When the LDS Church announced in late June and in July a special effort to encourage the general church membership to focus better on Sabbath Day worship, the phrase “The Year of the Sabbath” came to my mind…and something tugged at me to figure out, “Why?”
I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the Shemitah and its significance to the Sabbath Year as well. There’s a lot of doom and gloom related to it and its symbolism…particularly as it relates to the stock market crashes of September 2001 and 2008, both “Sabbath” years as well. Much of the buzz revolving around the Shemitah are warnings to those who have forgotten God and have become defiant towards Him…generally, the American People.
In studying the comments, criticisms, and commentaries made regarding the Year of the Sabbath, I hear three kinds of questions raised:
People are asking “What’s the Big Deal? Does it really matter?” This is a large group. They’re usually the loudest at sneering, yelling cries of “You’re just paranoid”, “You’re superstitious”, and the like.
The Bible has already described that the people and culture of our time, during the last days, will be one that doesn’t really care. Apathy and Antipathy against spiritual, Godly things will be the norm of our day…and their intensity, frequency, and allure will increase. It is expected that people will not care about such things and will go on enjoying, vacationing, and playing as if such things never really mattered…and they’ll want you to join them and cajole and mock you if you don’t. However, they will be the most surprised, disturbed, and afraid when they are blindsided, when they should have been more diligent and vigilant….but they cared not.
Matthew 24:37-39 (KJV) says:
37 as the days of Noe (Noah) were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe (Noah) entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
But “Who Cares?” isn’t the real question. Never was. Never will be.
A Focus on the Warnings and Repercussions of Disobedience
People are asking “How do we avoid the punishments of God from falling upon us because we’ve been disobedient and removed God from our midst?” This group is the one that sees that we’re on the path to destruction, that the “sword of justice” hangs above this people…because we’ve forgotten God. A lot of the talk of the Shemitah talks about the losses…which are a result of our disobedience and our veering away from God:
- A loss of employment, productivity, and the takeover of the poor-ness (a “famine” of work and produce)
- A release of financial powers (loss of money, profit)…also known as a financial crash.
- An increase in trials, challenges…a loss of peace and prosperity.
Personally, I can see that these people have valid concerns regarding the judgements relating to the Shemitah…especially when it concerns nations that have made God their anchor at some time. I see the Judgements that fall upon such nations as warranted…and just. The Year of the Sabbath is a blessing to the righteous while simultaneously being a curse, punishment, and a harsh reminder to those who have chosen to live another way.
But “How do I avoid punishment” isn’t the real question either. We can’t just be “running away” from the punishments or “judgments of God” as some call it. We can’t just “do good” or “be righteous” for the sake of avoiding punishment.
A Focus on the Blessings and how to Qualify for them
This is what the leaders of the LDS Church has put out and are asking the membership “How do we worship better on the Sabbath day”:
- By resting from the World’s labors and try to do no worldly work nor pleasures but do the Lord’s work instead
- Be releasing “debts” with others: extending forgiveness, showing mercy, restoring peace in relationships, visiting and comforting those who need it.
- By refocusing on God
The sad part about this announcement is…that it needed to be announced to begin with. It means that the general membership of the Church needed to improve not only their practices of Sabbath Day worship, but also improve their understanding of the Sabbath Day and what Worship really means. It meant that LDS people were not doing as they ought to…on a general scale. I’m sure there are those who understood and worshipped…you know, they got it. But for the most part, they were either too comfortable, too lazy, too strict, too narrow minded, too shallow, too superficial, or their heart wasn’t really in it to begin with.
But “what can I do better on the Sabbath” isn’t really the real question either. It’s not about the practices or the actions of the Sabbath that we’re after, although, sometimes, the practices and actions can get us thinking about the real reasons. Still, there’s something more.
The Real Question behind “The Year of the Sabbath”
It’s a question of Worship, really: Who (or what) do I place above all else?
As a nation, as a people, or even as individuals…who would we have as our God? And whose people would we be?
Would I have Government be my God? My “savior” during hard times. My source of living and livelihood. My defense against my enemies. Where I can obtain my life, my resources, my instructions, my order, safety, and protection…even my “freedom”…for a fee: my life, my loyalty, my earnings, and my soul? And I will be the Government’s willing minion?
Would I have Technology be my God? All knowing. All seeing. All powerful. All doing. Creates (virtual) worlds without number. Turns you into an instant god that can create, excite, empower, embolden, …and be enriched….all with the ease and touch of a button. And I will be a Tech follower?
Would Entertainment and Distraction be my God? For isn’t God a god of pleasure…er, Happiness? Isn’t God a god of peace, of ease and comfort, of no troubles, no pain, all vacations and no work or worries? And I will be part of the masses who doesn’t give a dingleberry’s worth of attention to all that sabbath-shmita-hoopla?
Would I rather do my own thing, be my own way, defy any sense of moral goodness that comes from Him and make my own goodness instead…to be regarded as good in my own eyes…with my own strength. Where I, in a sense, become my own God?
Would we have God be our God…and do we want to be His people?
Will we place God above all else?
Will He be our Cloud and Shadow by day and our Pillar of Fire by night?
Would we trust Him and use our gifts, talents, and skills to work with Him…rather than depend on our intellect and strength and means alone?
In all our prioritizing, would we make room for Him?
Do we put Him at the top of our “priority list”?
Is He the Author and Finisher of our Day: Would we start our day with Him…kneeling, praying? Would we end our day with Him…again, kneeling, praying? Would we include Him as we go through our day?
Do we have a place for Him in our desires…you know, in the things we want to do, in the way we want to be?
Do we strive to make our thoughts like His thoughts and our ways like His ways?
Do we wish to Come to Him at all?
Do we want to be where He is?
True Worship is not be an act of compliance, because Compliance is Compulsion. Rather, Worship is who or what we place as “The Most Important” in our heart (desires/passion/might), our thoughts (mind), and our actions (strength).
The Year of the Sabbath is not merely a warning to those who have dethroned God and replaced Him with someone or something else.
The Year of the Sabbath is really an invitation for each one of us to willingly re-throne God into our lives, and then for us to willingly become His people.
Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.