I was listening to John Goldingay in an iTunes U. lecture on the law in the Pentateuch, a subject which continues to hold my interest. He spoke about a method of interpretation that is common in dealing with the OT Law. You can consider each law as it was given to Israel and normally ask why this law was given in that context. When you consider the reason behind the law, you can usually determine a principle that has abiding importance.
This approach is not new. This appears to be what Jesus does, at least in part, when he states that the greatest commandments of the Law were to love God and love neighbor because all the Law and the prophets hang on this (Matt. 22:37-40). The Law deals with specific matters that promote greater principles and ideals of God, particularly love.
Goldingay pointed out that this is only part of the process. It is necessary to again embody these principles with concrete applications and actions. After all, God could have simply given principles in the OT to begin with, but he didn’t do that. He gave concrete laws. To gain the full benefit of the practical aspects of the OT Law, it is important to derive the principle and determine how it can be put into action today.
This process helps avoid the tendency among some Christians to entirely dismiss the OT, and especially the OT Law. While Christian may not be bound to the OT Law, it is still the word of God, and it has something to say to his people today. The OT Law still represents the heart of God, and it should inform and guide our lives. If understood in this light, the OT is authoritative, albeit not binding in the sense of concrete expressions.
It also illustrates the principle from Scripture that God expects us to do something with his word. Our faith in God and trust in his divine guidance should translate into action. Principles are helpful, but only so much as they are put into practice.