Author: Ron Graham
In this lesson we consider the value of the many important timeless principles embodied in the Old Testament. As we shall see, the New Testament itself draws from the Old Testament as a source of teachings about things that never change and are always true.
In our study so far, we have noted three things that the Old Testament provides, the absence of which would seriously disadvantage us: (1) Historical facts, (2) Messianic prophecies, (3) Great examples of faith. Now we continue with the next related topic, (4) Timeless Principles.
Let’s think about what a timeless principle is. A great many principles have held true from the beginning of the world, and will remain true until the end of the world. Some principles will even be true throughout eternity.
First, however, let’s observe that not all principles are timeless. Some things do change. For instance, "The days of our lives are seventy years or eighty" (Psalm 90:10).
That was not true of our distant ancestors. In the days of Adam and Noah, a lifetime well exceeded seven hundred years, not a mere seventy (Genesis 5:5 9:29). In the days of Abraham, a lifetime was more than twice seventy years (Genesis 25:7).
The "three score years and ten" principle was true in David’s time, and is still reasonably true today. However, there is no guarantee that it will remain true in the future. Life will always be a "vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14), however that "little while" may not always be "three score years and ten". It is not a timeless principle, just as many other principles in the Bible are not timeless but are subject to change.
Although not all principles taught in the Bible are timeless, many are so. For example the principle that "all we like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6) is true in every age and culture where people do not make the LORD their Shepherd. It is a timeless principle that without God we are in darkness (Ephesians 2:12-13).
Against that, there is a common belief that the dawning of the Age of Aquarius sheds its own light, and releases human beings from the need to follow God in the Judeo-Christian manner, and that men can now follow other gods or their own ways. But even in the Age of Aquarius the principle which Jesus stated holds true: "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Nothing, that is, except come into condemnation.
It providential that the Old Testament enshrines many precious timeless principles that otherwise might be lost from human knowledge.
We can look at only a few such principles by way of example, but they should be enough to demonstrate the great value of the Old Testament to us because of this sort of teaching within its lovely pages.
Deut 25:4 —You'll recall this one from our first lesson. There was a law that an ox must not be muzzled while it is treading out the corn. In other words the ox was not to be prevented from eating some corn itself as it worked. The New Testament draws from this the timeless principle that the labourer is worthy of wages (1Corinthians 9:9-14, 1Timothy 5:17-18, Luke 10:7).
Habakkuk 2:4 —You'll recall this one from our fourth lesson on great examples of faith. The timeless principle is that "the just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17), and "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6,13). That faith is essentially a faith in Christ. It has always been needed, and always will be. For those who have faith in Christ, there is a home in heaven. For those without faith, there is only God’s displeasure.
Exodus 24:8 —Atonement for sin requires a sacrifice of blood in death (See also Leviticus 17:11 etc). Without this principle as a basis, it would be very hard to make sense of the crucifixion of God’s Son (Hebrews 9:22-26).
Deuteronomy 17:2-7 —God judges human beings, and punishes sin with justice. He has always done so, and always will. The New Testament takes the position that since this was true long ago, how much more it is true today (Hebrews 10:28-31). It is a timeless principle.
Genesis 2:21-24 —Woman was created out of man. The New Testament sees in this the principle that the wife is subject to husband (1Corinthians ll:8-12 1T1m2:9-15). Note that Paul points out that Eve was deceived (See Genesis 3:4-6). Had she consulted her husband as the head, and he taken the lead instead of being led, there would have been a different story. It is a timeless principle that the man is head of the woman. However, since Adam sacrificed one of his bones to gain his only suitable companion in life, it is also a timeless principle that the husband must every sacrifice for his wife’s sake (Ephesians 5:25).
The few instances above illustrate how New Testament writers recognised the principles embodied In the Old Testament scriptures, and applied those principles in teaching Christians. By now you must be appreciating that, were every reference to the Old Testament scriptures to be removed from the New Testament scriptures, including every principle, example, prophecy, and historal fact, the New Testament would be severely truncated.
The New Testament writers, however, by no means exhaust the Old Testament source. We can easily find many more timeless principles. Our lesson would be too long if we gave examples of these. Do I hear cries of "More! More!"? Well, maybe just one then:
Proverbs 24:13 & 25:16 —These statements about honey together teach us the principle that what is good when taken in need, may become bad when taken in greed —a lesson today’s society may have forgotten, and may have to learn again the hard way.