Understanding Isaiah 1:13-15
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
Many verses are commonly cited to dissuade people from keeping the Sabbath. Among them is Isaiah 1:13-15, where God said: “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals. I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”
Is this verse a condemnation of keeping the Sabbath? Or is there some other message being communicated? Let’s look deeper.
When we study the Bible, we learn that the Lord calls the Sabbath HIS. “…but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” (Exodus 20:10a). “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord” (Lev. 23:3). And of course, Christ called Himself Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).
In each of these instances, God took personal possession of the Sabbath day calling it “My Sabbath.” When we read Isaiah, the Lord uses the term “your” to signify the celebrations the Israelites were keeping. The use of the word “your” in Isaiah means that they were keeping their own Sabbaths, not those that belong to God.
We can cross reference this conclusion by reading the book of Kings. In chapter 11, we learn that King Solomon took many foreign wives. Eventually, he began to serve their gods; he turned away from the True God. As a result of this sin, the Lord prophesied that 10 of the tribes would be torn away from him. They would be given to one of the men under him named Jeroboam.
As prophesied, the northern 10 tribes of Israel were taken away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam and given to Jeroboam. The remaining tribes remained with Rehoboam. Early on in his reign, Jeroboam began to worry that the tribes would go back to Solomon’s son. Out of fear, he did turned away from God.
In I Kings 12:25-33, we learn how he established his own feast the eighth month in an attempt to replace The Feast of Tabernacles, which occurs in the seventh month. I Kings 12:33 reads, “On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.” Jeroboam established this feast after his own reckoning. He also set up golden calves and allowed anyone to serve as priests, which violated God’s covenant with Aaron.
Ezekiel prophesied about this further: “Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26).
In Isaiah 1:13-15, God rebuked the Israelites for honoring their own Sabbaths. These were days that they established – not God. At the same time, they refused to honor His Sabbath. They purposefully shut their eyes to the observation of God’s appointed times. Let us not do the same.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org