sundays at 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, & 4:30 PM

Doctrine of Religious Worship: The Importance of the Sabbath II

December 26, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Isaiah 58

Scripture -> Isaiah 58

Review/ Introduction 

Last week we began our series on the Doctrine of Religious Worship beginning in Isaiah 58.

If you recall, we mentioned that this topic might be considered by some as hard to understand, hard to hear, and hard to use to evaluate yourself and your behaviors.

Some of us have been confronted with the truth that our current practices are closer to our own will worship and farther away from Scripture than we expected.

Some of us have been confronted and are coming to the realization that we are more in favor of idolatry and approaching God on our own terms rather than forsaking our carnal pleasures and comforts so that we might worship the true God of Creation and Heaven as He so requires.

But this is the work that must be done.

We must always be willing to examine ourselves and see if there is any way within us that is not pleasing to God.

We must always be willing to bring ourselves under submission to His rule and not be so concerned with pleasing our own wills and desires.

Thus far, we have worked our way through the first several verses.

We learned that the people were actively engaged in the things that might be seen as pleasing to God…

  • They were fasting
    • But they were fasting on their terms
    • They were worshipping God as long as fit within their needs
  • But they were behaving as described in Romans 9:31-32

Do you remember God’s response to this?

  • He said that worshipping Him in this way
    • Does not get you an audience with Him.
    • Does not cause Him to hear you
  • In other words, this form of worship is not accepted by Him
    • It does not matter if you accept it or not or you like it or not
    • It does not matter if you do not agree with me or not
    • The plain fact is that God Himself says so…

Now, let us continue with this example of the fast and see what type of worship He does accept.

  • Let us seek to discover the characteristics of the type of acceptable worship so that we might better align ourselves with Him

Isaiah 58 – What Type of Fast Are They Observing?

Verse 5 - Is this the fast the Lord has chosen?

  • This is the Lord speaking in the first person through the mouth of his prophet.
  • What does the Lord mean when he says, "such a fast as I have chosen"?
    • He means that there is a particular kind of fast that he has chosen.
    • That there is a particular way of fasting that He has approved
    • That there is a particular way of fasting that He directs
    • That there is a particular way of fasting that He says is profitable.
  • The fast they are following is described
    • They bow down their head as a bull rush
      • A bull rush is a large luxuriant reed that grows in marshy places, when the wind blows, it easily bends under its own weight.
      • It does not break but when it bends, it only temporary and then goes right back to its normal status.
      • In this usage, it refers to one who merely bows in a show of false grief
      • In this usage, it refers to a putting "on of airs"
      • They are just bowing down because the wind is blowing
    • to spread sackcloth and ashes under him
      • this was a normal practice with fasting
    • but notice these are the only two things mentioned here.
      • In connection with the preceding verses, this is truly a mere exercise devoid of any true or internal significance

The Lord restates His question:

  • Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
    • The only correct answer is “No”

Isaiah 58 – What Type of Fast Has God Instructed?

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen?”

  • Verse 6 - 7

This is the type of Fast the Lord has instructed.

  • All these other things, these adjustments, what seemed good in the eyes of the Israelites …
    • Was not what God had commanded
    • Was not what was acceptable to God
    • Oh! It might have looked good to them
    • It might have felt good to them
    • It might have been what they have done for years or generations
  • But This is what God had instructed:
    • If you really want to show what self-affliction is
      • then draw out your stuff and provide it to those who are in need.
      • then refrain from food for a day and take that food and give it to those who are in need
      • then take your servants and undo their yokes
      • then take your servants and make sure that they are free, stop your oppression

What were they doing instead?

  • In the day of their fast
    • they did the opposite.
    • they were more concerned about themselves - their comfort - their desires – what they perceived as being important

Can you see the kind of fast that the Lord is pressing upon his people?

Do you see the kind of obedience and sacrifice the Lord is pressing upon worship?

  • Stop taking up your own pleasure
  • It is not simply skirting around the edges
  • It is not simply playing “worship”
  • It is not simply going through the motions
  • It is not based on your convenience
  • It is that kind of whole soul fast that the Lord requires and deserves

What are we do?

What are we do learn from this text?

  • We are to pay attention to what the Lord has commanded
  • We are to worship Him in only those ways
    • without adding or subtracting or modifying in any way

Isaiah 58 - Then Shall Thy Light Break Forth

And look at the blessings He says He will return!

… Keep in mind that the best of our offering and worship is imperfect

  • The best of our works are imperfect

They are tainted with sin.

  • The best of what we could do in service to the Lord does not really earn anything for us.
    • does that mean we do not try to do better?
    • does that mean that “good is good enough”?
      • Of course not.

But what does the Lord tell us here?

If you will afflict yourself and take up the fast that the Lord has chosen….

  • “Rather than the fast that you have chosen”

What does He say he will do? He says this:

  • Thine health shall spring forth speedily
  • The glory of the Lord will be your rereward (your defense)
  • You will call out to Him, and He will answer
  • He will guide you continually
  • He will satisfy your soul

In other words, He says …

  • He will encourage you
    • And in blessing you for doing that much.
    • He will encourage you towards more.

Remember - This is not a blessing that you are earning - you understand that, right?

Parallels between Fasting and the Sabbath

In the first 12 verses, the Lord places His finger on fasting when it comes to their approach to God

  • Again, why fasting?
    • Because fasting has the greatest appearance of self-denial.
  • The Lord would tell them that even in this greatest of appearance
    • they have been not concerned with self-denial
    • they have overly concerned with self-fulfillment
    • they have been self-indulgent
      • they have continued to exact all of their labors
      • they have maintained a particular hypocrisy with regard to their approach unto him.
    • they were not really fasting - there really was no self-denial at all.

Can you see how this applies to all of the ordinances of worship?

The point of this chastisement, correction, and encouragement is this:

  • We are not to rely upon our own judgments for worship
  • We are to give ourselves over to God.
    • Completely
    • Fully
    • Unreservedly
  • When he talks about the type of fast that He has chosen...
    • He is claiming a particular sovereignty over how fasts are to be observed.
    • He is also claiming a particular sovereignty over how all forms of worship are to be observed.

Parallel of Propriety – The 1st Parallel

First -> Notice about the fast - it is a fast He has chosen.

  • It is His fast.
  • He sets the conditions.
  • He sets the observances.
  • He sets the requirements.
  • There is His fast --- and then there is their fast

Second -> Notice the Sabbath.

  • It is His holy day
  • It is called “the holy of the Lord” (small caps)
  • He sets the conditions.
  • He sets the observances.
  • He sets the requirements.
  • There is His holy day --- and then there is their day

 Let's make sure we understand this

  • The people can design a fast, modify requirements, modify conditions, make allowances, etc., and then say "This is a proper observance of a fast"
    • but the Lord says "This is not the fast that I have chosen"
    • then the people of God cannot call it a proper fast.
  • Likewise, the people can design the Sabbath, modify requirements, modify conditions, make allowances, etc., and then say "This is a proper observance of the Sabbath"
    • but the Lord says "This is not the Sabbath that I have chosen"
    • then the people of God cannot call it a proper Sabbath.

All religious worship – including the fast and the Sabbath – hold a special propriety for God.

  • Especially the Sabbath.
  • He has consecrated this day for Himself.
  • He has separated this day unto Himself.
    • Treating this day in any way other than as He has described is, in the words of Thomas Ridgley, is sacrilege.
    • It is not only a violation of the 1st Table of the Law but also of the 2nd Table
      • It is stealing
      • It is robbery of God
        • Malachi 3:8
        • How are we robbing God?
        • You are stealing parts of the day to use as you desire, as you see fit
        • If you were to go into a restaurant and you have bill that is due, but you only pay what you feel like paying and then leave…you would be arrested for stealing. Right?
        • The Sabbath is what we owe to God.
          • When you do not give to God what is due, you are stealing from Him.
        • Can the people of God change the day of the Sabbath and it still be a proper Sabbath?
          • No
        • Can the people of God decide to not observe the Sabbath and it still be a proper Sabbath?
          • No

Parallel of Taking Pleasure – The 2nd Parallel

First -> Notice about the fast

Do you remember the issue about the fast? - they are taking their own pleasure

What does this mean?

  • The Lord chided them, because in the day of their fast, they looked for pleasure and exacted all their labor
  • They are still profiting
    • while pretending to afflict their soul
    • while going through the motions of worshipping
  • They are fasting on their own terms
  • The only thing that they have really done is they have not eaten.
  • That is not a fast the Lord says they are still taking their own pleasure.

Second -> Notice the Sabbath.

  1. they kept their foot on the Sabbath

What does that mean?

  • It means people were exercising their control/ mastery over the Sabbath
    • Joshua 10:24 – put your feet upon the necks of these kings
    • Psalm 110:1 – make they enemies thy footstool
    • 2 Samuel 22:38-41 – enemies are under their feet
    • Genesis 13:17 – walk on the land I have given you
  • Putting your foot on something is sign that of subjection and control
  • Having your “foot on the Sabbath” means they were treating the Sabbath as if it were made for their use and their earthly, carnal benefit


  1. doing thy pleasure on my holy day

What does the Lord mean by this?

  • Shouldn't it be a pleasure to keep his holy day? Of course.
  • The Lord is assuming something about us here that should humble us.
    • He is speaking to the children of Israel.
    • And by way of extension, he is speaking to us.
  • He is drawing a particular distinction
    • between our desires and His
    • between our pleasures and His
  • We are trampling on His ordinance and requirements
    • as if we had mastery and control over His Holy Day
  • The Lord is telling us something about ourselves here.
    • That we are not honoring Him by seeking our own desires

The people of God are to look to God to determine how to worship.

Question: Is it possible for the people of God to come together and to say, we are celebrating the Lord's Day, we are keeping the Lord's Day, but also be in the pursuit of their own pleasures, in the obtaining of all their labors?

  • Of course.

They could, in reality, be keeping their own day and calling it the Lord's Day.

We must guard against putting our own expectations, our own conditions, and making our own excuses for not honoring God

  • The way in which He requires
  • On the day in which He requires it
  • In the place where He requires it


But this admonition, if thou wilt receive it, comes with encouragement.

  • The Lord tell us, if you will,
    • To set your best efforts forward to keep the Sabbath day
      • Even though it may be haltingly and failingly as we are
    • If we take our foot off His Sabbath
    • If we call the sabbath a delight, the Holy of the Lord
      • Then He will encourage us with blessing
      • Then He will encourage you to further obedience with further blessing.

Remember we mentioned Malachi 3:10 earlier?
That admonition was also followed by an encouragement.

  • Here the Lord makes an open challenge.
  • This verse is often applied incorrectly but let’s try to look at it in more Biblical perspective….
  • Prove me He says, right, bring all the tithe into my storehouse, and prove me there with if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing, so big, so plentiful, that you will not be able to receive it.
    • The Lord is challenging us here as well
    • The Lord is challenging us to set our best efforts forward to keeping his holy day.
      • And in keeping it He promises a blessing to us.

Remember the consistency between the outer and inner man?

  • There must be an inner reality that accompanies the outward activity
  • There must be alignment together while offering God any type of worship
  • And that worship must be as He requires….


Lord willing, next week we will dig further into the exegesis of verse 13.

  • We will work though these slowly to understand what the Lord tells us about the Sabbath
    • What the Sabbath is
    • What it holds for His people in the great blessing
    • What is means to delight in the Sabbath
  • The Lord uses a particular word here when talking about the Sabbath day, when he says call it a delight.
    • We do not make the proper connection in our minds in English.
    • The word delight and the word delectable come from the same root
    • It means -> delicacy, something that is highly pleasing
    • It means -> to delight, to allure, to charm
    • It is something that you do not have every day.
    • It is special
    • It is something to be treasured and highly desired.

We are to call the Sabbath a delight.

We are to look forward with excitement to the Sabbath

We are to arrange all our worldly activities such that it will not, it cannot, interfere with us coming to worship Him in the assembly of the saints.

  • It must be a true providential act of God to keep the children of God away.
  • It should not be an almost commonplace occurrence
  • It should not be something that would never keep you from other worldly activities but, yet is sufficient to keep you from church

Think this way – what would keep you from rushing to help your child or your spouse if they needed you…if they were in trouble…if they were hurt?

  • I suspect the common answer would be “nothing”

To delight in the Lord is that to be kept away from the worshipping the Lord must be 70*70 greater in urgency than that….

More in Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

September 17, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment - The Finality of Judgment

September 10, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgement - The Great White Throne

September 3, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment