32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34 and they put him in [p]custody because it had not been [q]declared what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him [r]to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 It shall be a tassel for you [s]to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not [t]follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”
We don’t know how long it was between God giving the law and this man’s sin, but this ties in with the previous passage a bit. It’s pretty hard to go out and gather wood on the sabbath day accidentally, when everyone else is resting and observing the sabbath.
This was a big deal to God, not just because it was supposed to be holy, but because God set it apart for man to rest. He knows we need it, and if we don’t get rest, we die. This became a very real reminder of the consequences of not resting and following God’s law.
However, God knew this wouldn’t be enough. Sure, they might talk about it for a while, and no one who saw it would forget the man who was executed for gathering wood, but we have a tendency to forget important things far too easily.
So God gave them instruction for a permanent visible reminder, all their days. They were to wear tassels on their garments, with a single cord of blue to remind them to whom they belonged. Which makes me think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we did something similar. We forget too easily that we belong to God, that when we lay our life down at His feet, we are not to take it back up again. Remember.