FEAR AND LEAVEN
By Julia Glattfelt
I took a little survey of my friends to see if I should write about ‘fear’ or ‘leaven.’ Of my tiny sampling of respondents I got the following results: 2 said ‘Fear,’ 1 said ‘Fear and Leaven,’ 1 said the ‘Fear of Leaven,’ and the last suggested: ‘How about mixing the two…there is a connection.’ So after my minimal ‘survey’ I decided to see how all of these suggestions might be related for this article. Two verses immediately popped into my mind: Yeshua’s words cautioning his disciples to “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” and ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,’ [Psalms 111:10, Prov 1:7, 9:10, 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, 33:6] How are fear and leaven related?
To be wise we need to fear the LORD! Also, according to Yeshua, we should ‘fear’ (beware) of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. What is it about the Pharisees that caused Yeshua to reprimand them in harsh terms? And why should we ‘fear’ them?
The topic of fear is huge, and I’m not sure I can address it in other than narrow terms here. Often we have been taught that fear of the Lord is not a ‘scary’ thing. It is just the same as saying, “reverence or respect the Lord.” I’m not sure that is such a great way to think about the Creator of the Universe. We say: Yes, He is awe-inspiring! Yes, He is the Creator! Yes, He holds the power of life and death in His Hand! Yes, He loves us! But, should we relax?
This is the same YHVH that appeared to the Israelites in a pillar of fire with thunders and lightning and earth-quaking sound on Mt. Sinai! The people were so terrified that they were afraid they would die just hearing His voice! If contemplating that doesn’t make you tremble a bit, then I think you are missing the point!
So, yes, at the very least He merits our respect! But, if that respect is not based on a real recognition of His absolute authority and power, then we can take His instructions lightly! I don’t think that is a wise thing to do, or to think. That ‘fear’ thing is a survival mechanism! Don’t take Him lightly! (http://www.bulldozerfaith.com/the-name)
How long did it take for the Israelites to relax? Moses hadn’t even returned from the mountain with the commandments before they had forgotten what they had heard!
Some of the Israelites had the ‘fear of God’ in them. They turned their zeal to follow His instructions into a weapon to keep others in line! What began as placing ‘fences’ around the Torah, so that people wouldn’t accidentally break them, turned into a platform for men to rule over other men! So, in a sense, they forgot who they should fear!
Soon the Pharisees and Sadducees built up a reputation as being the final arbiters of YHVH’s law! The people began to ‘fear’ them instead of the Creator! Was that wise?
Yeshua’s wise advice
Did Yeshua teach about fear and leaven?
The following verses are the accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke, and they seem to lead to a conclusion.
Mat_16:6 Then Yeshua said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Mat_16:11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
Mat_16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Mar_8:15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
Luk_12:1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
I love it when the scriptures provide the answer for the metaphor! Leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy! It is obvious when we read the New Testament that Yeshua had a real problem with people who would say or teach one thing, and behave contrary to what they claimed, especially if they were trying to teach the Torah! It seems to go back to the most important teaching in the Bible: “Do not add or subtract from the Word!” [Deuteronomy 12:32]
Did Yeshua have a problem with all of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or only those who were hypocrites?
Who are the Pharisees anyway?
It is a good idea if we understand who these people were, and if we can draw any similarities to our day and time. It seems like many of the Pharisees were ‘puffed up’ with pride! Isn’t that similar to what leaven (yeast) does in bread?
According to Strong’s, Pharisee is:
Of Hebrew origin a separatist, that is, exclusively religious; a Pharisaean, that is, Jewish sectary: – Pharisee.
1) A sect that seems to have started after the Jewish exile. In addition to OT books the Pharisees recognized in oral tradition a standard of belief and life. They sought for distinction and praise by outward observance of external rites and by outward forms of piety, and such as ceremonial washings, fastings, prayers, and alms giving; and, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works. They held strenuously to a belief in the existence of good and evil angels, and to the expectation of a Messiah; and they cherished the hope that the dead, after a preliminary experience either of reward or of penalty in Hades, would be recalled to life by him, and be requited each according to his individual deeds. In opposition to the usurped dominion of Herod and the rule of the Romans, they stoutly upheld the theocracy and their country’s cause, and possessed great influence with the common people. According to Josephus they numbered more than 6000. They were bitter enemies of Jesus and his cause; and were in turn severely rebuked by him for their avarice, ambition, hollow reliance on outward works, and affection of piety in order to gain popularity.
But in spite of all that, Yeshua chose Paul, a “Pharisee of Pharisees,” to be his disciple! Nicodemus was a Pharisee and also Joseph of Arimathea of the Sanhedrin! They provided for the burial of Yeshua! And, lest we believe that all of the Pharisees were corrupt, we should also note this:
Luke 13:30-31 “On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”
So, apparently, the fact of being a Pharisee is not the issue! Only those who were hypocrites were worthy of Yeshua saying, “beware.”
Who were the Sadducees?
Sadducees = “the righteous”
1) a religious party at the time of Christ among the Jews, who denied that the oral law was a revelation of God to the Israelites, and who deemed the written law alone to be obligatory on the nation, as the divine authority.
According to Strong’s G4523
Probably from G4524; a Sadducaean (that is, Tsadokian), or follower of a certain heretical Israelite: – Sadducee.
Interesting how Strong’s suggests that the Sadducees were heretics, yet Thayer’s definition makes them sound a lot like the Karaites of today who eschew the oral Torah and base their beliefs only on the written scripture. It sounds as though they took the instruction not to add to the Torah. I suppose they could incorrectly interpret the Word, but it wasn’t because they were listening to the oral law or traditions of men.
Mark 7:5-7 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
So, whether Pharisee or Sadducee, the ‘leaven’ was the issue!
Leaven is hypocrisy!
Yeshua tells us to beware of hypocrisy. We should fear being led astray by men who set themselves up as authority figures, but do not demonstrate an understanding of the heart of Torah. This is the bona fide understanding of a ‘legalist!’ It’s someone who demands strict adherence to the ‘law’ while exhibiting character traits contrary to the ‘higher principles’ of Torah. I suggest that the Pharisees pushed so hard for people to obey and fear them that they replaced Torah observance with man-made rules and peer pressure! The effect was to turn people away from drawing closer to YHVH because the religious leaders had twisted His instructions and complicated His Way.
That seems to be a sure-fire way to anger Him!
Fear the LORD!
We know that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom is found in the Torah. If I understand the term ‘fear the Lord’ it follows that I don’t want to make him angry! If we don’t wish to anger our Creator, we would be wise to revisit His instructions. His Torah! We should not wish to do evil in the sight of YHVH!
Job_28:28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding
How do we depart from evil? If evil is the opposite of righteousness, then we can depart from evil if we move toward righteousness! Right?
In simple terms it takes us back to the Garden of Eden. We choose between wisdom and understanding that leads to righteousness or rebellion that leads to evil and calamity.
Our loving Father gave us the Tree of Life for our benefit! When we move away from His instructions, then calamity happens! We either embrace the Tree of Life (Torah) or we choose to follow the way that seems good to us but results in evil.
When the Law was delivered by Moses, this is what was written:
Deu 4:6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
Deu 4:7 For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him?
Deu 4:8 And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
Fear of Leaven
Beware the leaven of the Pharisees.
Yeshua admonishes us to beware of listening to those who preach Torah but do not do what the Torah says. But, is that all we are to be afraid of? He said, “Beware the Leaven!” Not, “Beware the Pharisee!”
Can we be guilty of letting leaven creep into our own lives? It is easy to point fingers and say ‘woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,’ but aren’t we also instructed to take the log out of our own eye before we worry about the mote in someone else’s eye?
We should fear leaven in our lives! One of the lessons of removing the leaven from our houses before Passover is so that we understand in a literal sense how all-pervasive ‘leaven’ is in our life. I like to think about cleaning up my own act while I search out the crumbs and leaven in my house! Those little things that seem not to be that important can suddenly be the difference between spic and span and crummy!
We need to get the leaven out! Remove anything that puffs us up! What makes us pride-full? What do we accuse others of doing when we are guilty of behaving the same way? Isn’t that the definition of a hypocrite?
Worry not about what the neighbors think! It is what He thinks that matters!
As we remove the leaven in preparation for Passover and Unleavened Bread, let us all think upon what should make us fear. Fear of Leaven! Do not fear man, but fear YHVH! Fear Him enough to diligently study His Torah! Let’s be clear about what should cause us fear, and act accordingly!
So that with good courage we say, YHVH is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me? (Heb 13:6 )