Exodus 31:14 reads, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”
If the reader will turn to Deuteronomy 13:6, 10; 21:18, 21; 22: 21-28, and all of Leviticus 20, he will read there a whole series of injunctions concerning the putting to death of persons who were idolaters, who were rebellious to their parents, who committed adultery or were guilty of incest, who cursed father or mother — in fact, who violated any part of the moral code. Indeed, someone has estimated that no less than nine of the Ten Commandments are specifically mentioned in connection with the penalty of death for their violation.
Now we would ask the Sabbath objector: do you believe that the idolater, for example, ought to be put to death, or the son who curses his father? Of course you answer no. Then, according to your logic, if you believe that this penalty should not be enforced tody, you evidently believe that it is no longer wrong to be an idolater, for example, or for a son to curse his father. But such a conclusion would obviously be monstrous, to say nothing of being unreasonable. Yet it would be no more unreasonable than the contention that because present-day Sabbathkeepers do not believe Sabbathbreakers should be put to death, therefore the Sabbath law is abolished. This kind of reasoning proves too much, and thus proves nothing.
We agree that if a law has no penalty, it has no force. but it does not follow that because we do not believe in stoning people therefore we believe there will be no punishment for those who violate the Sabbath or any other part of the law of God.
The only difference between the ancient Jewish order of things and ours today is as regards the time of punishment and the executor of the punishment. When God was the direct ruler, He saw fit to have an immediate punishment inflicted. Now the evil-doer must look forward to the last great day of judgment . (See Heb. 10:26-29)
Therefore let not the Sabbathbreaker feel at ease in his mind simply because God has not suddenly brought sudden judgment upon him for his violation of the fourth precept of the decalogue , which declares that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, Creator of heaven and earth.
The story is told of a certain godless man who found special delight in flaunting his disobedience of the Sabbath command . He lived in a locality where the other farmers near him where devout Sabbathkeepers. When October came and he harvested his crop, he found that he had even more in his barn than his neighbors.
Meeting the Sabbathkeeping minister on the street one day, he gloatingly mentioned this fact. The minister’s only reply was: “God does not always make a full settlement in October.” No better answer could have been given.
The faithful Sabbathkeeper awaits the day of final judgment to receive his full reward for obedience to God, the Creator of the whole earth. And likewise, the Sabbath violator must await that last great day of accounting in order to receive the final reward for his failure to obey the explicit command of God. The violation of the law of god is sin, the scriptures inform us (1 John 3:4), and the wages of sin is death (rom. 6:23). is that not sufficient penalty?
What of the command against kindling fires on the Sabbath? exodus 35:3 reads, “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.” Our answer, a briefly, is this:
- The prohibition against kindling a fire is not part of the fourth commandment of the decalogue. And it is the precepts of the Decalogue that we consider moral and thus eternally binding.
2. There were many civil as well as ceremonial statutes given to Israel that had limited duration. for example, there were civil statutes that declared how a slave should be treated. (See ex. 21: 1-11.) The Sabbath objector finds in these statutes on the holding of slaves, for example, no justification for slavery today. Instead, he agrees with the Sabbathkeeper that many of the statutes given to Israel through Moses were an adaptation of great moral principles to the degree of moral understanding of the Israelites, or to particular situations that existed locally. Therein lies the basic distinction between the moral commands of the Decalogue given to Israel directly by God on Sinai, and the host of other statutes given through Moses.
Now if the Sabbath objector feels free to discard the statute on the care of slaves while holding that nine of the ten commands of the Decalogue are still in force, are we not equally reasonable in discarding the statute against kindling fires on the Sabbath while holding that all ten commands of the Decalogue are still in force?
3. Is it not even certain, from the context, that the command to the Jews against Sabbath fires was intended to apply to other than their wilderness journeying. The command comes as a preface to a series of commands concerning the erection of the tabernacle, which commands had life only so long as the tabernacle was under construction, and then died by limitation. The Jews themselves have never been agreed on whether the prohibition against Sabbath fires extended beyond the wilderness period.
In the wilderness the temperature was rather generally warm, hence fire would hardly be needed to protect against sickness. The Israelites were instructed to bake and seethe on the sixth day such of the manna as they desired to eat in that form on the Sabbath day. Hence there was no need to kindle a fire for cooking on that day.
Again, to “kindle” a fire in those times meant to engage in very real and extended labor. As the Pulpit Commentary in its comments on Exodus 35:3 observes:
“The kindling of fire in early times involved considerable labour. It was ordinarily effected by rubbing two sticks together, or twisting one round rapidly between the two palms in a depression upon a board. Fire only came after a long time. Moreover, as in the warm climate of Arabia and Palestine artificial warmth was not needed, fire could only have been kindled there for cooking purposes, which involved further unnecessary work …. The Jews generally view the precept as having had only a temporary force.”
In the light of these facts, how could the prohibition against kindling fires raise any possible doubt as to the moral quality and permanency of the fourth command of The Decalogue ?