Yeast freaks me out. I think I’m stuck with an image in my head I developed during childhood. I remember standing in our kitchen and asking Mom about the little yellow package. Somehow in my mind I formed a picture of little bugs crawling around inside the package and the idea we would eat them traumatized me forever. Vomit.
So imagine my joy when, while reading through the Bible a couple years ago, I suddenly came to one striking conclusion: God hates yeast.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few samples:
I repeat, during those days you must not eat anything made with yeast. Wherever you live, eat only bread that has no yeast in it.
You must not offer bread made with yeast as a sacrifice to me.
So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever — the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. For the Lord has brought you out by his mighty power. (Remember, you are not to use any yeast.)
Do not use yeast in any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as an offering to the Lord by fire.
For seven days, you may eat only bread made without yeast. On the very first day you must remove every trace of yeast from your homes. Anyone who eats bread made with yeast at any time during the seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel.
Eat only bread without yeast during those seven days. In fact, there must be no yeast in your homes or anywhere within the borders of your land during this time.
Convinced yet? The Old Testament has at least 30 verses like this. My personal favorites are Exodus 12:15 and 13:7—not only could the Israelites not eat yeast, but they couldn’t even have it in their homes. Or anywhere in their land. God hated yeast so much he even created a festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (i.e., yeastless bread). And if anyone ate yeast during this feast they’d be exiled. What the heck. I guess God knew what the little bugs were like, crawling around in the package too.
I asked my former pastor why God hated yeast so much, and he offered some theology about yeast representing the religious guys, and yes, that’s very true come Matthew, Mark, or Luke. But it never quite answered my question. I could do a quick search online and easily find several explanations for the use of unleavened bread in religious rituals, but this week God opened my eyes to another aspect of it entirely. Turns out, he doesn’t hate yeast at all. (If he did, would he really have compared the Kingdom of Heaven to yeast in the Gospels? Doubtful. That’s like saying I hate dog poop and then comparing my marriage to dog poop. Probably not a good idea.) What I think all this means is: following God requires instant movement.
The big deal about yeast started the night of the Passover. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for a gazillion years and God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into something better. First, of course, Moses has to go toe-to-toe with the Pharaoh to convince him to let the Israelites leave. This includes something like ten terrible plagues, the first nine of which fail to convince Pharaoh that letting the Israelites go is a good idea. (If it were me, I would have let them go the first time all the water in the country turned to blood. Frogs in my bed? Being covered in gnats or festering boils? No thanks.) The final straw, of course, was the night every firstborn in the nation of Egypt was killed, whether human or animal. The Israelites would be spared from losing their firstborns, but only if they followed certain rules. You can find all these in Exodus 12, but basically they had to find this specific animal and kill it, smear its blood on the doorposts, and eat the meat that night, subsequently deemed Passover (as the death angel passed over their house). Now, this is where God first says “NO YEAST” which is a little strange out of context. Then you read what they were instructed to wear while they ate the meal: they had to be fully dressed, shoes on, and their walking sticks in their hands (12:11). I guess that means they ate one-handed.
Exodus 12:39 echoes the same sentiment: “Whenever they stopped to eat, they baked bread from the yeastless dough they had brought from Egypt. It was made without yeast because the people were rushed out of Egypt and had no time to wait for bread to rise.” And that’s it, that last part: “because the people…had no time to wait for bread to rise.” God said, “I’m going to take you from this life of slavery and into something incredible, but you have to be ready when I tell you to go.”
And there’s the application to my life. God always has something better planned for me than I have for myself. He wants me out of a life of slavery permanently. But when he says it’s time to go, I need to be ready to go. Whatever it is, wherever it is. Right then. Without taking the time to put on my sandals or get dressed or grab my walking stick or let the bread rise. Which, in my case, usually looks something more like taking the time to get financially settled or ease slowly out of uncomfortable situations or make sure I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings or offending anyone with my movement or just generally making sure everything is squared away before I take even the first step. God doesn’t want me to wait for the bread to rise. He wants me to move when he says to move.
But don’t just take my word for it. Jesus reinforced this same idea, so I’ll end with that:
[Jesus] said to another person, “Come, be my disciple.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” Jesus replied, “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.