Monday, September 11, 2017

Obedience—just because He says so

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Exodus 12:15-28

TO CHEW ON: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.” Exodus 12:15

Have you ever entered a contest? What was the first thing you did before you prepared your entry and perhaps the last thing before submitting it? Study the guidelines? Read the rules?

Though a contest’s rules may seem arbitrary, we know that to have our entry considered for the prize, it must follow those rules. We don’t question the contest administrator’s right to make rules, debate them, or argue with them. Instead we comply, simply because the rules say so and if we break them, our entry will be disqualified.

In a way God’s prohibition about leaven may have seemed senseless and arbitrary to the Israelites. Yet here and throughout much of the Bible, leaven has a bad reputation.

What is leaven? The Bible Encyclopedia explains:

”Bread was made to rise by putting a piece of sour dough from a previous batch of dough in the flour, which dough in turn brought on fermentation of the whole. Leavened bread was a regular part of the diet of ancient Israel (Hos 7:4).” (Bible Encyclopedia accessed through

Historically: Leaven had a special significance at Passover when leaving it out refreshed the Israelites’ collective memory of leaving Egypt in such a hurry they had no time to add it to their unbaked dough.

Figuratively leaven is mentioned several times in the Bible and usually gets a bad rap:
  • Jesus used leaven in His parables to illustrate the undesirable teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 16:6,11,12) and the pervasiveness of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:33—and one of, if not the only time leaven is viewed positively).
  • Paul used leaven to illustrate the pervasiveness of evil (1 Corinthians 5:6) and the power of a little evil to contaminate the whole (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).

Back to our Israelites, God’s harsh pronouncement on those who were careless about destroying leaven ("that person shall be cut off from Israel") reminds us of how God was (and is) a God of details. He wanted careful obedience, whether the thing made sense or not.

It reminds us too of the enormity of what Jesus did for us when He gave His life for us so we no longer need to be bound by these ceremonial rules.

Yet the principle of obedience remains. There are some things that God has said which we may not understand. But we obey anyway, just because He said so.

Dear Father, please help me to obey You as carefully as I follow contest guidelines to win a fleeting, earthly prize.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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