One of the Old Testament laws that unbelievers like to laugh at, is that God commanded the Israelites to stone a Sabbath breaker. For example: I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
# The Sabbath was a brilliant design of God.
We read of only one example in the Bible where a Sabbath breaker was actually stoned.1 The Israelites understood why the Sabbath was important:
- It allowed them a weekly day of rest after their ordeal as slaves for 400 years in Egypt. 2
- It reminded them to give glory to Almighty God who created in six days and rested on the seventh. 3
# The Israelites lived in close knit communities under God’s laws.
- The Israelites, as a nation, settled in various towns in Canaan, after 40 years in the desert. Wherever they were, they lived in close knit communities.
- They accepted the Law given by God through Moses. God told them what the punishment would be if they harm themselves or others. There were laws against theft, murder, Sabbath breaking, immorality and adultery, idolatry, wrong relationships, et cetera.
- If they disregarded the laws, the community would have become lawless and a dangerous place to live, as often happens in lawless societies.
# Some of the laws for the Israelites are irrelevant in our societies.
- Today there are no homogeneous communities of people who follow Jesus. God’s elect are scattered all over the earth, where they have to obey the laws of their countries. Those laws would not include stoning a Sabbath breaker.
- Jesus signified with the Gospel of the Kingdom that the Old Covenant (a unified nation who had God as their King) is finished. Now God gathers citizens for His Kingdom individually. They sign up person for person from any nation.
- Jesus warned that even families are no longer united under God. Some members of a family follow Jesus, and others don’t. ‘…I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 4
- Disciples of Jesus might meet in churches, but they live as strangers in the world. 5
Societies no longer stone Sabbath breakers, because the Old Covenant was abolished by Jesus. The Old Covenant was meant for a very specific group of people, as is the New Covenant. To suggest that any person can go and stone a Sabbath breaker is a display of complete ignorance about the Bible.
- Numbers 15:32-36
- Deuteronomy 5:12-15
- Exodus 20:8-11
- Matthew 10:35
- 1 Peter 1:1