An Old-Fashioned Sabbath

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim - Sabbath Rest (Sabbath-Ruhe auf der Gasse) - Google Art Project

Here is a description from Little House in the Big Woods of how the Sabbath was kept by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandfather:

When your Grandpa was a boy, Laura, Sunday did not begin on Sunday morning, as it does now.  It began at sundown on Saturday night.  Then everyone stopped every kind of work or play.

Supper was solemn.  After supper, Grandpa’s father read aloud a chapter of the Bible, while everyone sat straight and still in his chair.  Then they all knelt down, and their father said a long prayer.  When he said, “Amen,” they got up from their knees and each took a candle and went to bed.  They must go straight to bed, with no playing, laughing, or even talking.

Sunday morning they ate a cold breakfast, because nothing could be cooked on Sunday.  Then they all dressed in their best clothes and walked to church.  They walked because hitching up the horses was work, and no work could be done on Sunday.

They must walk slowly and solemnly, looking straight ahead.  They must not joke or laugh, or even smile.  Grandpa and his two brothers walked ahead, and their father and mother walked behind them.

In church, Grandpa and his brothers must sit perfectly still for two long hours and listen to the sermon.  They dared not fidget on the hard bench.  They dared not swing their feet.  They dared not turn their heads to look at the windows or the walls or the ceiling of the church.  They must sit perfectly motionless, and never for one instant take their eyes from the preacher.

When church was over, they walked slowly home.  They might talk on the way, but they must not talk loudly and they must never laugh or smile.  At home they ate a cold dinner which had been cooked the day before.  Then all the long afternoon they must sit in a row on a bench and study their catechism, until at least the sun went down and Sunday was over.

How does this compare to Isaiah 58?  Is formal solemnity the same as delighting in the Sabbath?  To not even smile seems overly strict to me.

Isaiah 58:13-14:  If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

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