The Sabbath Day and the Temple

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.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

108 thoughts on “The Sabbath Day and the Temple

  1. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal 2:16

  2. If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

    If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10

    A common mistake that is made with regard to the apparent conflict between grace and works is that they are usually oversimplified. In mathematical terms, consider grace and works to be orthogonal axes of a two-dimensional space. Collapsing one axis into the other makes either grace or works meaningless, depending on which axis has been collapsed; both resulting one-dimensional systems are obviously incorrect. With respect to salvation, Christ paid the price of our sins, and that is grace. We cannot in any way pay for even the least of our sins, hence the true statement that we are saved by grace and not by works. The other part of the equation, and the sourced of the apparent contradiction, is that Christ is now in a position to require something of us — we are indebted to him. What he asks of us is that we obey the commandments which he has given us (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount). If we do not, he will withhold his grace from us. Grace is free in the sense that we cannot earn it or buy it. But we do need to qualify for it by obeying Christ's commandments.

    An analogy I like is the scholarship analogy. Christ, by his Atonement, gives each of us a full-ride scholarship to the University of Life. Some are content to frame the scholarship and hang it on the wall. Others realize the scholarship will mean nothing if they do not attend classes, do the homework, and perform well in exams. Studying, of course, does nothing to pay for room and board, buildings or professors. That comes to one courtesy of the scholarship. So, because of the ambiguity in our language, we can say that the scholarship pays for one's education, and yet at the same time speak of one who has "earned" a degree. But it, too, is a two-dimensional proposition in spite of the semantic problems we have in the language we use to describe it.

  3. The quote miners and cherry pickers………always use Paul's teachings……and ignore the rest of the Bible.
    An evangelical leader even said Paul trumps Jesus! I believe it.
    And I have read evangelicals saying the Old Testament is not important.

  4. Anon1005
    If you need to call entire books of the Bible "cherry picking" so be it.
    But Hey, If you want to live by the law, then I suggest you keep all of it!
    "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Gal3:10

    Thankfully Jesus fulfilled the law through His sacrifice and I'm no longer bound to it.

    "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL THE LAW and the prophets. MATT22

  5. If I may interrupt the theological disputation long enough to make a suggestion of the sort I think Jeff was calling for in his post…. For a new perspective on the Sabbath– or rather, a very old one — you might consider attending a Saturday morning Shabbat service at a Jewish temple or synagogue. If you're in a decent-sized city you should easily be able to google up such a service; find out when it starts and just drop in.

    I'd recommend a Conservative synagogue rather than Orthodox (might be mostly in Hebrew or Yiddish and hard to follow along) or Reform (might be pretty bland). The Conservative Shabbat service is accessible but still pretty traditional, still centered on the ritual removal of the Torah scroll from the Ark followed by the Torah reading from the bimah.

    Practical considerations: Dress a little nicer than casual but not too fancy. Arrive a little early and you'll likely see a lot of heartfelt greetings and reunions going on, and probably get some welcomes as well. If asked about your presence, just say you're curious. No one will try to convert you. There will be kippahs or yarmulkes (skullcaps) there for men and boys to put on, as is customary (and in some synagogues required) when entering the sanctuary. Usually there's a reception right after the service, featuring a blessing of wine (and grape juice for those who abstain) and challa (braided bread, usually delicious).

    Even better, IMO, is the Friday evening service that ushers in the Sabbath with the candle-lighting ritual and prayer that were immortalized in Fiddler on the Roof. This takes place in the home, though, not the synagogue, so you'll need an invitation.

  6. The problem is, Orbiting, most LDS would say the OT Jewish Sabbath was fulfilled through Christ based on the NT passages, but in the same breath tell you to observe an LDS version of the Sabbath based on OT passages which Jeff has just done. They want it both ways

  7. Well, sure, FF. But there's still plenty to be learned by observing different approaches to the Sabbath. Not on the theological level, perhaps — simply observing a service cannot prove any given theology to be the "true" one — but certainly on the level of ritual, tradition, and the like, which for many people are more important than theology anyway.

  8. Grace and works….wonderful!

    Three options. Pick one:

    1. Work to earn salvation.
    2. Work because you are grateful to have received salvation.
    3. Work to access the grace (which can't be earned) that brings salvation.

    In the first case, I work as an employee works. My work earns my wages. Paul addresses this and says it can't be done.

    Second option. This is the Protestant view. My work can't save me. In fact, my work isn't even any good until I have been saved. And then, it is God working in me that produces the works.

    The third option is Mormonism. Grace saves me. Not works. But the works lead me into that grace that saves. But my question would then be this: in what way can it be said that I am working? I am not earning salvation. So my work doesn't merit salvation. But if I don't work I won't be saved. This is the way a slave works. The slave is fed by the master. But the slave's work isn't earning the food. And if the works stop, the slave is cast out and won't be fed.

    Mormons receive salvation in the way that a slave gets to eat. They don't earn it, but they don't get it without the works. And thus, like a slave, they live a life of fear.

  9. The "rest of the Lord" is not something we enjoy in the future post-mortal existence. It is something we can experience and live in now. But only if we know we are redeemed through the blood of Christ. But Mormons do not have this knowledge. They hope to enter into the rest after they have worked hard enough.

    Paul talks about the "rest of the Lord" and likens it to the rest the Lord enjoyed on the seventh day AFTER his works were ceased. We enjoy this same rest NOW if we cease trying to work our way to Heaven, just as God rested from his works.

  10. There you go again, telling us what we believe and how we feel. You should change your moniker to "Speaker for the Mormons."

    Steve

  11. Well, Steve, I was a Mormon for close to 40 years. I was never taught that I could enter into the rest of the Lord in this lifetime. Feel free to refute anything I say.

    And if you contend with my statements about Mormon grace, I'll just say that I know, having been a Mormon, that grace is defined differently than it is defined in the Protestant world, so you can't just say, "I believe in salvation by grace" as a Mormon and leave it at that and assume there will not be any confusion. If you do, you haven't been forthcoming!

    It would be like going to England and asking for pudding knowing full well that English pudding is not the smooth, chilled custard-like desserts we find in the U.S. And then, when they bring you a baked bread dish, you get bent out of shape.

  12. Well, I can speak for myself in that I don't keep the commandments out of fear. I enjoy doing good works because of the feeling that I get when I do. Other commandments I keep probably because my pre-frontal cortex kicks in and reminds me of real consequences that will happen if I don't keep them. I like to live a trouble free life (avoiding those nasty consequences of wrong choices) because then my energies can be better used to helping my family and my community instead of using my energies making right what I did wrong.

    Christ's grace is sufficient for me, I love him so I keep his commandments.

    Sounds like you spent 40 years doing the wrong thing.

    Steve

  13. Steve,

    Well, shucks. I wish someone would've told me I was doing the wrong thing. I attended every meeting I was supposed to attend. I wonder how I missed the memo.

    Christ's grace isn't sufficient for you until you've denied yourself of all ungodliness. Moroni 10:32. Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness? That is the Book of Mormon, the most correct book. Of course, this has been re-interpreted to mean that you only need to try your hardest. Just like in the temple, you only covenant to TRY. And that is why Satan looks you in the eye and says that if you fail to live up to 30% of what you've covenanted to do, you'll be in his power.

    Steve, I think you need to bring your personal doctrine back in line with what the church doctrine really says.

  14. The Protestants here argue that Jesus was a liar; because Jesus said that baptism was a requirement for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. No, it doesn't, say these Protestants. Because that's a work and Jesus ended works… even when He commanded us to perform them.

    But even the most "it's only grace!" Protestant still requires works. After all, even if you are saved by saying the magic phrase "Jesus saves me!" or something similar, you must still recite the magic formula. Those who don't, don't get salvation.

    Ultimately Jesus saves everyone, or else something is required of us to access that salvation. If the former, then who cares about this life? Freedom of will means nothing, and the concept of sin is nonsense. If the latter, then works are vital to salvation; and we just disagree what works are required. Is confessing that Jesus is the Christ necessary for salvation? If so, then it is a work. If not,then it's all pointless.

  15. Anonymous 6:24

    No, reciting the magic formula DOESN'T save you. Actually meaning it and believing it saves you. It is faith that saves, not opening your mouth and saying the right words. There is a big difference. There will be many who will say, "We did this in your name," but they never knew Christ.

    You seem to be taking the approach that belief/faith is a work. We have to DO it to be saved. In the way we use language, you have a point, but this "work" is really a non-work. It is more of a "giving up the fight" altogether. As C. S. Lewis said, it is laying down your arms. Surrendering yourself entirely to God. If you think you can show God you have surrendered by doing the right works, or that God requires this of you for salvation, then you are back under law. You have chosen law again, and therefore, as Flying Fig pointed out by quoting the Bible, you had better live it perfectly, because that is the way law works.

    We are all in a state of condemnation. That is our default setting. We don't choose evil or righteousness. We are not in a state of neutrality. The only option is to choose God. And we choose God by giving up, by surrendering. It is not a work at all.

  16. If you don't believe it, you could always try an experiment. You could go to God and give up the fight, tell him you accept Jesus as your Savior and that you come to him and him alone for mercy and salvation. Of course, part of the experiment would include actually meaning it. And that is the hard part, especially when you have most likely been mocking it most of your life. I know of what I speak. I was a Mormon missionary, and we found those "born again" Mormons who believed in the "grace of sweet Jesus, Hallelujah!" to be quite amusing.

    But try it. And mean it. If you are resistant to trying it, ask yourself why? Why are you resistant to giving up the fight? If you are self-reflective, I think you might learn a lot about yourself.