Posts Tagged ‘Deuteronomy’

One of the confusing things for many Christians is figuring out what to do with Old Testament laws, specifically those ones that seem completely distant to our culture.  Can we apply them to our lives in our cultural context?

The way I see it, the best way to learn to apply OT laws is to see how the NT writers apply OT laws.  So, let’s take Deuteronomy 25:4 and see what Paul does with it.  Deuteronomy 25:4 states, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”  That seems distant enough for most of us, especially those of us who live in the city and haven’t ever seen an ox.

But Paul applies this to his own day in his letter to the Corinthians, a bunch of city folk themselves.  In 1 Corinthians 9:9-10, Paul writes, “For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Sure he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when farmers plow and tresh, they should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”

So what does Paul do with Deuteronomy 25:4?  I see two main things.  First, he applies the principle behind the law to his situation.  The principle is fairly straight forward: the ox deserves to eat the grain it is “treading out” (I’ll admit, I don’t really know what that looks like, but I understand the point).  The ox deserves to be “paid” for its work.  In the same way, Paul argues, the minister deserves to be paid for his work (though if you read on Paul explains why he passes up this right).

Second, Paul uses a “lesser-to-greater” argument.  If this is true of an ox, how much more true is it of people, who are greater than oxen?  This reminds us that the laws of the OT are not exhaustive, but paradigmatic.  What is true of the ox is true of the horse, the dog, the person, etc.

So how does this teach us to apply OT laws?  We look for the principle behind the law itself, not limiting the law to the specific wording alone.  The principle is what we are applying to our context.

Douglas Stuart makes this point in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth when discussing the command to build a parapet around the roof of your house (Deut 22:8).  On page 169 he states,

The Bible contains all sorts of commands that God wants us to know about, which are not directed toward us personally.  If we are not concered about building parapets around the roof of our houses (Deut 22:8), we should nonetheless delight in a God who cared that houseguests not fall off a roof with which they were unfamiliar, and therefore he taught his people to build their houses with that sort of love for neighbor in mind.

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