You might be thinking, “What is fasting in the first place?” It’s definitely more than just a diet! While fasting involves abstaining from food and/or drink, fasting also needs to include spiritual renewal, from shutting out the world to spending time in God’s presence. This is not a community event but a personal one between you and God. You can pray, read Scripture, sing praise songs, or sit quietly and listen. Always be listening for God’s voice whether you’re fasting or not.
What did you think about the contrast between Jesus’ followers and those of John the Baptist? John’s followers, along with other religious leaders, would lean toward the side of piety and following rules. It seems that Jesus’ followers were less focused on those “traditions,” and this verse brilliantly tells us why. The more pious would have been looking down on what Jesus’ followers were doing.
The Preacher does it again. We are whisked back into the Old Testament to deepen the meaning of the message he is delivering. Understanding the old covenant would have been a lot easier for the Jews in his first audience. This description of the old covenant is quite something! The Preacher calls it a “dim preview of the good things to come.” Since we’ve been living in the new covenant our whole lives, it does us good to know and appreciate the “upgrade” done for our benefit. Keep in mind your response to God for his forgiveness and grace, the gifts included in this new covenant.
One such Old Testament reference is a quote from Psalm 40:6-8 which speaks for Jesus. Do you suppose the psalmist, David knew the depth of meaning his words had as they pointed to Jesus? Perhaps David had one of those “Holy Spirit moments” when he wrote something but wasn’t sure where it came from. I know there are times when things come out of my mouth that sound “so good”—I’m sure they came from the Holy Spirit!
What was your reaction to this reading? Did you take note of some of the gems of truth the Preacher is sharing with us. It’s easy to let these words just whiz on past. Remember that what Jesus did, he did for you! Jesus “secured our redemption forever.”
The old covenant was good for external purity. In the new covenant, Jesus cleanses us on the inside as well. We now live in freedom to encounter and experience God without exhausting ourselves trying to be perfect by following the law. Paying attention to God’s law is not a bad thing, but we don’t want to let our striving to be perfect consume us and distract us from the importance of a worshipful relationship with God. The laws we want to follow are those affirmed in the New Testament (not the ceremonial laws).
The Preacher is making a big deal out of the fact Jesus is our High Priest. It truly is an honor to have Jesus ministering to us from his heavenly home. Jesus’ purposes on earth were many, but this is his destiny. We can be thankful Jesus “is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.”
A covenant is a special kind of promise. In the covenant made between God and Israel at Sinai, the people vowed they would be obedient to God’s laws. God knew this old covenant was flawed and needed to be updated. The people had abused God’s promise by turning from him and relying on other gods. Sin is chronic, and the people were stuck in a pattern of disobedience. Yet God remained faithful.
How strange this idea of a new covenant must have seemed to Jeremiah and those first hearing this prophecy. The old covenant had been in place for generations, but it had been broken. As it says in Hebrews 8:7, “If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.”
Jeremiah speaks of the new covenant that will be ushered in by Jesus himself. Reference to a new covenant speaks of a future far beyond the end of the exile. The hope of restoration will not be fully realized until the Messiah comes.