:

Holy Spirit, living breath of God
Breathe new life into my willing soul
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole
Cause Your Word to come alive in me
Give me faith for what I cannot see
Give me passion for Your purity
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

[References from English Standard Version] Blog by John Simkins – Otley Prayer Network