A lot of Christians would argue that we must not keep the Sabbath anymore because if we do, we are obligated to stone those who are breaking the Sabbath. Is this true? Find the out the truth today!
In the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, we read stiff penalties for breaking the Sabbath. Among them would be stoning offenders to death.
As a result, most people who don’t want to observe the Sabbath would argue that if we are still supposed to keep the Sabbath, then it follows that we must kill those who break it.
Obviously, we don’t see Sabbath-keepers stoning to death those who would disregard the Fourth Commandment.
For Christians who don’t observe the Sabbath anymore, they would argue that Sabbath-keepers are just cherry-picking the rules and regulations that revolve around the Sabbath. On the other hand, for sincere Sabbath-keepers, this issue has caused confusion and might have already shaken their faith.
So, we want to know. Shouldn’t we be stoning people when they break the Sabbath? Let’s find out.
Putting to death Sabbath-breakers
Perhaps, the clearest verse that talks about the punishment of Sabbath-breakers is in Exodus 31:14-15:
14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
One popular instance when this death penalty was executed is in the case of the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36).
As you can see, God is serious when He gave this command.
Putting to death not just Sabbath-breakers
Now, what few people realize is that in the Bible, the death penalty is not only pronounced to those who break the Sabbath.
We read in Deuteronomy 13:6-10 how idolatry is punished with death:
6 “If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, 7 of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, 8 you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; 9 but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 talks about killing a stubborn and rebellious son:
18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. 20 And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.
Deuteronomy 22:20-25 talks about sexual immorality may warrant the death penalty:
20 “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.
22 “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.
23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.
25 “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.
Stoning a lot of law-breakers
As we have just read, it is not only the Sabbath-keepers who are penalized with death, but also idolaters, rebellious children, and adulterers.
Now, think about this for a second, if we are going to stop keeping the Sabbath solely because keeping it would also require us to stone to death those who break it, then it follows, we should also apply the same reasoning to other sins, which the Bible described to be deserving of death.
However, people who are against the Sabbath will tell you that it is not good for us to be rebellious, to commit adultery, and become idolaters.
So, do you see Christians stoning people for idolatry, adultery, and rebellion? I don’t know about you, but I don’t see anyone doing that. Yet, the same people would tell you that idolatry, adultery, and rebellion are all sins to God.
Obviously, there’s a double-standard here.
So, how should we approach this seemingly difficult scripture? Should we really stone Sabbath-breakers today? Or are to simply ignore the Sabbath altogether?
Here’s the answer:
We need to keep the Sabbath but we don’t stone people for breaking it.
Let me explain further.
The difference between the Old Covenant from the New Covenant
Christians or disciples of Yahshua the Messiah are now under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant.
Understanding this crucial truth is important in our discussion.
In the Old Covenant, Jesus Christ hasn’t died yet. That’s why, ancient Israelites needed to sacrifice lambs, goats, oxen, and other animals as a way to remind them that the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The sacrificial ceremonies were also a symbolism of the future sacrifice that Christ will give as a way to redeem mankind from sin.
[For a deeper understanding, please request the free book, “The Shocking Biblical Truth About the New Covenant.”]
Now, we must remember that the moment we sin, we deserve the death penalty. If it wasn’t for the life of Yahshua, we would all be condemned and no chance of getting saved.
In the Old Testament, God is directly communicating His will and judgment to His people. Thus, when we read about the man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath, we see that it was God Himself who gave the judgment.
We read Numbers 15:35:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”
God is the only one who can completely discern the heart of men. When He judged that the man should be put to death, He exactly knew that this man deserved physical death right there and then. God knows that this man callously, rebelliously, and intentionally broke His Sabbath command.
In this case, the severity of the punishment meets the severity of the offense. That’s the judgment of God.
Now, does that mean God has the right to take a person’s life?
Of course, He does!
He is the owner of everything, including our life. We must not forget that the life that we have is not our own, but we only borrow our life from God.
So, God is fully justified when He ordered for the man to be stoned to death. God has the prerogative to take away the life He, Himself, gave to the man.
Now, we go to the next question, is God being harsh in Numbers 15 or in any situation where he demands life for breaking the Sabbath?
It may be harsh in our “modern” minds, but it is not for God.
God perfectly knows what He is doing. For the sake of setting an example and showing His people that He is serious about His commandments, He used this situation to inculcate in the minds of His people that He is not Someone to be trifled with.
Mercy in death
Instead of thinking of God as being harsh and unfair in His judgment with the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath, we must think of it as a merciful and loving act of God.
Because instead of letting the man continue in his rebellious behavior, God ended His life. Instead of hurting himself and others and causing trouble in Israel, Yahweh wisely stepped in. The Almighty can then resurrect the man in the future when He will be taught of God’s truth and His way of life.
Not only that, but we need to remember that sin can be contagious. The sin of one Sabbath-keeper can infect other Israelites. God saw that if this man will not be stopped, he can influence others and lead more people astray.
If you think about it, God is actually acting out of love and mercy when he dealt with the man. Instead of letting one “rotten tomato” infect others, God got rid of him and will resurrect him in the future.
Why we don’t stone Sabbath-breakers today
So, we come back to our main question: why should we not stone Sabbath-breakers today?
First of all, we can see that God has a hands-off policy now. He doesn’t supernaturally talk to us anymore unlike in ancient times. One of the Ten Commandments tells us, “You shall not murder.”
In the past, God can, directly and indirectly, kill people. He is the only one who has the right to take a person’s life. We don’t have that right. Instead, we are commanded to save life, love one another and be merciful.
When Jesus Christ was presented a woman who was caught in adultery, He didn’t approve of stoning. Obviously, He was able to read the heart of the woman and He perfectly knew that her alleged sin was not worthy of death.
Not only that, but Christ said that there are weightier matters of the law and that includes mercy (Matthew 23:23).
Again, we are not in a position to condemn anyone. We are not God. We definitely don’t have the power to read people’s minds and discern their hearts. Not only that, but we can’t see the future when a person can possibly change.
Everyone will have their time
This might be shocking to most Christians right now, but God isn’t saving the whole world today. That’s why when Christ walked on this earth, He didn’t try to save as many people as possible. In fact, His ministry was focused primarily on a small part of the world!
Those people whom God is calling right now, are expected to follow His commandments including the Fourth Commandment. We are to keep the Sabbath holy as what God has commanded.
Whether you will obey God or not, it is your choice. However, whatever your choice would be, you will be accountable. God looks at the heart. If He knows you’re willingly and intentionally breaking His Sabbath, God will be your judge. Even if you will not be stoned to death today, you will be killed in the lake of fire if you continually ignore God’s commandments after knowing the truth.
So, there you have it; the answer to our question.
Should we stone people because they are breaking the Sabbath? The answer is no.
It is only God who has the right to take a person’s life. Instead, we are commanded save life, love one another, and be merciful.
In the end, it is not us who will judge people. Everyone will stand before God’s Judgment Throne in the future. From there, God will decide who will receive eternal life or eternal death.
How to request your copy
To request a free copy of the book, “The Shocking Truth About the Sabbath Day,” please send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.