INTERESTING FACTS : THERE IS A WAY OF READING THE BIBLE THAT SEEMS TO LEAVE GOD FAR AWAY, OFF IN THE SHADOWS SOMEWHERE. IT IS ALL INFORMATION AND TECHNICALITIES AND KNOWLEDGE, BUT IT FEELS LIKE YOU'RE SITTING WITH YOUR BACK TOWARDS GOD. YOU COME UP AGAINST A DIFFICULTY OR QUESTION, AND YOU GO TO BOOKS, YOU ASK PASTORS, FRIENDS, STRANGERS ON THE INTERNET, ANYONE BUT HIM. GRADUALLY GOD GETS SMALLER AND DIMMER. --UNKNOWN
DAILY READING : DEUTERONOMY 24 - 27
TEXT : DEU 25:4 THOU SHALT NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHEN HE TREADETH OUT THE CORN.
THEME : CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
Law after law, one built on the other, the foundation being the Ten Commandments which is further built on two main commandments - love God and love your neighbor. Every law in the Torah, no matter how confusing it may be to you, is predicated on love - either to God, man, or both. Therefore, we know that love is the fulfillment of the Law as we read in Rom 13:8 - 10
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Still how hard it is for men to love God and his fellow Christian. The reason for this is the power of indwelling sin. It causes us to concentrate entirely on our own self - our feelings, needs, desires, wants, wishes, etc. The essence of sin is rebellion to God due to our being born in sin through Adam's transgression. Remember, God gave the Law to be our schoolmaster to lead us to faith in Christ. It teaches us our need of forgiveness as well as our need for a change in our nature.
"Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the la w was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." [Gal 3:19 - 25]
Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown comment on Galatians 3:21.
"Is the law (which involves a mediator) against the promises of God (which are without a mediator, and rest on God alone and immediately)? God forbid." The law, as an externally prescribed rule, can never internally impart spiritual life to men naturally dead in sin, and change the disposition. If the law had been a law capable of giving life, "verily (in very reality, and not in the mere fancy of legalists) righteousness would have been by the law (for where life is, there righteousness, its condition, must also be)." But the law does not pretend to give life, and therefore not righteousness; so there is no opposition between the law and the promise. Righteousness can only come through the promise to Abraham, and through its fulfillment in the Gospel of grace.
Thus, the new birth [or being born again] means to receive the Spirit of God and be "regenerated" into an entirely new creation of God, now known as a Christian. Once we are born again, we live through faith in God's Word and all that it says. Our credo is - "love God and love each other." These two pillars of the Word of God are what the Holy Spirit teaches. When we live by these maxims [commandments] we fulfill all the hundreds of laws contained in the Law.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : THE MINISTER IS WORTHY OF HIS HIRE!
In the text of Deuteronomy 25:4 we see a law, a merciful law, forbidding the Israelites in preventing an ox from eating the corn he was treading. Many of the nations around Israel had such customs. That is, they would not let the ox eat of the field he was working in. John Gill writes -
"As oxen are used in ploughing, so likewise in treading or beating out the corn; of the manner of which; see Gill on 1Co_9:9; now while it was thus employed, it might not be restrained by any means from eating the corn as it had an opportunity, either by a muzzle put over its mouth, or other ways. The Gentiles had several ways of restraining their cattle from eating, while they thus made use of them, to which this law is opposed. Maimonides (f) has collected several or them together, as prohibited by it; as putting a thorn into its mouth, causing a lion to lie down by it, or causing its calf to lie down without, or spreading a skin on the top of the corn, that so it may not eat. Aelianus (g) relates a very particular way of hindering oxen from eating at such times, used some countries, which was this; that oxen might not eat of the ears of corn, in a floor where they were trod out, they used to besmear their nostrils with cows' dung, which was so disagreeable to the creature, that it would not taste anything though pressed with famine. "
We see then God's Law is superior and kinder than man's as we would expect. However, when this verse is used in the New Testament, it takes on a wider application and context. In 1st Corinthians we read -
"Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" [1 Cor 9:7 - 11]
Here we read the Apostle Paul's appeal to Scripture for the minister of the Gospel to be paid. He reasons from our text saying in essence - "If God is merciful to oxen, how much more to His ministers?" There is an old tongue-in-cheek anecdote told mainly by preachers that Church boards would pray - "You keep our pastor humble, and we'll keep him poor." Though it is said in jest, there is truth in the lighthearted quip. Many Christians have a penurious attitude toward the minister's salary which the same Christian would never apply to their own life's work. However, the Scriptu re is clear - the laborer is worthy of his hire. This was the command of Jesus. Hence, we read -
1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 1Ti 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
Regarding Christian ministry and the application of Deuteronomy 25:4, we see the verse from Deuteronomy linked with the words of Jesus in Luke 10:7. It is interesting to note, the emphasis on elders [pastors] ruling well is applied especially to the pastor who is the student/scholar of Biblical theology. This shows us the importance God places on teaching and preaching, as opposed to other ministries pastors can be involved in. To say it another way, the student/scholar in the pastorate is superior to every and any other type of ministry. So much so, that Paul says he should be counted worthy of "double honor," or "twice the pay." On the need for the teaching, defense, and proclamation of the Word of God, John Gill writes -
"Especially they who labour in the word and doctrine; which lies in a constant reading of the Scriptures, the word of God, and diligently searching into them, and comparing them together, in order to find out the mind and will of God in them; in a daily meditation upon them, and study of them; and in frequent and fervent wrestling with God, or prayer to him, to give an understanding of them; and in endeavouring to find out the sense of difficult passages, which are hard to be understood; and in providing for the different cases and circumstances of hearers, that everyone may have a portion; and in the choice of apt and proper words to express truth in, to the capacities of all: this is labouring in the word in private; besides which there is labouring in doctrine, in public; in preaching the Gospel constantly, boldly, and faithfully; in holding it fast against all opposition, and in defending it by argument, both by word and writing."
Let us all pray for a return of Biblical peaching in the pulpits of America in true Christian ministry. It is the greatest need of the hour in which we live!