“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. “
Romans 5:3-5, NIV
You’d never think a humble loaf of bread could teach us much about the Christian life, but look a little deeper and you’d be astonished. In the Bible study ‘Feasts of the Bible,’ I’m examining what bread offered as a sacrifice can mean. Jewish feasts required many different items God requested. Some of the foods were bitter to represent trials in life, other items were sweet to represent the hope of a Messiah. Normally bread offered up for sacrifice is unleavened, with a very notable exception.
One feast calls for two loaves of bread, with leaven, made with very fine flour. The leavening throughout the bread represents our sin, the flour the refining process, and two loaves portray Jews and Gentiles. To dig deeper, I decided to make my own bread as it would have been made thousands of years ago.
As soon as you start the process the lessons begin. Leaven is made by stirring together simple coarse flour and water and waiting, just as we start our life by being coarse and unrefined. Wild yeast present in the air infects the simple flour and water mixture just as sin infects our untested lives. The leaven is sour and takes over whatever is in your container once you feed it. Just like sin, it grows and destroys.
Then God starts changing things. God asks for refined flour. This flour has been crushed, stomped down, until it is light and pure. God will put us through the same refining process. Once we add this refined white flour to the leaven, the tang of bread becomes less sour. The dough mixture is kneaded and stretched, then left to wait and mature. Often God will knead and stretch us, leaving us to wait on Him. The dough is ready only when it’s been stretched so much that we can see the Light through it. It’s not difficult to draw the comparison there! God will refine us and keep stretching us until we reflect his light. Then we are ready to be put in the refiner’s fire to be an acceptable offering. As James points out, endurance and perseverance perfects us, a worthy and desirable goal. (James 1:2-4)
The beauty of this offering is that God asks us to come as we are. No matter what sin is in our life, so long as we ask his forgiveness He accepts us. His work doesn’t stop there, we are continually being refined, stretched, and left to wait, reflecting His glory throughout the entire process. If you’re struggling, left in a long season of waiting, or even being stretched, take heart. This is the process God uses to refine us! A little lesson from a humble loaf of bread.