Friday, January 31, 2014

My Church's Bible Study on "Faith, the Future, and Jesus" (the Lesson We Were On)

My church had its Bible study last night.  We’re going through The Unbreakable Covenant: God’s Covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, with Michael Rydelnik. We did Session 4, which is entitled “Faith, the Future, and Jesus.”

On the DVD, Michael Rydelnik argued that the Torah itself was about faith, not just works, citing (among other things) God’s rebuke of Moses for not having faith when Moses struck the rock rather than obeying God and speaking to it (Numbers 20:1-13).  Rydelnik also contended that the Torah does not just point to the past, but also to the future itself, for there are places in the Torah that speak of the last days.

Moreover, like the Book of Acts, Rydelnik interprets the prophet like Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 to be Jesus Christ.  Rydelnik said that other prophets spoke God’s words, as was said about the prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15-19, and Rydelnik there may have been addressing (albeit not explicitly) the scholarly argument that Deuteronomy 18:15-19 concerns the prophetic office, not a specific future prophet.  But Rydelnik ultimately thinks that Deuteronomy 18:15-19 is about a specific future prophet like Moses, namely, Jesus Christ.  Rydelnik referred to Deuteronomy 34:10-12, which states that a prophet has not arisen like Moses, and Rydelnik mentioned the scholarly argument that this passage was put into Deuteronomy long after the time of Moses.  Rydelnik also cited Numbers 12:6-8, which distinguishes Moses from other prophets, saying that other prophets have visions, whereas God spoke with Moses face to face.  The other prophets were not like Moses, Rydelnik was arguing, whereas Jesus Christ was, for God spoke with Jesus face-to-face.  The prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18:15-19, therefore, is Jesus, according to Rydelnik.

In terms of the group’s discussion, there was some question about whether or not all prophets except for Moses received their revelations through dreams or visions.  Abraham had a vision in Genesis 15, but did everyone who heard from God hear through a dream or a vision?  The text doesn’t always say!  I think there is good reason to believe that Deuteronomy 18:15-19 is talking about the prophetic office in general, for the prophetic office would meet Israel’s desire for an intermediary that is mentioned in that passage, plus other prophets in the Hebrew Bible appear to be modeled on Moses, on some level: Moses parted the Sea of Reeds, and Elijah in II Kings 2 parted the waters.

The group was somewhat struggling to understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  People were agreeing with Michael Rydelnik that the Torah was pro-faith, yet they were also saying that the Torah was based on works and law, whereas the New Covenant was based on faith.  I can understand their point of view, since there are times that Paul seems to make such a distinction between the covenants.  There were faith, grace, and works under the Old Covenant, so how was it different from the New Covenant?  Well, Rydelnik referred to Deuteronomy 30:6′s circumcision of the heart so that Israel would love God, God under the new covenant writing God’s law on Israel’s heart in Jeremiah 31, and the new heart in Ezekiel.  Perhaps that’s the difference: God in the New Covenant internalizes God’s law in people’s heart, whereas God did not do that to the same extent (if at all) under the Old Covenant.

Other than that, we talked about such hot-button topics as climate change, homosexuality, whether the Hebrew Bible truly prefigured the New Testament, and the list goes on.  I was pretty heated, sad to say, but the discussion near the end amounted to us listening to each other with respect, even if we disagreed.  I felt a need to be honest about my thoughts on issues.  People were giving authentic testimonies, and I did not feel that I could give a canned testimony.  Yes, there was a time way-back-when when I felt a conviction of sin and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  But I never felt authentic sharing that with people.  I feel more authentic when I share honestly where I am now religiously, with my doubts and struggles.  I don’t want to be disruptive about it, though.

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