Study of Matthew 13:31–35 ~ My answers to BSF study questions
3. a. kingdom of heaven
b. He is speaking of the small, deliberate beginning (here only one seed is planted) of the church he came to establish and how large the movement would become. It would provide a benefit to many.
c. Challenge: The birds in the earlier parables were eating seed before it had a chance to grow. In the mustard seed parable, the birds built nests in the plant that grew.
The passage in Ezekiel is similar in that the birds will nest in the tree as well as find shelter there. The birds indicate the large size of the tree and the peace, rest, and protection that can be found in the kingdom.
4. a. I think this parable is another pictorial of the previous one. The gospel message is like yeast mixed into a batch of dough (the world). It slowly and silently grows until it has greatly increased in size.
I think the idea of bread is significant, but yeast can have a bad or good connotation. In this case, it seems to be a good one.
b. Like I said in the previous question, yeast seems to be a symbol for good in this case. There is sense of oneness and unity about what happens in the dough.
The leaven of the Pharisees is a bad connotation. Like the example of good and bad seed, both grew. We should be careful what we sow.
If yeast in this parable is a symbol for evil, Jesus could be saying that the entire kingdom of heaven will be enlarged by, perverted by, or corrupted by the influence of evil. In that case, perhaps the verses about a righteous remnant (outside of that dough) would come into play.
Ezekiel 17:22-24 — breaking off a shoot at the top of the tree and planting it separate from the large tree — sounds like what happened with Noah and his family.
I can see why the Jews found it easier to look to the Levites/Pharisees for explanations. I can also understand why the Pharisees initially tended to complicate the commands in an attempt to be precise.
Now, as well as then, we should look to the Lord and depend on Him for revelation and understanding of His word.