And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same (Abraham, vs 2)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Worship & Synagogues: Alma 32

I've touched partilaly on this subject once before. One of the chapters that I often reflect on is Alma 32. It gives a clear definition to what it means to "worship".

2 And Alma said unto them: Behold, ye have said that ye could not worship your God because ye are cast out of your synagogues. But behold, I say unto you, if ye suppose that ye cannot worship God, ye do greatly err, and ye ought to search the scriptures; if ye suppose that they have taught you this, ye do not understand them.
3 Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?
Here Alma tells us Worship is prayer. But it is more than this. The coming chapter is about a group of believers being cast out of their own synagagues who used many of their own resources to build them to worship God. Than because of their course apparel are cast out. It states, "because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty" (vs 5). The priests wear "fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing" (1 Nephi 13:7-8). The poor are continuously down trodden and cast out. The Lord tells us the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto "great banquet" or a feast and in the end He will "bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame" because the others would not come when invited. (See Luck 14:15-24).

When Alma and Amulek went among the people they were disgusted with what they saw. When the poor asked them "What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God." (vs 9). Alma responded:
I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week? I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. (vs 10-11)
To worship God you do not need a Synagague.

What it means to Worship:
Not only does "worship" mean prayer but it also means "to labor".To worship (Abad) is to serve, or to labor. The word Abad in Hebrew means both "work" and "worship." And this is why the Lord hates idols. People "work" to make them and therefore the work of their hands is what they worship. People "work" to build babylon but it does nothing to bring forth Gods work, NOR does it work to relieve poverty.

So to worship is both "to labor" (and we are to "labor for Zion") and "prayer and give thanks". So when Alma and Amulek teach that men need not only worship in synagogues, they mean there are plenty of other ways to "worship" or "work" or "serve." Alma and Amulek at that time were "worshipping" out in the open. If we are trully worshiping God we do not need a Synagague nor a place to "worship once in a week".

To keep Gods commandments is better translated. "standing at attention waiting for Gods instructions". Because we are listening, we can do the things He asks of us when He does to truly worhsip Him. By heeding His commands, we can become perfect in our right. And the Lord tells us who He is so we know not only WHO we worship but how we are to worship. As it states "I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name" (D&C 93:19). That is because the Life He lived is the path that we are to follow to "worship". And that can not be done anywhere else except by through becoming like Him and doing His will with "laboring", "prayer" and "thanks.

Few Labor For the Many: Babylon Is Insustatinable:
There is a story around Abraham as recited by Avraham Gileadi that states the following:
"Isaiah and Jeremiah single out something about Babylon that corrupts all, including the Lord’s people. Those who engage in it become “Babylon” themselves and in the end perish with it. This involves the manufacturing, promoting, and selling of idols—the works of men’s hands. 
A story I heard in rabbinic school relates how Abraham’s father, Terah, in the land of Ur of the Babylonians, at times put young Abraham in charge of his store. When Terah, who made and sold idols, went into the forest to fetch wood for their manufacture, Abraham was to sell the idols in his father’s place. Typically Abraham would dissuade buyers, reproving the adults for esteeming statues as gods. One day, fed up with his duty, Abraham smashed all his father’s wares except a large idol that stood on a top shelf. When Terah returned from the forest, he flew into a rage, demanding an explanation. Abraham responded, “The big one did it!” implying that these were no gods at all, or they could have saved themselves. After that, Abraham became unpopular in Ur and the people sought his life. A sequel to this story appears in the book of Abraham, which commences with, “I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence” (Abraham 1:1). 
As Hugh Nibley has often pointed out, the essence of this sort of idol worship is not that people really believed the idols to be gods, but that their manufacture, promotion, and sale provided them with a living. It formed a socioeconomic system that afforded urban dwellers a means of sustenance. One problem with this system lay in its false economic base and the instability it bred—it fed on itself. Economic factors determined social behavior—the law of supply. Manufacturing the works of men’s hands yielded income but constituted idolatry, because what so many people worked at, oriented their lives around, was ultimately nonproductive. The work of idols did not sustain itself, but demanded to be sustained. It enslaved to a false idea not merely those directly involved with it, but also those who produced foodstuffs and raw materials. The latter labored additionally to provide for all the rest.
We can thus liken Babylon’s socioeconomic structure to an upside-down pyramid, which, as it grows, ever narrows at its base. In it, the many depend on the few for their support. Babylon’s mass of people, engaged in producing and selling idols, remain out of touch with their life source, rendering them vulnerable to catastrophe. The greatest height to which Babylon attains thus also forms her lowest point of stability. For when, through some unforeseen (divine) intervention, a single stone jars loose from the base, the entire structure collapses." (here)

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