In Isaiah 1:13 God referred to backslidden Israel’s observance of the Sabbath and feasts as worthless assemblies because they were full of iniquity in their hearts towards God and in how they treated others. It is how we treat one another that really matters to God.
1 John 4:19-21 says, “We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
Backslidden Israel was in rebellion against God and doing those things which were detestable to Him. In their rebellion they had forsaken those who were the most feeble and vulnerable among them. They were far from being a nation that demonstrated mercy and true justice, therefore God sent them into exile. They became so rebellious towards God and repulsive in His sight that God said to Jeremiah “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people.” And through Isaiah the prophet God refers to them as “you rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrah.”
“Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 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. 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! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 1:10-20).
The Sabbath never was about the day of the week. It is about the ways of God which is mercy, justice, and faith which Jesus referred to as the weightier matters of the Law.
God gave the Sabbath to Israel to remind them that they were at one time slaves to the Egyptians and He had delivered them from oppression to bring them into their promised rest. He also commanded them to treat their servants with the same kindness that they had received from the Lord.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, SO THAT YOUR MALE AND FEMALE SERVANTS MAY REST, AS YOU DO. REMEMBER THAT YOU WERE SLAVES in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
The Sabbath command was not about the day only, instead it is about people whom God loves and wants to bring out of oppression as Jesus said of the woman in Luke 13, “ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were more concerned about the legality of the Law, rather than God’s intent of setting people free from oppression. The letter of the Law in the hard hearted does not reveal God’s heart.
It is Jesus who reveals the Father. Jesus brought the true revelation of the Father that those who were in bondage to the letter of the Law did not know. When people attempt to enforce the law legalistically they only promote bondage and death.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day put all kinds of restrictions on people with the letter of the law because they did not know the Father. And since they did not know the Father, they did not understand the heart or intent of the Law.
The Sabbaths and feasts which God gave to Israel were intended to reveal HIM and His glorious saving and redeeming power. All the feasts point to Him and His love for His people but the religious leaders of Israel were blind and did not even recognize Him when He walked among them in the flesh. They condemned Him for not keeping the Law (according to their legalistic bondage). In their self righteousness and hard-heartedness they had hi-jacked God’s law with their traditions. They condemned Him for breaking the Sabbath because they were in bondage to their own sins and rather than giving life they could only condemn others with the letter of the Law.