Elders and Oxen

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:17-18 ESV

Ray Stedman, in a sermon “Help for Elders” based on 1 Timothy 5:

He [Paul] goes back to the Law, to the book of Deuteronomy, and quotes what Moses said: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” {cf, Deut 25:4}. That was a requirement in Israel. In those days, when the threshing of grain was done by oxen which walked around on the grain to thresh out the sheaves they were not permitted to be muzzled. The oxen were working, so they deserved to eat. Paul also quotes this verse in First Corinthians, saying in that connection, “Does God care for oxen? Is that why he said that?” “No,” Paul says, “he wrote that for us,” {1 Cor 9:9-10}.

(When Martin Luther quoted this verse, he asked the question, “Does God care for oxen?” “No, of course not,” he said, “because oxen can’t read.” It was written for us, not for the oxen.)

That is a very important principle to remember in reading the Old Testament. All those regulations that were given to Israel concerning their diet, their work, their clothing, etc., were not given to them only, they were given for us. They are pictures of what God is teaching us. If you read the Old Testament with that in mind, you will have a whole new book before you.

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