In the New Testament world, the religious leaders had Sabbath keeping down to a fine art. There were dozens of prohibitions and rules established to help keep the Sabbath holy.
This included a prohibition against tying or untying anything, separating two threads, extinguishing a fire, transporting an object between a private domain and the public domain, or transporting something for more than a specific distance in the public domain.
What charge is brought against Jesus in John 5:7-16?
Completely ignoring the wonderful miracle that Jesus had performed and the freedom from disease that He had given this man, the leaders were obsessed that the healed man was carrying his bed in public on Sabbath. Instead of seeing how the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28) utilized this special day, the leaders were intent on maintaining their own rules and regulations. We need to be careful that in our own way and in our own context we don’t make similar mistakes.
How does Isaiah 58:12-14 outline God’s agenda for Sabbath keeping?
God does not want empty worship or pious silence. He wants to see His people engaged with other people, especially the downtrodden and marginalized.
Isaiah makes this very plain in Isaiah 58.13-14: “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken” ( Isaiah 58.13-14, NKJV).
Pursuing our “pleasure” (Isaiah 58:13, or our “own interests,” as the NRSV translates here) is equivalent to “trampling the Sabbath” (NRSV). Human agendas are not part of God’s Sabbath ideal. Rather, we are invited to look out for those who struggle, who are captives, who are hungry and naked, and walk in darkness and whose names no one seems to remember. More than any other day of the week, Sabbath should take us out of ourselves and our own selfishness and cause us to think more about others and others’ needs than only about ourselves and our needs.