Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. Isaiah 58:13-14 says that the Sabbath is supposed to be a delight, but then turns around and says not to seek your own pleasure. This seems like a contradiction to me.
A. Isaiah 58:13-14 reads: "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord. " In short, the Sabbath is God's day. It is a day to be honored. It is a time to "delight in the Lord" as apposed to one's own mundane business affairs.

It should be carefully noted that the term "seeking your own pleasure" does not necessarily, in the Hebrew, have reference to personal enjoyment. The word "pleasure" (khephets in Hebrew) means various things according to context. In the Jewish Publication Society translation it is rendered "thine own business." The New English Bible makes the meaning clearer than either the King James or Revised Standard Version, "If you cease to tread the Sabbath underfoot, and keep my holy day free from your own affairs, if you call the Sabbath a day of joy . . . if your honour it by not plying your trade, not seeking your own interest or attending to your own affairs . . . :

This translation shows the true intent of the words "thine own pleasure"! The Hebrew term rendered "pleasure" is often translated "desire" or "purpose" in other passages (see Ecclesiastes 3:1, 17; I Kings 5:8-10). The Jewish translation speaks of "pursuing thy business" and "thy wonted ways." The Hebrew khephets is not addressing the question of pleasurable activities that are illegal on the seventh day! If pleasure were not present, how could the day possibly be a delight?

This passage of Scripture has been erroneously applied to such activities as television viewing, swimming, listening to music, marital relations, and even reading the comics in the newspaper! Of course, any of these activities could violate the spirit of the Sabbath day if they are abused or overdone. They are not, of and by themselves wrong. Any activity which interferes with or detracts from the joy, rest, and spiritual intention of the day could be wrong. If an activity works against the spirit of the Sabbath, it is wrong, no matter what it is.

The main concern of most scriptures pertaining to the Sabbath is that one should not pursue his or her usual business or work activities on that day. One should have more of God and less of himself in his thoughts on the Sabbath. It is a day to honor God, to remember His creation and to rest.
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