Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17)

The following quote is taken from

"Kill People For Working on the Sabbath - "The LORD then gave these further instructions to Moses: 'Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever.  It helps you to remember that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.  Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy.  Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community.  Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest.  I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.'"  (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)

            The Sabbath was God's gift to the Israelites, and part of his lasting covenant with them.  It was a reminder to the people that God was in their midst.  Just as he created the earth in six days and then rested (Genesis 2:2-3), the Israelites were commanded to work six days in the week and then rest on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11).  The Sabbath was also instituted to remind them of the Lord saving them from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).
            So why was capital punishment prescribed for breaking the Sabbath?  Since God made the Sabbath a holy day, to break his commandment of resting on the Sabbath was a serious offence.  Working on the Sabbath was considered an act of blatant defiance and rebellion, as grave as an act of high treason.  It was a deliberate denial of God's sovereignty, his leadership and his authority.  Worse than that, it showed utter contempt to the one who saved the Israelites from perpetual slavery in Egypt.  It was considered an act of rebellion and ingratitude.
             Again, it is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  The capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:24-26).