Old Testament Principles For the Present Time

The Bible is a virtual source of principles that are virtually ignored.  Some principles derived from the Old Testament are  posited in a*book I wrote several years ago.  Please send a copy of this blog to all elected officials.

Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.

Malachi 4:4

Looking back at the principles derived from Old Testament institutions will benefit the present truth and the present time.  The Old Testament is replete with types and symbols found in ceremonial and judicial case law.  Types are ordinances that have a prophetic element.  Old Testament messianic prophecies had present value, but pointed to future facts.  For example, the Passover lamb, and holy of holies represented a type of the work and person of Jesus Christ.  Symbols show in visible form a spiritual principle.  For example, the burning incense symbolized the prayer of saints and intercession of the Mediator.  Although the Old Testament ceremonial laws have expired and the judicial case laws are abrogated, they are still in the Word of God.

The ceremonial laws were added to the moral law to typify and prefigure the Lord Jesus Christ.  They were given to the “church underage” so that the types and ordinances represented the person, work, and benefits that believers have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those external ceremonial laws were given for worship at the place prescribed by God.   In due time God appointed the place to worship, the temple of Jerusalem.  With its destruction, the ceremonial laws are now expired because they were put aside by the completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:15-16).

The judicial case laws are abrogated with the disestablishment of the Old Testament political state of Israel, as a church underage.  Then what value are those judicial case laws to Christians in this present age?  The Westminster Assembly used the terminology “general equity” in the application of those laws under the new covenant.  Long before Westminster gave its counsel, John Calvin  identified the extended purpose of God’s ceremonial and judicial laws.

“…[T]he form of their [the nation of Israel] judicial laws, although it had no other intent than how best to preserve that very love which is enjoined by God’s eternal law, had something distinct from that precept of love. Therefore, as ceremonial laws could be abrogated while piety remained safe and unharmed, so too, when these judicial laws were taken away, the perpetual duties and precepts of love could still remain” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.20.15).

The Biblical principle of retributive justice (lex talionis) applies to all human government.  The primary basis for that view is based on the biblical concept of natural law (i.e. Romans 2:14, 15).

The Word of God has not expired nor has it been abrogated.  There are five biblical principles found in the Pentateuch that have a place in the lives of all New Testament Christians.  A biblical principle is a fundamental truth of doctrine derived from the entire teaching of Scripture.  These principles are established on the foundation of God’s covenant relationship with His people of all ages.  New Testament Christians will benefit from these godly principles if they will search the Scriptures and discover the truth found in the whole counsel of God.

The first principle is the agrarian way of life.  A rural society based on agricultural production is the fundamental principle of the agrarian way of life.  One of the most popular advocates of the agrarian way of life in modern times is Wendell Berry.

We agrarians are involved in a hard, long, momentous contest, in which we are so far, and by a considerable margin, the losers. What we have undertaken to defend is the complex accomplishment of knowledge, cultural memory, skill, self-mastery, good sense, and fundamental decency—the high and indispensable art—for which we probably can find no better name than ‘good farming.’ I mean farming as defined by agrarianism as opposed to farming as defined by industrialism: farming as the proper use and care of an “immeasurable gift.”  Mr. Berry explains his understanding of industrialism in relation to the agrarian way of life.  “THE WAY OF INDUSTRIALISM is the way of the machine. To the industrial mind, a machine is not merely an instrument for doing work or amusing ourselves or making war; it is an explanation of the world and of life. Because industrialism cannot understand living things except as machines, and can grant them no value that is not utilitarian, it conceives of farming and forestry as forms of mining; it cannot use the land without abusing it.”  (Orion Magazine, Summer 2002, “The Agrarian Standard”, by Wendell Berry)

 

There is every reason to believe that the agricultural enterprise was the dominant factor in God’s plan to provide for His people.  Without question the Hebrew institutions from the creation until the death of Moses were instrumental in producing an agricultural society.  Man was created and placed in a perfect world that was perfectly agrarian (Genesis 2:15).  God was perfectly able to create a city to place the man in, but God chose a garden for Adam to cultivate and keep.  After the fall there was a change in the garden; However, Adam was still in a unique relationship to the ground (Genesis 3:17).

Agriculture and land are inseparable.  A rural society seems to be favored by God.  Cain began his life as an agrarian, but turned to urbanization, which requires an industrial and commercial way of life (Genesis 4:2; 17).  The earliest recorded history of cities found in the Word of God carried with it negative and sinful connotations (Genesis 11:4).   God established laws to protect the land for agricultural use, but not for cities (Leviticus 25:25-30).  A rural and agricultural society is more suited to ignore class distinctions found in urban populations.

The agrarian principle has merit today just as it did when God created Adam and put him in the garden.  Think hypothetically one moment.  If every family in this country had a small garden and worked that small garden, it would have a radical effect in every area of life. The concept of agrarianism was and still is the principle of God’s provision from the ground, not from the commercial grocery store.  It would promote a biblical work ethic, which is commanded in the 4th commandment:  “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9).  Urbanization, commercialization, and industrialization, is a breeding ground for a discontent society because there is no covenantal connection between them and God’s provision for human existence.

The second principle I draw from Old Testament Hebrew institutions is relative to the practice of foreign policy and trade.  In the early days of Israel, she did not try to expand her trade and commerce by entering into covenants with foreign nations.  Phoenicians came to trade with the Hebrews, but the Hebrews did not build a naval force to reciprocate.  God warned His people not to enter into a covenant with foreigners (Exodus 34:12-16).  International trade leads to international obligations.  The Lord warned the Israelites not to borrow from other nations (Deuteronomy 15:6).  To observe the laws of foreign nations was detestable to the Lord.  The entire history of Israel from the time of Solomon until the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C. is a testimony of what happened to God’s people who entered into agreements, trade or military, with other nations.  Foreign trade has the potential to denigrate the value of the land and the labor of the citizens who own the land and produce the goods. The principle application of Hebrew institutions relative to foreign policy and trade in our present age is self-evident.

The third principle is found in the Old Testament Hebrew ordinances regulating the economic financial transactions.  The Old Testament legislation was specific relative to the regulating land ownership, monetary transactions, and indebtedness.  God owns all the land on this earth.  God created land and while we are alive God allows us to use the land.  We are allowed to live on it and use it to provide for our needs.  The Old Testament Hebrew ordinances regulated the disposition of land (Leviticus 25:23-34).  Money was transferred between various parties by means of precious metals such as gold and silver.  The way to determine the value was by weight and the use of scales.  Honesty was not merely a virtue, it was commanded by God (Leviticus 19:35; Deuteronomy 25:13-16).  Indebtedness was not a sin, but it was regulated by God’s ordinances.  Money could be loaned but not with interest except to the foreigner (Deuteronomy23:19-20).  Debt cancellation was the means to protect the poor from a life time of suffering.  God called on the Israelites to open the hand wide to the poor, even if the year of debt cancellation was at hand (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).  The principle still stands:  compassion, but not communism.

*The Present Truth, Thoughts of a Musing Christian

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