Gods Law and The New Covenant – Episode 3

The Law and The New Covenant

This week (Nov 25) on Shabbat Night Live, we explore why words matter, especially when it comes to the Scriptures. One of the most important distinctions is the difference between justification and sanctification.

Steve Siefken shares why knowing the difference helps us to understand what the Messiah’s role was and what we are obligated to do in return.

Watch the episode — included on this blog post.

While you watch, consider the questions below. The timeline for each discussion topic in the video is noted on each question. Post your answers in the comments section, and let’s get some discussion going!

  1. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 16:00) How does the notion of the “practice” of law apply in a diverse way to our attempts to learn and obey the doctrine given to us by YeHoVaH? How does this term convey the inherent need of believers who are constantly vulnerable to temptation to review, discuss, and contemplate the strictures of divine Law as well as to acknowledge our failures to do so through lapses into sin?
  2. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 20:00) Conversely, how do the words of Yeshua regarding the process of sanctification through adherence to the Law serve to restrain those believers who would overinterpret scripture through disingenuousness or self-interest? How does the simple brilliance of “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) recall the covenantal nature of our worship of YeHoVaH as well as our need for constant vigilance against weakness of spirit?
  3. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 24:00) How does Paul’s distinction in Romans 2:13 between those who hear and those who do the Law serve to underscore the apostolic nature of all who worship YeHoVaH? How does this discussion emphasize not only the importance of obedience and refraining from sin, but also the prospect of dedicating one’s works, whether personal deeds or professional livelihood, to the greater witness of the divine plan for salvation?  
  4. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 28:00) How does the discussion in James 2:8-12 serve as a warning against a failure to recognize the comprehensive nature of the Law by making false or irrelevant distinctions? How does this rebuke underscore the awareness of this aspect of human nature within the ancient world, not unlike those Greek philosophers who warned against the dangers of sophistry in legal and political contexts?
  5. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 32:00) As with the words of Yeshua quoted earlier, how does the workaday language of Acts 21:24, even allowing for the vagaries of translation, admonish the faithful to pursue a dynamic of belief, perseverance, and works of obedience in their chosen identity as subjects of YeHoVaH? How does the exhortation to “walk orderly” convey both a range of life choices and an indelible sense of responsibility for the believer?
  6. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 37:00) Similarly, how does the lingering controversy over interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-10 also dramatize the reluctance of many believers to adopt a disciplined and informed code of conduct that reflects adherence to the Law, as well as a fervent practice of worship? Why is it essentially impossible to construe this well-known passage as a statement of freedom from works in favor of salvation through belief or identification?
  7. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 40:00) How has the word of YeHoVaH been misunderstood and even summarily dismissed owing to many years of emphasis upon Paul as his representative by much of the evangelical community? How do both the parsing and the outright rejection of his epistles through personal interpretation reflect an unwillingness to recognize the complexity of his historical context in the progress of the divine plan?
  8. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 43:00) How does a recognition of Paul’s identity as a student of the Law, who was taught by the eminent but overlooked figure of Gamaliel, serve to enlighten today’s believers over the nature of his “persecution” of Yeshua’s followers? How does this legal dimension underscore our contemporary fear of erosion of civil liberties through weaponized agencies like the FBI or the IRS within our ostensibly free society?
  9. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 48:00) How does the conclusion of James regarding the Gentiles in Acts 15:19-21 create a precedent for today’s faithful who must recognize this as an incipient opportunity to learn the Law as a vital prerequisite for salvation? How does this in turn obligate all latter-day followers of YeHoVaH to become diligent “students of the law” in their study of scripture and their witness to unfolding divine revelation within their own lifetimes?
  10. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 52:00) Similarly, how might the inherent confusion of meaning owing to English translation in Paul’s reference to “ordinances” (Colossians 2:14-15) potentially mislead believers into a careless dismissal of all strictures of the Law? How does a failure to discern the distinction between sacred and secular law serve to deprive the scripture student of the equally important distinction between the contexts of the first century and the present day?

Gods Law and The New Covenant – Episode 2

The God That Does Not Change

This week (Nov 18) on Shabbat Night Live, we say we love God, but what does that mean? Is loving God something different than we assume? Are there certain requirements of us when it comes to loving God and loving people?

Steve Siefken shares the biblical definition of love and how we are to show it.

Watch the episode — included on this blog post.

While you watch, consider the questions below. The timeline for each discussion topic in the video is noted on each question. Post your answers in the comments section, and let’s get some discussion going!

  1. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 16:00) How do the near-forgotten words of Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change,” offer a perspective on the dynamic between the so-called Old and New Covenants? How can Yeshua’s later words be seen as explications and definitions of the Law for the listeners of his time and place rather than a rejection in the manner of evangelism that focuses solely on the text of the New Testament?
  2. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 20:00) How have interpretations of scriptural references to “love” in many evangelical circles served to limit and even distort its extensive meaning as intended by YeHoVaH? How does Paul’s renowned statement in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that love is the most transcendent virtue suggest a legal dimension, one that compels the faithful to consider a range of thought and intention in our interactions to illustrate this affirmation?
  3. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 24:00) Similarly, what is problematic about the recurrent evangelical practice of presuming salvation based on mere acknowledgment of Yeshua as Messiah or belief in YeHoVaH through selected verses from the New Testament?  How does this notion of “easy grace” allow for accommodation of questionable interpretation or even sinful behavior through abandonment of obedience to the Law?  
  4. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 28:00) How can the exhortations in James 4 be viewed as a foreshadowing of Paul’s distinction about the curse of the law for the disobedient? How do those presumptive Christians who rationalize sinful behavior by dismissing the Law demonstrate the notion that “friendship with the world is enmity with God”?  Further, how might this mysterious apostle become rediscovered by many believers for his advocacy of faith life as a covenant rather than a mere mindset?
  5. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 32:00) What are some tenable examples from our contemporary world that demonstrate this aspect of the Law as penalty? How does the extraordinary material prosperity of many otherwise agnostic individuals arguably demonstrate only an unwitting adherence to the Law that is further undercut by familiar expressions of contempt such as anti-religious advocacy and public displays of anti-Semitism?
  6. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 36:00) Why has the element of blood sacrifice in the crucifixion of Yeshua been ignored or even downplayed by many otherwise devout evangelical Christians? How has the continuity between this crucial juncture and its predecessor, the burnt offering, been all but lost through a general preoccupation with the prolonged torment and execution of the Messiah?
  7. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 40:00) How does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution pose a challenge to all citizens of the nation that is virtually identical to the free will offered by YeHoVaH to his followers? How does our freedom to worship, speak, and publish convey both the opportunity for spiritual and cultural growth and the potential for corruption and ruin, all of it dependent upon our own maintenance of conscience?
  8. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 44:00) How has the disobedience of YeHoVaH’s followers in the so-called Old Testament been echoed within the last century by the reflex of atheism, whether institutionalized within Communism or popularized in the decadent materialism of Western capitalism? Why is the profession of belief itself viewed today as an act of rebellion or disobedience against an ill-defined standard or unwritten law?
  9. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 48:00) How has Paul’s proclamation that the gospel was preached in the Old Testament through Abraham (Galatians 3:8) been overlooked by many believers in their focus upon ancient prophecies of the life and ministry of Yeshua? Why is it essential for today’s faithful to recognize the continuity between the covenants that began with this venerable figure and extended through the Messiah, beyond recognition of his identity as patriarch of the Hebrews?
  10. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 52:00) Similarly, why have many believers glossed over the profound meaning of Abraham’s exchange with YeHoVaH in Genesis 15? How does the surreal imagery of this cryptic episode, particularly its detail of the burning lamp passing between the sacrificed animal parts and the “great horror and darkness” that fell upon the patriarch, demonstrate the covenantal nature of YeHoVaH’s categorical statement of his progeny and its enduring relevance for today’s seeker of salvation?

Gods Law and The New Covenant – Episode 1

What Is The Law?

This week (Nov 11) on Shabbat Night Live, the Torah is often referred to as a legalistic burden — but the truth is that it is a legal document that defines our freedom.

Steve Siefken presents the first in a four-episode series that examines the Torah as a national constitution with legal rights, responsibilities, consequences, and means of escape.

Watch the episode — included in this blog post.

While you watch, consider the questions below. The timeline for each discussion topic in the video is noted on each question. Post your answers in the comments section, and let’s get some discussion going!

  1. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 16:00) How does the notion of the Torah as a legal system that is applicable to nations and peoples serve to dramatize the inherent lack of precedent in man-made systems like Marxism-Leninism? How does our own separation of church and state suggest the constant negotiation between Judeo-Christian law and secular issues that must be part of bipartisan government?
  2. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 20:00) How does the comprehensive nature of the Ten Commandments – particularly their resonance with the later proclamation of love for God and neighbor by Yeshua – underscore our collective failure to recognize the intrinsic evil in permissiveness? How has the evangelical trend of overemphasis on selected verses from the gospels and Paul’s epistles led to neglect of ancient divine strictures that keep us from sin?
  3. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 24:00) Similarly, how does an overlooked verse like Proverbs 18:13 serve to admonish those who have a simplistic or sophomoric approach to a serious matter like salvation? How might this passage be revived in popularity and importance as a mandate for enduring self-education by students of scripture, who recognize the ethos of precedence in any engagement with YeHoVaH?  
  4. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 28:00) How has a pervasive ignorance of this notion of the Law as a divinely-sanctioned precedent also resulted in a loss of definition for “spirit”? How have conflicting interpretations and nomenclatures regarding this word in both sacred and secular contexts served to render this term almost meaningless without recognition of its essential component of “intention.”
  5. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 32:00) How does our current political situation in the United States, marked by bitter division and controversial leadership, pose a serious dilemma for believers who strive to be conscientious citizens? How does the freedom to vote without coercion indirectly dramatize the need to both familiarize ourselves with particular legal systems and adhere to those we have failed to influence?
  6. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 37:00) Why has the Law, as articulated in the Ten Commandments, been viewed by many believers as proscriptive rather than prescriptive? How has the phrase “thou shalt not” become a reductive cliché that has encouraged a perception of YeHoVaH as a punitive disciplinarian rather than a loving creator who seeks to convey a comprehensive standard of conduct for those who seek salvation?
  7. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 40:00) Similarly, how has the concept of “witness” become separated from its original context of legality when invoked in discussions of spirituality? How is the common evangelical practice of self-revelation often based upon a subjective testimony of experience rather than an informed sense of justification through obedience to scriptural precedent or verifiable evidence?
  8. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 44:00) How does Paul’s distinction in Galatians 3:13 regarding the curse of the law recall not only the sacrificial nature of Yeshua’s execution but also the complexity of faith as a practice by all conscientious believers? How does the dynamic between adherence to the law and intention in this chapter serve as a caution against the presumption of easy salvation through mere belief without obedience?
  9. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 48:00) How has our collective ignorance of biblical precedent and terminology in legal matters led to a pervasive cynicism regarding the practice of law? Aside from the caricature of the mercenary “bloodsucking lawyer,” how have many citizens lost sight of the inherent Judeo-Christian ethos behind such a fundamental precept as presumption of innocence in matters of defamation, whether in private or public spheres?
  10. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 52:00) Similarly, how has the problem of unskillfulness in communication within a presumably literate society resulted in negligence regarding the interpretation of legal language? How does the failure to acknowledge definitions and recognize ranges of meaning serve to encourage our human tendency to create new laws or discredit extant laws, which is categorically prohibited by scripture?

Connecting the Dots of the Exodus – Episode 4

The Gospel of the Exodus

This week (Nov 4) on Shabbat Night Live we ask: What do the Hebrew Gospels have to do with the Exodus? Everything. In fact, if there was no Exodus, there is no evidence for the Bible at all — including any evidence for Yeshua!

Dr. Miles Jones explains why it is so critical to have a Hebrew foundation for the Bible, and what happens to our faith if we don’t!

Watch the episode — included on this blog post.

While you watch, consider the questions below. The timeline for each discussion topic in the video is noted on each question. Post your answers in the comments section and let’s get some discussion going!

  1. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 15:00) As has been suggested in earlier forums, the Exodus is commonly viewed as the definitive narrative of the Hebrews, one whose arc details and justifies their identity and significance within world history. How might continued exploration of this event serve to shift their story from the margins of Western culture to the central stature of the epics of Homer, Virgil, or Milton?
  2. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 18:00) How do the words of Yeshua in Matthew 7:21-23 continue to resonate within the discourse of our contemporary, media-saturated civilization, just as in the more direct and interpersonal mode of his own time? How does his final reference here to “lawlessness” invoke not only adherence to the Torah but also indirectly chastise those who would engage in false or disingenuous rhetoric in the search for salvation?
  3. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 22:00) What has been the legacy of the 1960’s-era vogue for simplified Bible translations that sought to make evangelical Christianity more palatable and “relevant” for contemporary readers? How might the pervasive ignorance among many believers of Hebraic idioms and their connection to matters of doctrine and ritual be traced to this well-intentioned but problematic trend?
  4. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 28:00) Similarly, how might the loss of the deliberately punning language in Matthew 1:21 in latter-day English translations be received with skepticism rather than belief by the otherwise discerning student of scripture? How does the parallel between “Yeshua” and “yoshia” create a resonant and meta-dramatic level of address that enhances its prophetic context and illustrates the unity of purpose in YeHoVaH’s divine plan?
  5. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 32:00) How does the ongoing paleographic and linguistic exploration of scripture ironically demonstrate the limitations of written language which our Western world has come to prioritize as more legitimate than the spoken word? How has our loss of the nuance of face-to-face communication and the fragility of material texts combined to dramatize our dependence as believers on the rarified level of prayer for our endeavors to ascertain divine truth?
  6. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 36:00) Similarly, how does scholarly controversy over the legitimacy of the “prologue” to Luke underscore the very sentiments which he expresses in these four verses regarding preservation of truth through accuracy and evidence? How can his eventual “Homeric” reputation as the amanuensis of Paul’s evangelical travels be viewed as an ironic blessing whose textual detail we continue to parse with the accompanying guidance of prayer?
  7. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 40:00) However frustrating for a contemporary reader who seeks a straightforward and comprehensive narrative of Yeshua’s life and ministry, the four disparate gospels can be said to offer a range of perspectives on the Messiah’s persona and impact upon his listeners and chroniclers. How can the approaches of Matthew, Mark, and John be said to have suffered neglect in light of the popularity among many evangelicals of Luke’s account?
  8. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 44:00) How has Matthew 27:51 become a problematic text for both believers and skeptics in an age of increasingly advanced scientific methodology? Has its scenario been sensationalized by filmmakers and other dramatists?  What is the likelihood of evidence of its literal truth being provided by those same learned communities who have offered naturalistic support for other miraculous accounts in scripture?
  9. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 48:00) Similarly, how has the significance of this passage suffered from the absence of a specific reference to the entry of the Temple in the familiar KJV translation? How does the description of the torn veil ironically serve to weaken this divine accentuation of the crucifixion for those students of scripture who are unfamiliar with the doctrinal and ritualistic ethos of this location?
  10. (VIDEO TIMELINE: 53:00) Can a tenable argument be made for a providential rediscovery of James and Jude as exemplary figures within our own age, aided ironically by the efforts of historians who have sought to dismiss them as apocryphal characters or amalgams of lesser individuals? How do the concise texts of the so-called “brother of Jesus” and the representative of “hopeless cases” speak with increasing relevance to today’s faithful in their advocacy of obedience to the Law and castigation of false teaching, respectively?