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The Bible and Shelf Life

Hector Berlioz said, "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Somebody else observed, "Time may be a great healer, but it's also a lousy beautician." Does anything last forever? In a USA TODAY article (entitled "Hard times are burying treasured landmarks"; Fri.-Sat.-Sun., June 12-14, 2009) Rick Hampton wrote about the Cedar Crest restaurant in Lawrence, Massachusetts: "The restaurant that opened during the Great Depression is closing in the Great Recession. Owner Marie Claire Kennedy expects to sell to a developer who'll knock it down after 73 years and put up a fast-food joint." Kennedy said about the 73 year old restaurant, it was a good run, "but everything has a shelf life." Hampton went on to write, "Hard times are shortening the shelf life of many such venerable local and regional institutions, including restaurants. . . furniture stores, car dealers, lumber yards, publications and art organizations." Now, the term "shelf life" has to do with how long a thing will last without deterioration or decay. An egg may last a couple of months if stored properly, and a gallon of milk a couple of weeks. If you've ever smelled a "rotten egg" or been surprised by a gulp of "sour milk," you know the importance of a long shelf life!

Countless millions over the ages have contemplated and been awed by the Bible's shelf life which is, in a single word, "forever" (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25)! In every generation the Bible faces foes and critics who attempt to shorten its shelf life and put it in the grave. But after 1,000's of years the Bible still shows no signs of souring or rotting or deteriorating or decaying! The Bible's shelf-life is forever. But a passage in Hebrews 8:7-13 reminds us God did assign the Old Testament portion of His Word a definite shelf-life insofar as its purpose in God's plan to deal with man's sin and guide his service and worship to to God. Among other things the writer says, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second. . . .In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (8:7, 13). Careful now. The writer does not tell us the Old Testament was not inspired or that it had or has no place. ALL Scripture is inspired and profitable for us, and we are urged in the New Testament to look to the Old for the lessons and instruction it continues to give (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). But a careful study of Hebrews 7-9, Romans 7:1-4, Romans 8:1-3, Galatians 3:13-26, Ephesians 2:14-22 and Colossians 2:14-17 make clear that from the get-go God planned the Old Testament law and system of sacrifice and service to be temporary one. Its shelf life lasted from the time of Moses and Mount Sinai to the time of Christ and Mount Calvary, some 1,400 plus years. It's primary fault and weakness was found in the fact the people could not keep it! It's shadows and symbols and sacrifices served the purpose of pointing men to and preparing them for the coming of Jesus, but had to be repeated often (Hebrews 10:1-4). The redemption Jesus brought has an eternal shelf life and will never be repeated or replaced (Hebrews 9:12-15; 10:10, 14). Praise the Lord!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ