CONNECTING WITH GOD
Like the branches of a tree we connect into the life giving tree that is God. His spirit is the life giving, nourishing sap that runs through the branch that is our soul and his presence is the fire that manifests the fruits of the spirit; divine gifts given as fruit from which we and others may partake; even that which is desirable above all other fruits.
Like the Prophet Lehi we stand surrounded by mists of darkness in a lone and dreary world. Realizing our awful situation we call out to God and lo in the distance we behold a tree whose whiteness exceeds the whiteness of anything we have ever seen. It beckons us to approach from afar, but where is the path and how shall we ascend the Holy Mount.
Sometimes the greatest of truths are hidden in plain sight. Like a rod of iron that leads us along a strait and narrow path the word of God leads safely toward our ultimate relationship. But what is the word that he is talking about and how shall we take hold of the rod to make the connection?
When we think of the word of God we are often apt to think of the scriptures in general; ie. the Bible, Book of Mormon, etc. But there is a much more ancient understanding of the Word- a path of connecting with God.
MITZVOT- THE PATH OF CONNECTION
The word Mitzvot is mechanically translated as 'commandments' in our American language, but the Israelites were not Americans and they did not live in our western culture. The word commandment often conjures visions of stringent rules and regulations, laws, police sirens, and a bizillion different requirements no human could possibly live up to-- the thought of which is often overwhelming and discouraging.
To an ancient Israelite, walking in the Mitzot was walking in a state of being connected with God. Instead of seeing God's instructions as cold and legalistic ordinances, they were God's description of having a connected relationship with him and by extension our brothers and sisters. These utterances like an iron rod are filled with purpose and power. They are granted as gifts to the world to lift us up and guide us safely into his society and presence.
REMEMBERING THE SABBATH DAY - BEARING FALSE WITNESS
Have you ever thought about what it takes to connect with God? When God spoke his 10 sayings to Moses on Mount Sinai he was restoring the same path he had given to the Fathers. While time and room do not permit me to go into each utterance that connects us with God, I thought it would be useful to explore the set apart time of the Sabbath Day (The 4th Commandment) and Bearing False Witness (The 9th Commandment). As taught anciently, the word of God was engraved on two tablets of Testimony (Witnessing). Upon these tablets the God of life wrote the words of life that instruct us in our relationship with God and our brothers and sisters.
Five of the sayings were written on the first tablet and five on the second. Why on two tablets? An ancient Israelite teaching explains that this is to show that the sixth commandment is an extension of the first, the seventh mirrors the second, etc. As we are exploring the Sabbath we are then to understand that there is a connection between Remembering the Sabbath Day and Bearing False Witness.
In Israel, Sabbath or Shabbat besides being set apart as a holy day of rest is also known as a Day of Witnessing- as in bearing a witness or testimony before a court. Observing the Sabbath we are bearing witness of the dominion of God and his miracles of creation in creating the world and mankind. Just as God took that which is spiritual and organized it into matter, so do our creative actions through our weekly six days of creation manifest in this world bearing witness of his dominion- with every moment of time, organizing spirit into matter as we co-create with God; matter into spirit and spirit into matter.
THE BOOK OF MORMON- THE SABBATH DAY- BEARING WITNESS
In true Israelite fashion, The Book of Mormon demonstrates and confirms the act of sanctifying the Sabbath and bearing a true witness. As we partake of the sacrament in holy places, we also bear solemn witness:
"And they did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ, saying:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
The manner of administering the wine—Behold, they took the cup, and said:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen."
In partaking of the covenant meal of remembrance, we too set apart the Sabbath and bear True Witness to the God the Eternal Father that we will always remember his Son and keep his commandments. But REMEMBER- remembering to an Israelite doesn't just mean to use our mental recall. It means to represent his works, actions, and fruits to a world so desperately in need of redemption. It makes us ask, "What Witness Am I Bearing?"
All the words which come from God are good and profitable for instruction. Those words engraved upon two stone tables are much more important and sublime than many suspect. Taking hold upon these words we connect to God through his Son and by engraving them into our hearts we establish a living relationship that shall spring up like a Tree of Everlasting Life. Let us make the connection.