LEVITICUS 19:1-20:21 | MARK 8:11-38 | PSALM 42:1-11 | PROVERBS 10:17
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The laws are detailed and cover daily conduct, personal hygiene, relationships with family and neighbor, dietary allowances and restrictions, business dealings, agricultural practices, prohibition of certain specific practices such as sorcery and placing of tattoos on self, and observing the Sabbath. The people knew these laws, tried to live by them, and when they violated a certain law, were aware of the punishment associated with it.
There were, of course, degrees of punishment which also included seeking atonement as prescribed. These offerings for forgiveness, however, were offense-specific and time-specific. Your offering would be accepted if your offense merited it and if you followed the rules and worked with the priest to bail you out. Unless, of course, there wasn’t an atonement available for your offense and death was then the suitable punishment.
Turning to Mark, we continue with the account of Jesus’ ministry with the people. Despite all the many miraculous acts that are being performed, it appears that even his disciples are doubtful of his true identity. Why else would Jesus ask them so directly as to who they thought he was. But before that, Jesus’ warning over the yeast of the Pharisees was about more than just avoiding what the Pharisees said and did. He was equally concerned about the effects their teaching and practices had on the heart. Sin deadens the heart to spiritual realities. Over time, sin makes it hard not only for a heart to grasp God’s Word, but causes it to flee from his Word.
The Pharisees were unable to see the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. Their blindness was so deep and so severe that they not only didn’t see him as the Messiah, they actively sought to suppress his claims and denied that his miracles revealed him to be the Messiah. This was the Pharisee’s yeast. It was a perfected unbelief that left their hearts so blind that they became hostile to God, even while they thought they were serving him.
Herod’s yeast was different. Rather than legalism, Herod’s first love was the world. He loved his wealth and put his hope in power, pleasure and money. And so the atheism that Herod’s yeast brings is as equally deadly to souls. It leads them to the same hostility towards God, and a blindness to the grace and truth found in Jesus Christ.
Yeast is a rising agent. When it is added to bread it is worked through the entire dough and it influences the whole lump. When the dough is baked, the whole loaf rises uniformly. The application of yeast in Jesus’ teaching is the same: only but a little of Herod’s or the Pharisees’ yeast is damaging. Even just a little of their hypocrisy and self-indulgence will cause you to become like them. Like them you will rise up in pride, baking under the heat of truth, so that you will be unable to see the true spiritual realities that lead to eternal life.
Turning next to the Psalms, we find David’s psalm of hope to be a timeless one. He says:
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
And gives courage to himself by saying this:
5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, offers food for thought:
17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.