August 3, 2012 by FHElessons
A couple weeks ago I was assigned to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting about the above subject. A couple of novel concepts for me as I researched for this talk:
1. The Sabbath is a “sign” to us to remind us of a covenant with God.
2. In order to prepare properly for the Sabbath, we should prepare ourselves in 3 separate areas: Activities, Appearance, and Attitude.
Here is the talk I prepared and delivered:
The first thing that came to mind when contemplating my assigned topic – preparing for the Sabbath – is the primary song, “Saturday is a special day. It’s the day we get ready for Sunday.” I looked at the lyrics of this song, and here are some of the things it suggests we do on Saturday in order to prepare for Sunday:
Clean the house
Shop at the store
Get the work done
Brush our clothes
Shine our shoes
Trim our nails
Shampoo our hair
Looking at this list, I noticed that it can be broken into 2 categories:
1. Some of the items encourage us to get the work done ahead of time so that we can rest from our labors on Sunday
2. Other items suggest we prepare our bodies to be extra clean and well-groomed
In thinking about this, I would like to suggest a third category. If we need to prepare our bodies for the Sabbath, might we also need to prepare our spiritsin advance? Today I would like to suggest three areas of reverence on which we can focus to help ourselves and our families prepare for the Sabbath. Let us call them the Triple A’s:
Think about those, if you would, as I am speaking & we’ll come back to them.
The law of the Sabbath was one of the first given by the Lord. The very first story we are given in ancient scripture is that of God creating the Heavens and the Earth. We are told that he labored 6 days, and on the 7th day He rested and that because of this, God blessed the 7thday and sanctified it (Gen 2:3)
The Lord then commanded us to do likewise, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates (Ex 20:8-10)
So, to honor the Sabbath, we are told to do no work and also to be sure not to cause others to work as well, this even included the cattle (work animals). In fact, even the earth was given a Sabbath rest: In Leviticus, the Israelites were told, “But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard)” Lev 25:4
God was pretty serious about his commandment. So serious, in fact, that the penalty for breaking it was death. Included in the scriptures is even a story of a man who was caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, and the Lord told Moses to sentence the man to death. He was subsequently stoned by the people.
Today there are few people in the world who would consider the honoring of the Sabbath to be a consequential matter. Yet, in ancient times, the Lord declared it to be so serious that the breaking of it was worthy of death. Why?
Here’s a clue:
Ezekiel tells us: “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a signbetween me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them” (Ez 20:12)
Here’s another clue: After giving Moses the 10 commandments, the Lord declared that Sabbath observance was “ a perpetual covenant…a signbetween me and the children of Israel for ever” (Ex 31:16-17)
In both these scriptural references, we see the word “sign”. What is a sign between God and man?
A sign is something that God gives us to remindus of a covenant between Him and ourselves. For example, the rainbow is a sign to remind us that God has promised never to flood the earth again. Also, circumcision was a sign given to remind the children of Israel that they were Abraham’s descendants and, as such, partakers of the Abrahamic covenant.
So, the Sabbath is also a sign.
The sign of the Sabbath was intended to remind us of the Mosaic covenant, the covenant God made with Moses. In the Mosaic covenant, we promise to obey the 10 commandments, and God promises to make us a holy nation, separated from sin, to make us his special people, enjoying a unique relationship with him, and to allow us the role of doing gospel ordinances for the rest of the world who is without God’s truth.
The sign of the Sabbath reminds us of this covenant every week. Every Sunday, we are reminded that
1. We are God’s people. We are separate from the nations of the world who do not observe the Sabbath.
2. And we are reminded to trust God
You may ask, How does it take trust in God to honor the Sabbath? For one thing, we have to trust Him that we will be able to accomplish in 6 days what the rest of the world can accomplish in 7. We have to trust Him to provide for us.
Ancient Israel first had to practice this trust during the time they receive manna from heaven to sustain them. The manna fell from the skies and was gathered daily for food. If it was not eaten and was kept longer than a day, the manna would become wormy and spoil and could not be eaten. Miraculously, manna that was gathered on the 6th day (the day before the Sabbath) could be kept for 2 days, thus sustaining the people through the Sabbath without requiring them to gather more. Some of the people did not trust the Lord and neglected to gather enough on the 6th day to last them through the Sabbath. Yet on the 7thday, when they went to try to gather manna, they found none.
A modern day example of someone who trusts the Lord to provide for him while still honoring the Sabbath is the owner of the RC Willey company. When the company first opened, it was not an issue for them to be closed on Sunday because most other businesses were closed on Sunday as well, but as society began to demand that businesses be open on Sunday, the family that owned RC Willey made a commitment. They even advertised on television, their slogan: “Never on Sunday.” When interviewed, the owner stated, “It was just one of those commitments we had made and it worked out fairly well.” Deseret News writes, “Saying it “worked out fairly well” is an understatement considering that RC Willey is now the largest furniture retailer west of the Mississippi.” Brother Child (the owner) says, “Personally, closing on Sunday is a spiritual thing for us. We feel that everybody needs a rest, and we think even the business needs a rest. We felt like if we were open, even if we had mangers who wouldn’t work on Sundays, their minds would still be with the store. But if the store’s closed, they can focus on their spiritual things, their family. Things that are really important.”
One more example by Elder John H Groberg:
The small island kingdom of Tonga lies immediately next to the international dateline, so it is the first country in the world to greet the Sabbath day. It is a small country and, in the counting of the world, a poor country. But years ago a wise Tongan king decreed that the Sabbath would be kept holy in Tonga forever.
Modern civilization has come in many ways to Tonga. If one goes to the capital of Nuku’alofa on a weekday, he finds the usual heavy traffic of trucks and cars and the bustle of thousands of shoppers making their regular purchases from well-stocked stores and markets. One sees people line up to view the latest movies and to rent videos. One can watch modern buses whisk tourists off to catch their jet planes, or observe the speed and clarity of a satellite call to the United States. The streets are crowded and business is good. You might wonder, “What is so different about this town from hundreds of others like it throughout the world?”
But when Sunday dawns on the kingdom of Tonga, a transformation takes place. If one goes downtown, he sees deserted streets—no taxis or buses or crowds of people. All the stores, all the markets, all the movie theaters, all the offices are closed. No planes fly, no ships come in or out, no commerce takes place. No games are played. The people go to church. Tonga is remembering to keep the Sabbath day holy.
It is significant that the first country in the world to greet the holy Sabbath keeps the Sabbath holy.
James E Faust tells us: Over a lifetime of observation, it is clear to me that the farmer who observes the Sabbath day seems to get more done on his farm than he would if he worked seven days. The mechanic will be able to turn out more and better products in six days than in seven. The doctor, the lawyer, the dentist, the scientist will accomplish more by trying to rest on the Sabbath than if he tries to utilize every day of the week for his professional work. I would counsel all students, if they can, to arrange their schedules so that they do not study on the Sabbath. If students and other seekers after truth will do this, their minds will be quickened and the infinite Spirit will lead them to the verities they wish to learn. This is because God has hallowed his day and blessed it as a perpetual covenant of faithfulness.
The Sabbath sanctifies us and marks us as a holy people. The reason the ancient penalty for breaking the Sabbath was so severe was that to profane the Sabbath was to profane the Divine Creator, the one who created the heavens and the earth in 6 days, the one who led ancient Israel out of bondage and gave them a promised land, the one who governed them.
Although we no longer risk death if we neglect to properly observe the Sabbath, the sign and the covenant that it represents are no less sacred today than they were anciently. We are still under obligation to abide by the Mosaic covenant and we still receive the blessings God promises to us for adhering to that covenant.
Certainly, as God’s people, and knowing that it is a commandment, we wantto observe the law of the Sabbath. But sometimes we get caught up in a quandary of which activities are specifically prohibited on the Sabbath and which are OK. We debate with each other – is it OK to watch TV on the Sabbath? To play sports? Video games? To go for a walk or a hike?
The Jews of ancient times got caught up in this same debate as well. Because the Sabbath was a law of their nation as well as a law of God, they made rules to try to help people obey the Sabbath correctly (and to avoid stoning). And then they made more rules and more rules. The rules had to be so exact as to define how many steps could be taken on the Sabbath and what could be carried.
When Jesus began his ministry, He tried to correct their thinking through example and teachings. He taught that “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”
What does this mean? How is the Sabbath made for man? What benefit is it to us?
As with all covenants, the proper observance of our part of the covenant comes with a promise. Here are some things promised in the scriptures to those who keep the Sabbath day holy:
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fullness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
And a similar promise in
4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
12 And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
Earl C Tingey tells us: Do we not need today, just as the Israelites did in the Old Testament, to have the land yield her increase and the trees of the field yield their fruit? Do we not also need to have rain in due season and peace in the land and to be able to lie down and not be afraid and to not have the sword or wars go through our land? Do we not also want the Lord to have respect for us and help us be fruitful and multiply and establish His covenant with us? All of these promises apply to us today.
I especially like the last verse of that promise where God says: “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. I also like this promise for honoring the Sabbath from
To have all our afflictions work together for our good is a great promise. We have spoken of how honoring the Sabbath blesses us simply for being obedient to the commandment. Yet all of God’s laws have a benefit in and of themselves. How else does the Sabbath benefit us?
First of all, it provides for our need for physical rest. I have felt in my own life the blessings that come from having a Sabbath day of rest. This rest renews us physically and recharges our energy. It makes us able to accomplish more in the coming week than we could without the rest. It is a chance to “sharpen our saws” so that we can saw better, faster, and more efficiently in the future. Our God, who created us, knows even more than we do the limits of our physical energy and strength and provided a way for it to be recharged and renewed.
Secondly, it regenerates us spiritually. Just as our bodies cannot continue to function without nourishment, so too, our spirits cannot function unless we nourish them. On the Sabbath, let us choose activities that will nourish us spiritually. Here are some examples of activities suggested by Presidents Kimball and Benson for proper Sabbath day worship:
Personal study and meditation
Service to others
Spending time with our families
Increasing our spiritual knowledge through
Reading scriptures, conference reports and other church publications
Studying the lives and teachings of the prophets
Preparing church lessons
Writing in journals
Praying and meditating
Writing to friends and missionaries
Listening to uplifting music
Having family gospel instruction
Holding family councils
Building husband/wife relationships
Developing appreciation for cultural arts
Planning FHE lessons and other family activities
Friendshipping nonmembers and neighbors
Vising sick, aged, and lonely people
Bearing testimony to your family
Napping, resting, and relaxing
Preaching the gospel
Seeking forgiveness for our sins
It is A day to do good
A day to contemplate the glories of the gospel
A Day to climb high on the upward path toward our Heavenly Father
Let us return to our 3 areas of reverence to attend to when preparing for the Sabbath, our triple A’s.
1. We have learned that our activities should be those that allow us to abstain from work, rest physically, and renew ourselves spiritually. In preparing for the Sabbath, we need to do all the work we can ahead of time to allow ourselves this day of rest. We need to plan to attend our meetings and teach our children to expect time together on the Sabbath. We might want to call ahead of time to those we wish to visit with on Sunday and also be sure to have the materials we need for gospel study and church work. Prepare ahead of time to make the schedule run smoothly on Sunday.
2. We also need to prepare ahead of time to make sure our appearanceis that of “Sunday Best.” Let us make an outward sign of our covenant with the Lord concerning the Sabbath by making sure to have Sunday clothes that fit and are clean and ready for the Sabbath. Let us dress our best and have our bodies clean and well groomed, thus showing God that we respect His holy day and wish to sanctify ourselves in honor of it. Let us dress and groom ourselves as we would for the Lord to walk among us, as He has promised to do if we honor the Sabbath.
3. Let us also prepare our attitudes for the Sabbath. Knowing that the Sabbath itself is a sign of our covenant with God to obey His commandments and be His people, let us plan to commemorate Christ’s atonement with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Let us plan on prayerful meditation and spiritual renewal. Let us cherish this Holy Day and the rest is provides for us. Let our attitude be full of gratitude for a day of rest, a day of spiritual rejuvenation, a day to celebrate our covenants with God, and day to have Him walk among us. As Isaiah tells us, let us call the Sabbath a delight and let us indicate the depth of our conversion to the gospel with our honest desires to honor this holy day.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen