Understanding Isaiah 1:13-15
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In Isaiah 1:13-15, God said: “ 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” (ASV)
Common Argument: These verses are commonly used to say that God was angry with the Israelites for keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days.
Think it through: God revealed these Holy Days in Leviticus 23. Why would He command His people to celebrate them and then get angry at them for doing what He said? This portrays God as contrary to Himself.
Short Answer: God rebuked the Israelites for keeping sabbaths and feasts that they invented.
Longer Answer: In 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). “which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:2b-3). And of course, Christ called Himself Lord of the Sabbath: “…the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).
In each of these instances, God and Christ took personal possession of the Sabbath day calling it His Sabbath. When we read Isaiah, the Lord God was angry with the Israelites over “….your appointed feasts.” This language means that God was referring to celebrations of their own creation, 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 his sin, God 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 rest 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 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 12:32a, 33 reads, “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah…And he went up unto the altar which he had made in Beth-el on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart: and he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and went up unto the altar, to burn incense.”
Jeroboam ordained a feast of his own heart. He made the fifteenth day of the eighth month a feast day like the one held in Judah on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The fifteenth day of the seventh month is one of God’s annual Sabbaths (see Lev. 23:33-35). This means that Jeroboam made it an annual sabbath. He established this feast after his own reckoning, which means that it belonged to the children of Israel, not to God.
Ezekiel prophesied about this further: “Her priests have done violence to my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they caused men to discern between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26).
In Isaiah 1:13-15, God rebuked the Israelites for honoring their own feast days and sabbaths. These were days that they established – not God. At the same time, they refused to honor the God-ordained Sabbaths. 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