Know Your Bible: The Qualities of Leaven
The spiritual lessons we can learn from leaven

In Exodus 12:15, 19-20, we find the command to deleaven our houses and eat unleavened bread for seven days during the year—the Days of Unleavened Bread. Have you ever wondered why God selected leaven to represent sin? A quick answer probably comes to mind—but leaven represents sin in more than one way, and all of these qualities of the devil must be removed from our lives by God Himself.

These physical qualities of leaven make it a perfect representation of sin. This is why we get rid of all leaven for seven days in the year: We are picturing the complete removal of sin from our lives.

Let’s take a look at seven qualities of leaven that have spiritual lessons attached to them. These qualities will help you better understand the true purpose for the Days of Unleavened Bread. Be sure to turn to the scriptures as you cover each point, and write them down as you go. These are great scriptures to study before the Days of Unleavened Bread—and throughout the year as well.

One: It Puffs Up

When you mix leavening agents with other ingredients, they create carbon dioxide and air. Then, when the dough is heated, those gases form bubbles that get trapped in the loaf, causing the product to rise. Likewise, sin puffs us up with vanity and selfish pride.

1. Did tolerating a man’s sin cause the Corinthians to become puffed up? 1 Corinthians 5:1-2.

Just like that bloating caused by leavening, sin causes us to lose godly perspective, and we become more and more inflated with ourselves—puffed up with the substanceless gases of arrogance and self-confidence. This is what was happening to the Corinthians. They believed that they were being more merciful than Paul—and even God—because they were allowing a sinning man to continue coming to services.

2. What caused the great archangel Lucifer to sin? Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:17.

Lucifer was the first being who ever committed sin, and he did it because he became filled with vanity. He became puffed up because of his beauty. Vanity must be removed from our lives just like leaven must be removed from our homes for the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Does a vain man puff at his enemies? Psalm 10:3-5. Will God protect and bless humble people while He causes vain people to perish? Verses 16-18.

Two: It Is Soft and Easy

Because of its soft texture, leavened bread is usually easier to eat than hard, crunchy unleavened bread.

1. In the same way, is going the way of sin and this world easier than living righteously because we still have the nature that wants to sin within us? Romans 7:14-15; 8:7.

It is easy to sin. It is our nature as human beings. If we are going to live without sin, we have to fight against our natural tendencies—our human nature. It is through this battle against sin that we develop the character of God, which is what God wants us to do to fulfill our part in His master plan. This battle continues throughout our natural lives.

Three: It Spreads

1. When he was correcting the Corinthians for their vain attitude, what did Paul tell them? 1 Corinthians 5:6.

When you put leaven in a lump of dough, you cannot see anything happening at first. But once it does its work, the whole loaf is leavened. Likewise, sin can start small—even invisibly—but it spreads. One sin leads to another. That is why we must put sin out completely. There is a danger in thinking we can handle just a little bit of spiritual leaven. Sin not only spreads through our lives after it starts, but if it is tolerated, it can spread through an entire family, or even a Church congregation, as it did in Corinth.

Four: It Gives a False Image

When a batch of bread dough is leavened, the bubbles within the dough have no substance to them. They are just pockets of air, so even though a loaf of leavened bread may appear larger than unleavened bread, it has far less substance to it.

1. Did Jesus Christ use a similar metaphor when He was addressing the scribes and Pharisees? Matthew 23:27-28.

The Pharisees knew exactly what to say to appear righteous in front of people, but when they were alone, they did not keep any of God’s laws like they professed to. They looked like they had a lot of spiritual substance to them, but Jesus Christ perceived that it was all just a facade—much like the leavened bread that appears to have more substance than it actually does.

2. Rather than looking on a false outward appearance, does God look on the heart? 1 Samuel 16:7.

When God sent the Prophet Samuel to anoint a king, Samuel had to learn to not judge men by their outward appearance. God cares more about inner character than He does about physical looks.

Five: It Is Popular

Leavened products are more popular than unleavened products. For example, if you go to public school, you will probably be the only one with a peanut butter and jelly matzo during the Days of Unleavened Bread—everyone else will most likely have sandwiches with fluffy white bread.

1. Similarly, do most follow a sinful path rather than the way of righteousness? Matthew 7:13-14.

God’s way of life is hard because you constantly have to fight that natural tendency to sin. It is also much more rewarding because it leads to eternal life. Few people know about this way, and even fewer have chosen to follow it. Yet, contrary to popular belief, it is the abundant life! (John 10:10).

Six: It Spoils More Quickly

1. Will a wicked person perish quickly while a righteous person lives forever? Proverbs 10:25; 12:19.

Leavened bread spoils more quickly than unleavened bread. A loaf of freshly made leavened bread will last only a few days before it begins to mold. Sin is the same way—it will rapidly ruin your life. This is why you must actively fight against allowing sin into your life—and if you do sin, this is why you must repent immediately. Don’t allow sin to spoil your life.

Seven: It Cannot Be Removed Physically

Once a product is leavened, the leavening cannot be removed. If you bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies, you might be able to pick out the chocolate chips, but no matter what you do, the cookies will always be leavened. This is why we have to physically throw out any leaven we find—it cannot be deleavened.

1. In the same way, is it possible for us to remove sin? Isaiah 53:5; Psalm 51:1-4.

We cannot remove sin from our lives. Only God can, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We might think that when we sin, we have to deal with the problem ourselves, but the truth is that the removal of sin requires the power of God. When we sin, we are sinning against God.

2. Will God remove our sins as far as the east is from the west? Psalm 103:12.

Our sins can be removed, but God has to be the one to do it. We cannot do it any more than we could take leaven out of a cake and leave unleavened cake behind.

Remove, Replace, Rejoice

1. In our lives, does God want us to replace sin with righteousness? 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Does He tell us to do good in order to overcome evil? Romans 12:21. Does God give us the Bible, His instruction manual for human beings, to help us become sin-free—perfect? 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The days coming up are not the “Days of No Leaven.” They are the Days of Unleavened Bread. We do remove leaven, just as we remove sin. But after we remove the leaven, we celebrate the Days of Unleavened Bread by replacing leavened bread with unleavened bread. This represents replacing sin with righteousness, which is a lifelong, constant process.

2. Did the Israelites greatly rejoice upon their deliverance from Egypt and when they saw the destruction of Pharaoh and his army? Exodus 14:8, 29-31; 15:1-2, 20-21. Likewise, when God helps us remove and eradicate a sin from our lives, does that lead to peace and joy? Hebrews 12:11.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “[T]he joy of the Lord is your strength.” When a sin is removed from our lives and replaced with God’s character, the result yields peaceful fruits of righteousness, abundant joy, happiness and rejoicing. Removing sin and replacing it with righteousness should cause us to greatly rejoice, just like the Israelites did as they came out of Egypt!

We keep that joy in our lives by continuing to obey God. Just as God commanded ancient Israel to fear and obey His commandments in order to be delivered from their captivity, so we—as spiritual Israel—must be swift to obey God. As Gerald Flurry writes in Ezra and Nehemiah—Building God’s Temple: “Obedience preserves God’s joy in us.”

Thus, although we resume eating leavened bread at the end of the seven days, we should never stop removing sin from our lives, replacing it with righteousness, and greatly rejoicing as a result of that! The spiritual lessons from these seven qualities of leaven are applicable year-round. Keep them in mind constantly as you fight to obey God in your life.

The Days of Unleavened Bread are not just meant for the people God is calling out of the world today, however. These precious days thrust us toward the soon-coming return of our Savior, the removal of the author of sin, the restoration of God’s government, and the ushering in of a wonderful world of physical and spiritual growth for the Family of God. Once Jesus Christ returns and establishes that government, all mankind will reap the rewards of removing sin and replacing it with righteousness—and everyone will rejoice in a way of life that works beautifully.