Recently a Church leader (an Area Seventy) came to the Shanghai International District to provide some training and talked about the important decision recently made by Church leaders to give renewed emphasis to the Sabbath day. See “Church Leaders Call for Better Observance of Sabbath Day” at MormonNewsroom.com.
There is great wisdom in this. I feel that when members understand and love the Sabbath day, they will have habits and attitudes that will help them keep growing in the Gospel and continue nurturing their relationship with the Lord even when it might be easy to drift away.
As we work to teach more about the Sabbath day, I expect we will also have some intriguing discussions about the connection between the Sabbath and the temple. The temple, after all, is the place of God’s rest, and the place where we prepare to enter into the rest of the Lord. It is expressly called a “house of rest” in 1 Chronicles 28:2, and the symbolism of its construction in the Old Testament is rich with Sabbath themes. For example, it took Solomon seven years to complete it (1 Kings 6:38), following the Jewish agricultural law in Lev. 25:1-7 that included a cycle of six years of work and one of rest, with the seventh year called “a sabbath of rest” (v. 4). Solomon dedicated the temple during the festival of tabernacles, a seven-day feast in the seventh month (Deut. 16:13 and I Kings 8:2). Jewish scholar Jon Levenson (currently at Harvard) points out additional connections to the theme of rest linking Solomon’s temple and the Sabbath:
His speech on that occasion [the festival of tabernacles] includes a carefully constructed list of seven specific petitions (1 Kings 8:31–53) [for details, see Jon Levenson, “The Paranomasia of Solomon’s Seventh Petition,” Hebrew Annual Review 6 (1982) 131-35, as cited by Levenson]. In short, both the appurtenances of the Temple and the account of its construction reflect the character of the acts of creation narrated in Gen 1:1–2:4a.
Since the creation of the world and the construction of the Temple are parallel, if not identical, then the experience of the completed universe and that of the completed sanctuary should also be parallel. In fact, the two entities share an interest in rest as the consummation of the processes that produced them. In the case of creation, God “rested” on the seventh day, the primordial Sabbath, after he had completed his labors (wayyanah, Exod 20:11), and he commands his servants to rest in imitatione Dei in similar language [e.g., Exod. 23:12 and Deut. 5:14,each with yanuah]. The same root (nwh) describes his experience in the Temple as well:
13 For YHWH has chosen Zion,
He has desired it for his seat:
14 “This is my resting place (menuhati) forever;
Here I shall be enthroned, for I desire it.” (Ps 132:13–14)
The book of Chronicles goes so far as even to say that Solomon, and not David, would build the Temple because the former is a “man of rest” (menûhâ) and of peace (šalôm) , as his name (šelomoh) would imply (I Chr 22:9).
[Jon Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985), p. 144.]
Levenson then summarizes the relationship:
The Sabbatical experience and the Temple experience are one. The first represents sanctity in time, the second, sanctity in space, and yet they are somehow the same. The Sabbath is to time and to the work of creation what the Temple is to space and to the painful history of Israel which its completion brings to an end, as God has at last given Solomon “rest from all his enemies round about” (1 Chr 22:9). “The seventh day is,” in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s splendid phrase, “like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.”
[Levenson, p. 145]
The temple is a house and a sacred mountain, a sacred space, for entering into the presence of God as Moses did on Sinai and for making sacred covenants to advance us in that cause. The Sabbath is a sacred time for drawing closer to the Lord and for remembering and renewing covenants.
Of particular importance on the Sabbath is partaking of the sacrament, where we witness that we are willing to take the name of the Lord upon us. There is great significance in this act, and part of the significance points to the blessings of the temple, where we most fully take on the name of the Lord. This point was beautifully explained by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his April 1985 Conference talk, “Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ.” One of many great resources to discuss and contemplate as we strengthen our approach to the Sabbath day.
I would welcome your thoughts on the meaning of the connections between the Sabbath and temple, along with suggestions on how we can better help members appreciate the beauty of the Sabbath day.