If you’re familiar with the story of Ruth, you might remember how Boaz “asked permission” to marry her (Ruth 4:1–12). Boaz was legally required to negotiate with a relative who had a prior claim on the widow and her land. When that man gave up his right, Boaz was free to marry Ruth. Where this agreement took place, the city gate, lends important insight to today’s reading.
Jeremiah once again mentions the city gate. In biblical times, not only were these gates necessary for protection, but they were a place to conduct business. Boaz knew the elders of the town would be present to serve as witnesses.
The prophet Jeremiah delivered a message from the Lord at the Gate of the People and other gates (vv. 19–20). Why? He knew that many people would be present at this location to hear him. He also knew it would be a good visual aid. By bringing loads of goods through the city gates on the Sabbath, the people were breaking God’s commands to keep the Sabbath day holy (vv. 21–23). This was happening in view of all!
Honoring the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, where it is linked back to creation (Ex. 20:8–11). Keeping it was a matter of holiness. This was important! Jeremiah also put the choice and its consequences in terms of the city gates: If they obeyed the Lord and stopped bringing loads through the gates, then kings in the Davidic line would continue to come in through those same gates and the nation would prosper (vv. 24–26). If they continued to disobey, God would bring judgment on Jerusalem in the form of foreign conquerors who would burn her gates (v. 27).
>> Like all God’s commands, the Sabbath is a gift intended for our good. Rest and renewal are built into God’s design for His creation (Gen. 2:2–3). How can you honor God’s gift of the Sabbath and put into practice His desire for you to rest?