Series: Scarlet Thread
There has been no study that I have ever made of the Word of God that has in it the rich reward of the study in which we our engaged now. You know, we can think of the Bible as being, this is the divine inspired Scriptures; and we look at it generally as such, and come to church and listen to a text expounded or a small passage. But when you look at the Bible as we are looking at it, the revelations of what God does as revealed in the Word is overwhelming. And this study of the divine redemptive purpose, the shedding of blood, the scarlet thread, it is entwined and interwoven in every syllable of the Word of God in some way and in some how.
Last Wednesday night we were talking about the tabernacle. And we were avowing that everything in and about the tabernacle speaks of our Lord. He is called “the tabernacle.” The Word was made flesh, and skenoo, skenos, tabernacle, skenoo, to spread a tabernacle, and the Word was made flesh. God spread His tabernacle and we did see Him full of grace and glory [John 1:14]. Everything about the tabernacle speaks of our Lord: the gate; the altar; the laver; the door; the lampstand; the showbread; the golden altar of prayer, intercession, incense; the veil; the mercy seat; all of it. And that’s where we closed last Wednesday night.
Now in the tabernacle you had ministering priests; and following this scarlet thread through the Bible, we’re going to look in amazement at how the priest was consecrated, how he was ordained. It is written in Exodus chapters 28, 29, and in Leviticus chapters 8 through 10. The ordination of the priesthood was by sacrificial blood. Where did the idea of a priest come from anyway? Outside of the revelation of God, the idea of a priest is rooted in deep human consciousness of sin and in our feeling of a desperate need for somebody to mediate between us and a holy, sovereign, righteous God. The whole world is somewhat like that.
The need of a counselor is absolutely endless and boundless. If I had forty lives to live at the same time, every one of them I could invest down here at the church listening to the heart cries of people. There’s no end to it. It is boundless and immeasurable. Well, you find that brought to a wonderful and holy idea in the priesthood; somebody to help us as we come before God. Now that priest, ordained of the Lord, was consecrated in blood sacrifice.
It went like this and here we’re following the verses of the twenty-ninth chapter of Exodus: first, there was chosen a young bullock and two rams. Next, if you are following it in the Bible, that’s in verse 1. There is chosen a young bullock, a little male calf, and two rams, two male sheep. Then in verse  is the slaying of the bullock, after the hands of Aaron and his sons were placed on the head of the bullock in confession of sin. And that bullock is a sin offering. The blood is poured out at the base of the altar, and the body is burned without the camp. Then in verses 15 to 18, one of the rams is slain. That’s a burnt offering on the altar, a holy consecrated offering on the altar. Then, verse 19, the other ram is one of complete dedication. Then the blood of the sacrificial animal is placed on the right ear of the priest who is consecrated; and the blood is placed on the right thumb; and the blood is placed on the right toe [Exodus 29:20].
The meaning is very apparent: the priest is to be a man of God listening to the Word of the Lord. The blood is on his ear. He is to hear what God has to say to the people. The blood is on his thumb. It’s on his hand. His work is to be consecrated to God. He is to be God’s workman. And the blood is to be on his toe. The blood is on his foot. He is to walk in the way of the Lord. So following this divine thread, scarlet, crimson, bloodstained through the Bible: in the consecration of the priests, he is consecrated by blood. And the ministry of the priests was always in blood atonement, and we’re going to discuss that later.
In Exodus 29, this chapter we’re looking at, verses 38, 39. Every morning there is a lamb offered before God, and every evening there is a lamb offered before God. This was in expiation of the sins of the nation, of the people. It was the daily sacrifice.
And when the daily sacrifice ended in 70 AD, it was one of the epochal moments in divine history. Every day, in the morning, in the evening, the sacrifice of the lamb; you cannot imagine how vivid was the imaginative typology, the figurative truth in a little simple word that John the Baptist spoke: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. Now to us that is somewhat, you know, homiletical, ministerial; but oh, to a Jew for the generations, and the generations, and the generations on that high altar, every morning, every evening, there was offered a lamb before God in atonement for the sins of the nation. Then of course, the ministering priests were there on the Day of Atonement; the great holy fast, Yom Kippur [Leviticus 16]. And we’ll discuss that later.
You know, it’s a strange thing how the Jewish people are. If he is a Jew, he will observe Yom Kippur. He won’t pay attention to anything else, won’t go to the synagogue, won’t observe any of the other feasts or celebration or days or anything else; but if he is a Jew at all, he will observe the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Now we’re going to look at the Book of Leviticus: the Book of Leviticus does not advance the history of the Israelites at all, there is nothing in it that continues the story. It is a book absolutely that and that alone. The Book of Leviticus is a book of the unfolding plan of redemption.
And let me tell you something. I read in studying English literature, that if anybody did not like Spencer’s “Fairy Queen,” he had in no wise the soul of a poet, just didn’t have it in him. He is a clod, or he’s a dupe, or he’s stupid idiot, or he’s something like that, you know. But if anybody had in any way the response of a poet, he would love to read Spencer’s “Fairy Queen.”
Now that’s the same thing to me about a student of the Word of God. If you don’t love what the Book of Leviticus is presenting to us, you just don’t like the things of the Lord. What you like is hamburgers, and onions, and cheap picture shows. But you don’t love God. But if you are a true child of the Lord, the Book of Leviticus will be absolutely one of the richest studies you could ever make in your life. Now we’re going to take time just to look at that for a moment. And the reason is in our studying of the scarlet thread through the Bible, the line of redemption, the Book of Leviticus is just that and that alone. That’s what it is.
It starts off with the five offerings and we’re going to look at them. The burnt offering is in chapter 1. The meal offering, the vegetable offering is in chapter 2. The peace offering or the thanksgiving offering is in chapter 3. The sin offering is in chapters 4, to 5:13. And the trespass offering is in chapters 5:14 to 6:7. Now I have taken time – didn’t intend to do it – but I have taken time to present Christ in those five offerings. The first three offerings were voluntary. The burnt offering, the meal offering, the thanksgiving offering, these three were voluntary. Therefore they are called “sweet savor offerings.”
You didn’t have to do it. If you do this it’s just out of something that you do for the love of God. So it’s called a “sweet savor.” God looks upon it and He is just delighted that you did it; didn’t have to do it, no coercion in it at all, you just did that out of the overflowing of your heart. But the last two, the fourth and the fifth offerings are mandated. They are commanded, the two sin offerings.
Now the whole burnt offering; Leviticus 1, verses 1 to 17, they were of three kinds. The well-to-do – we’d say the rich – they offered burnt offerings of the herd; that’s in verse 3. The moderate, the people who were just middle class, they could offer of the flock [verse 10]; and the poor could offer of the fowls [verse 14], they could offer a pigeon or a turtledove or something like that.
Now, the offerer came to the north side to the right side of the great altar, the brazen altar; and there he laid his hands upon the head of the offering. He identified himself with the sacrificial victim. Then the animal was slain, and the blood was sprinkled upon the altar, and the body was separated into its un-jointed pieces. It was taken by pieces and completely consumed by fire. This was the whole burnt offering. Now the meaning of that; it typifies the complete surrender of Christ to God on the altar of the cross; the whole of Himself being consumed. We are identified with Him. The laying on of hands identified the offerer with the victim. We are identified with Him. He is our substitute.
I’m just going to cite the Scriptures because if I try to read them it will take all night long, night after night. Ephesians 5: 2; Hebrews 9:12-14, every day, morning and evening, there was a lamb offered for all of the people, a whole burnt offering, Exodus 29:38-46. And that whole burnt offering represents the substitutionary death of our Christ for us. Now it also typifies the whole consecration of the offerer to God. In our case, a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1, that you offer yourself a living sacrifice, holy, completely unto God. Now that was the first offering, the burnt offering, the whole burnt offering.
The second offering was a vegetable offering, a meal offering [Leviticus 2:1-16]. It was of ground flour, flour that was ground very fine, Leviticus 2:1. It was of baked loaves, Leviticus 2:9-13. And it could be green ears of wheat, wheat that you took out of the field, Leviticus 2:14. It was never offered by itself but always in conjunction with a burnt sacrifice.
Now I want to take you back to something that we talked about in detail in the beginning of Genesis. Remember I told you there was nothing wrong with Cain bringing before God a meal, a vegetable offering; none at all. If he brought of the wheat, or of the barley, or of the fruit of the ground, a vegetable that he’d grown, there was nothing wrong with it at all, nothing. What was the matter with Cain was his heart was not right [Genesis 4]. You remember I said, at the east side of Eden God taught Adam and Eve how to come before Him. And in the teaching of God, the Lord taught that we come before the Lord with blood, always in blood, always with blood, always in expiation, in confession of our guilt and sins, in blood. God taught Adam and Eve that at the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:21]. Now what Cain did was he came before God in some other way. He had a self-chosen way. He had a humanistic way. He had his own chosen way but not God’s way, for God said by blood, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22]. And we don’t stand in the presence of God without our sins paid for, expiated, forgiven. There has to be propitiation. There has to be a rendering favorable before we can stand in the presence of the High God. Well, Cain didn’t do that and remember as I discussed that, I said Cain was very willing to shed his brother’s blood [Genesis 4:8], but he was not willing to come before God with the blood of the lamb [Genesis 4:3]. Just as we find in the criminal tendencies of a fallen, depraved human heart, there will be a man who will think nothing at all of going into a 7-Eleven store and shoot down an innocent customer. But if you were to plead with that man to come before God in the blood of Christ, he would look upon it as being a ridiculous invitation. That’s exactly what happened to Cain.
Now do you see here in this meal offering, never could the offering be made by itself, as Cain sought to do; but the meal offering always was offered in conjunction with a slain sacrifice, a whole burnt offering. Now the meaning of the meal offering is Christ crushed, and broken, and baked in a fiery trial. In John 12:24He is the “corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies.” The meal offering is the bread that came down from heaven; crushed, browned, baked by fire and we are nourished by it.
You know, we’re not very ritualistic here in the Baptist faith and communion, and in our church. But I tell you, I wish I knew how to emphasize our Lord’s Supper. We’re going to come into that every once in a while as time goes on and especially in these discussions. I did my best to do that with this service at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon, but our people just do not respond. And I can’t get them to, and I don’t know what to do. But the typology, the symbolism that we find in what God has given us to do is meaningful, and blessed, and rich for our souls indeed. Now, of course, the men say to me, “Now, pastor, you are mistaken in that. We can have the Lord’s Supper with the same degree of devotion and reverence after the service as we could by having it at a separate time.” Well, here again is one of those things in my heart that I can’t turn. And I try to turn it, but I don’t succeed with it.
To me, for us to have the service, the Lord’s Supper where we eat bread together, this is His body. And we drink of the fruit of the vine together. This is His blood. And we give the service to that, and we examine ourselves, and look at ourselves, and we consecrate ourselves [1 Corinthians 11:24-28]. It is just something God intended for us to do. “Well, why don’t you take the preaching hour and do that?” Well, here’s one of the reasons. The Lord’s Supper is for God’s children. It’s for His saints. It’s for us in the church. And when we have an open public meeting, we have the church people here, but also we have a great many other people here and they don’t belong to your church, and many of them don’t even count themselves among the redeemed. And here we are at a service announced for the whole world, on television announce it, on radio announce it, just every way we can get everybody here that we can. Then when we come together, why, it isn’t for them at all. This is something for God’s children. It’s for God’s sweet people. It’s for His redeemed. We’re going to eat bread. This is our Lord’s body. We’re going to drink of the crushed fruit of the vine. This is His blood. But we don’t succeed in those things; not very well, and I don’t know how to do it.
It’s just like a service of praying for the lost, praying for the sick, having a healing service. You know, for the years and the years of my life I’d love to have a service like that; but I don’t know how to do it. I certainly don’t want to give anybody the impression that I have power of healing in my hands like these fakes, and charlatans, and quacks say. That’s what they say. Well, I’d just simply die before I gave anybody that impression. I don’t have any more access to God than you do. The veil is open. There’s no longer any special priestly access to heaven. We’re all fellow priests now. We all have access to God, and we all can pray. But I tell you I wish I knew how we could bring even our sick here and pray over them. I wish I knew how to do that beautifully. Well, there’s just so much that I don’t know how to do. But that’s one thing that I surely wish I knew how to do, is to magnify, magnify the wonderful meaning that God gave to us in breaking bread and in drinking of the cup. The meal offering is Christ.
Now the third offering, a sweet savor offering, something just out of our hearts, is the peace offering; now you would call that a thanksgiving offering[Leviticus 3:1-17].
Whenever you read that word “peace offering” in the Bible, if you would use the word “thanksgiving” you’d have it exactly. It’s a thanksgiving offering. In Leviticus 7:11-21, a thanksgiving offering, it was eaten on the same day with the priests and the family and the friends. Or, it was offered in the fulfillment of a vow. Now this is what they did. When you think of the whole burnt offering, you think, “Well, this is just the way most of them were.” Actually, that’s not so at all. The whole burnt offering was practically confined to the morning and the evening. Nobody did the other to speak of.
The offering that was usually brought before the Lord was a thanksgiving offering. And in that offering, you brought your family and you brought your friends and the officiating ministering priest that you would choose would be there. And you would love just eating the meal together in thanksgiving to God.
I had a dear family quit our church because they found out that we ate down here in the church. I don’t know why they didn’t find that out before, but anyway, they got into the church without realizing it. And so they left, and they were very adamant. They were adamantine in their denunciation of our eating in the church. I don’t know of anything that they did in God’s worship from beginning to ending like eating. They just ate all the time. They just ate all the time. The first Christian church ate all the time. They ate every day together from house to house [Acts 2:42-47]. They just ate all the time. They had what they called agape, love feasts; gastronomical love-ins, that’s the first church.
This is exactly the way that they worshiped God in those Old Testament times. They came before the Lord. This man was praising God, “Glory, glory God’s been good to me.” So he got him a calf, or he got him a lamb, or he got him a sheep, got him a ram, or he got some animal, and he gathered together all the things. And he went to the house of the Lord and there they sacrificed the animal. And it was cooked by the priest and they all ate it together. That was the thanksgiving offering; just happy in the Lord. Now Christ is our thanksgiving offering, our peace offering; Romans 5:1, Colossians 1:20. And we feast upon Him; John 6:53 and following, and Matthew 26 the Lord’s Supper, and 1 Corinthians 11 the Lord’s Supper; feasting upon our Lord in thanksgiving.
Now the other two offerings are mandatory. The sin offering, Leviticus 4:1-35, when a man sins against God he brought a sin offering. The victim was slain. The blood was sprinkled over the horns of the golden altar of incense before the veil. And the remainder of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar in the courtyard, and the rest of the body was burned without the camp. Christ is our sin offering. Second Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24, He made expiation for our sins. He paid the debt for our sins. And His body was consumed outside the camp, outside the city [Hebrews 13:12].
Now the last, the fifth is the trespass offering; Leviticus 5:1 to 6:7. When a man sins against a man or holy things, he offers a trespass offering. If a man sinned against God he offered a sin offering. If a man sinned against his fellow man or against holy things he offered a trespass offering. And he offered it according to his ability: a female lamb, or two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, or the tenth part of an ephah a bushel of flour. If against another man, he made amends and he added one-fifth of the value. That’s in Leviticus [6:1-5] – can’t read my writing. If it was against holy things he made amends and added one-fifth of the value. That’s Leviticus [5:16]. Now the meaning is that Christ is our trespass offering; Colossians 2:13-14 and 2 Corinthians 5:19. And we are to make restitution when we sin against a neighbor.
Do you believe in that, in making restitution? If you have wronged somebody, or taken something from somebody, to make restitution; I think it is one of the great and continuing admonitions of the Bible, that we ought to make restitution. Once in a while there will be a man here in the church who has stolen from somebody else. He has embezzled from a bank or he has taken something from somebody else. What God says is when you get right with the Lord; the first thing you are to do is to restore that that you have taken from somebody else. “Well preacher, what in the world would I do? He doesn’t even know that I stole it, and here I am going to him and confessing that ‘I stole this from you, even though you didn’t know it.’ Well what do you think about that?” Well, I think you would grow five other cubits tall in the presence of the man to whom you made that confession, and to whom you made that restoration. I think it’d work that way. I believe it would.
I haven’t time to go into so many things. Judge Williams, in the court of law where you have all of those people coming before you and so many things, so many things; I don’t think that there is in the heart of man anything but one of inward love and appreciation for the man who says, “I’ve gotten right with God, and I’ll restore this. I want to give it back to you. I want to pay you back.”
Once in a while, in cases of embezzlement, they’ll take a young fellow before the court and of course the law has to deal with him. But the law is always considerate of that spirit of repentance and the asking, the humbling, the asking of forgiveness before those who are wronged.
All I’m doing, sweet people, is just pointing out to you that in the Word of God, all the way through it, there is that doctrine of restitution. If there is anything that we have taken, or anybody that we have wronged, we ought to try to make it right. And we ought to restore anything that we have taken. And of course, here in that offering of trespass, why, there was always added to it one fifth. If I stole a hundred dollars from a man, and if I returned it to him, I was to do it with twenty dollars more. I was to return to him a hundred and twenty dollars.
Well, these are the five offerings of the Lord. Now there were feasts, sacred seasons before the God. In Leviticus 23:2 they are called “the set feasts of the Lord.” First, there is the Sabbath; Leviticus 23:3. Second, there is the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread; Leviticus 23:4-8. Third, there is the sheaf of firstfruits; Leviticus 23:9-14. Fourth, there is Pentecost; Leviticus [23:15-22]. There is the Feast of Trumpets; Leviticus 23:23-25. There is the Day of Atonement; Leviticus [23:27]. There is the Feast of Tabernacles; Leviticus [23:33-43].
There is the Sabbatical Year, every seventh year; Leviticus [25:4]. There is the Year of Jubilee, seven sevens, forty-nine years, then the fiftieth year, the Year of Jubilee, just as you had the fiftieth day, Pentecost. There is the fiftieth year, the Year of Jubilee; Leviticus [25:10].
Then there were two feasts added in the history of the nation. There was Purim, Purim, plural, “lots,” when through Mordecai there was deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman [Esther 9:20-32]. Then last there was the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Dedication, when in 164 BC. Judas Maccabeus rededicated the temple, cleansed the temple after it had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes [John 10:22].
Now, we’re going to take time. Here again is a study that I had not planned to do, but it just means so much to me to look at these things. We’re going to look for just a moment now at the feasts of the Lord.
First, the Feast of Passover; in Colossians 2:16 and 17, the apostle wrote by divine inspiration that “These things are shadows of things to come, of which Christ is the body and the substance.” All of this that was done back there was a portrayal of what God was going to do in the coming of our Lord.
So you have the Feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost. Then you have an interval of four months. Then you have three of them, introduced by Trumpets, then Atonement, and Tabernacles. All of that has a wonderful and divine meaning. That long interval in there between – as we’re going to see in a minute – is a type of this day of grace between Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the blowing of the trumpets, the resurrection from the dead. Isn’t that an amazing thing how God does this?
All right, let’s look at them particularly now. Then we’ll look at that interval. First, Passover [Leviticus 23:5]. In Exodus 12:2 it is a memorial of deliverance. It was a redemption from slavery. It was the beginning of months. God said that is it is the birthday of the nation.
A male lamb without blemish of the first year was slain on the fourteenth day of Nisan at evening that is before sunset. The blood was sprinkled on the lentil and on the doorposts on either side in the form of a cross. The flesh was roasted. It was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, loins gird, shoes on our feet and staff in hand [Exodus 12:3-9].
The meaning of course is as John the Baptist introduced our Lord, “Behold the Lamb of God” [John 1:36]. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Jesus is called “our Passover.” It is the beginning of months and it is our spiritual birthday. Every once in a while I’ll hear a man say, “You know, I was born the first time the nineteenth day of December in 1909; and I was born the second time the twenty-first day of May in 1919.”
Isn’t that a wonderful thing to be able to say, “I was born the first time, I was born the second time?” The beginning of months: that is when we accepted Christ as our Savior and atonement for our sins. That is our spiritual birthday. And the Lord’s Supper was instituted that Passover night [Matthew 26:17-19].
Now the second sacred season is the Feast of Unleavened Bread; Leviticus 23:6. It began one day after the Passover lamb was slain and continued for seven days. The lamb was slain on the fourteenth of Nisan before sunset. And the Feast of Unleavened Bread began the next day, the fifteenth of Nisan, after sunset. There was no interval between. Immediately, the second that the Passover was slain and eaten, the next day, immediately, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began.
The meaning is this. The Passover is the death of Christ, the slaying of the lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread refers to the holy walk of the Christian. He is to find food and strength in the Lord, not in the picture show, not in novels, not in the world, not in amusement, but in the Lord. The minute that he accepts Christ as his Savior and Christ in atonement for his sins, that minute he is to begin the holy walk of the Christian, feeding upon Christ, finding our joy, and gladness, and strength in-between. There is no interval between them. They are just like that. The two go together. When a man accepts Christ, that minute he is to start walking in the strength and the love of the Lord. That’s exactly what that typifies, the very minute that Passover was done, that very second, the Feast of the seven days of Unleavened Bread began. And the very minute we accept Christ as our Savior, that minute we are to start walking with Jesus and feeding upon Him.
Now, the third one – Passover, Unleavened Bread – now the third one is the Feast of Firstfruits [Leviticus 23:9-14]. The fourteenth of Nisan, the Passover lamb was slain before sunset. The fifteenth of Nisan, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on a Sabbath. Now, the sixteenth of Nisan, the next day, Leviticus 23:11, on the morrow after the Sabbath, the first day of the week, on Sunday, was the Feast of Firstfruits.
A sheaf was reaped from the waving fields of the ripening grain of barley and carried to the priest and waved before the Lord. It was the pledge of all the harvest that was yet to come. That is the most dynamic of all the symbolism that I know in the Old Testament; the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits before the Lord on the morrow after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week.
It is a magnificent and glorious type of the resurrection of our Lord. On the morrow after the Sabbath, He was raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that slept. He arose on the morning after the Sabbath, the firstfruits unto God. And after Him, He is the pledge of all of those after Him who will be raised in the great consummation of the age.
Isn’t that an amazing thing, how God placed that back there in the Bible, in the Old Covenant, in Leviticus? Didn’t I tell you? If you are a born again Christian, you will love a study of Leviticus. Why did God do that except just that He might prepare us for the glorious, marvelous substance of which this is the shadow, the marvelous truth in Christ of which this is the adumbration.
On the morrow after the Sabbath, the sheaf of firstfruits waved before God, the pledge of the harvest that was yet to come. On the morrow after the Sabbath Christ is called the firstfruits. He was the first one raised from the dead. He was the firstfruits and is the pledge of all of the harvest of God’s resurrected saints that shall come in their day and in their time.
When the priests, on the day of Christ’s resurrection, waved the sheaf of the firstfruits in the temple it was before a rent veil. The tomb of Joseph was empty. The reality and the substance of which God placed in shadow there in Leviticus had come. And the sheaf was waved before a rent veil.
Now, the fourth feast is Pentecost, Pentekostos [Leviticus 23:15-22], the Greek word for “fiftieth, fiftieth.” Fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits was Pentecost; seven weeks, then Pentecost. That is, the Feast of Firstfruits was on a Sabbath, so seven Sabbath’s, forty-nine, then the fiftieth day was Sunday. The glorious outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the church was on Sunday. Pentecost was on Sunday, the Lord’s Day.
Now the space between, the time of the Feast of the Firstfruits and Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks, seven Sabbath’s. It began with that first waving sheaf of barley brought before the Lord, and ended with the ingathering of the wheat harvest. And on Pentecost there were two loaves baked with the new grain, and waved before the Lord. Those two loaves were brought and waved before the Lord.
Now here is something that is amazing. Those two loaves that on Pentecost were waved before the Lord were made with leaven, Leviticus 23:17. This is an exception that is noticeable, noticeable, noticeable! Without exception in the Bible, without exception in the Bible, leaven is a type of evil, always, always, always, always, leaven is a type of evil. Well, how is then, that these two baked loaves offered before God, waved before the Lord, on the day of Pentecost, are to be baked with leaven? Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
All right, the meaning is plain. In the church, this new thing that God created, there are two groups. There are two loaves. It’s made up of Jews and it’s made up of Gentiles. And when you look at the church, it isn’t free from sin. All kinds of weaknesses are in it, and in every one of us, weaknesses alike.
I think that is the meaning of the parable of the leaven [Matthew 13:33]. All through Christendom you find that working of evil in the church. And all through Christendom you find that truth of the parable of the mustard seed [Mark 4:30-32]. It grew to be a great tree, and in its branches every dirty bird roosted and messed it up; as the Book of the Revelation calls it, “Every foul and unclean bird.”
I don’t deny that some of the bloodiest pages of human history you find in the story of the church. It has been said, and I have read it many times, that the church has been responsible for the slaughter, the martyrdom of fifty million people. You know how many fifty million people is? Can you imagine that many people being slaughtered in the name of the church?
And there’s not a schoolboy, there’s not a schoolboy but that could stand here and tell you that the type of life that was lived by the hierarchy of the coercive church for hundreds and hundreds of years was one of indescribable lust and vanity, self-aggrandizement, simony. There’s not anything out in the world that you won’t find in reading in the history of the church. Well, what about it today?
You’re a whole lot better off unless you’re a good Christian if you don’t know the inside workings of the denomination. You’re just a lot better off. There is as much politicking, and there is as much chicanery, and there is as much envy and jealousy, and there is as much maneuvering for place and advancement in the churches, in the denomination as you’ll find in the banking world, or the political world, or the economic world, or the educational world, or any other world. Some of the most gifted men I’ve ever known in the pulpit, some of whom have preached here in this pulpit, and men I admire and love with all my heart, there are in those men some of the most glaring weaknesses that I have ever seen in my life. Great, mighty man, and his feet are made out of clay.
I could stand here and just tell you world without end story after story, illustration after illustration of that. That’s why, my sweet people, if you ever get to looking at a man, you sure lay yourself open. You better keep your eye on Jesus. You better do it.
However he, this man, may be that doesn’t matter; Jesus is all right. And however the church may be that doesn’t matter either; Jesus is all right. And however the denomination may be that doesn’t matter; Jesus is all right. That was the first great lesson I had to learn as a young preacher.
Why, when I was a young fellow, I thought all of these men in these pulpits were actual gods. And when I went to the seminary and sat unto those professors, “I thought that was sublime”; and as the days passed and as the years went on, I never saw one spot in my life so filled with intrigue and jealousy as among the professors of the seminary that I attended.
This man would advertise where he’d been invited to preach and where he went. And these other poor seminary professors, they didn’t get the invitations that this one got; and there was all of that feeling and especially among their wives, good night how they carried it on. If one of those professors in the seminary was invited to come down here to preach in the pulpit of George W. Truett, the rest of the professors never heard the end of it.
“My husband was invited to preach for the world renowned George W. Truett. Has your husband been invited down there yet? See there, he’s a pipsqueak. He’s a pigmy. My husband is a giant.” Well, all of this is idiocy and foolishness on my part. I’m just pointing out to you that God surely does know what He is doing.
And when the Lord said, “When you take those two loaves on Pentecost,” that’s the great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord on the church [Acts 2], that’s the birthday some people say of the church, “When you take those loaves, you put leaven in them, you put leaven in them.” And the kingdom of heaven, Christendom, is like a woman who is kneading bread and the whole thing is leaven. It’s like a big tree growing out of just a little bitty seed, and every foul and unclean bird roosts in it.
And that’s exactly what God says about Christendom. It has all kinds of people in it, and all kinds of things in it, and all kinds of weaknesses in it. The marvel is that it continues to exist and endure with all the things that God has to put up with. I heard a fellow say he knew the Bible was inspired, “for anything that could stand that much bad preaching had to be of the Lord.” Oh, dear!
Well, we’ll pick it up from there. I hate to close but it is passed time. And Jimmy, before I turn it over to you, let’s bow our heads. While our heads are bowed, maybe while Bill plays just a strain on an organ; is there somebody here tonight, who would take his eyes off of the world and turn your eyes on Jesus? Somebody, who would come out of the world and put his life in the hands of God, somebody, who, even though we’re not perfect in this church, yet we are an assembly of God’s saints, and you’d like to belong to the redeemed of Christ? If there is somebody here tonight thus to open his heart to Jesus or to put his life with us in the church, would you hold up your hand?
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com