Look carefully at these two images of shadows below. Remember what you see because I’ll get back to them in a minute or two.
But First, I know many of you, who have followed what I have written about evil (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) and my perspective of seeing God of the Old Testament only through the lens of Jesus, have had some very valid questions about specific stories in the Old Testament.
- What about the flood?
- What about Sodom & Gomorrah?
- What about God sending fiery snakes to punish the complaining Israelites?
- What about God commanding Saul to commit genocide?
- What about Abraham being told to sacrifice his only son?
- What about the 10 plagues and the Red Sea destroying the Egyptian army?
To be honest, I don’t yet have an exact answer to explain every single example. And I am ok with that. I have peace knowing that Jesus is the true image of God, and that is what I cling to. I have peace because I know I don’t need to have the entire Old Testament figured out and I have peace because I know the Old Testament is a shadow. Now shadows are interesting things…
A shadow is a 2 dimensional reverse negation. It has no depth, no character and no texture. It gets distorted by the surface it is projected on and it changes depending on the angle of the light. It is impossible to gather great insight from a shadow alone. If you were to look at only my shadow, would you be able to tell what colour my eyes are? Or what my face looks like? Can you tell if I am smiling or can you even see any expression of emotion whatsoever? Can you see my personality, or my body language? There is much that is left open to your own interpretation when it comes to describing shadows.
But let’s see if we can look at one of these questions above before I get to philosophical over shadows. Let’s start with an easy one; God sending fiery serpents to punish Israel for complaining so much. Interestingly enough, my Mac’s built-in-dictionary defines serpent firstly as ‘a biblical guise of evil’, and secondly as ‘the same as satan’. My Mac has seen the light!
Num 21:5-6 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. (NKJV)
Now when we read passages like this, we can interpret it in many different ways. One way is the literal way, meaning it says what it says and what is says is literally what happened, no doubts about it and no use in arguing over it. That is possible with many scriptures I agree, but not with all, because if you realize that you are looking at a shadow, you would know you can’t take shadows very literally. There is something hidden, that is yet to be revealed.
Pro 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (NKJV)
So now on one hand we apparently have God sending serpents to kill, and on the other hand God making a way for people to be healed of the serpents, which He sent. So is God a bit bipolar? Is His kingdom divided? Is He both killing people and then saving them from Himself? Which person is Jesus, and who is the shadow?
How do we know when what we are reading is a shadow? Personally, everything I read that doesn’t line up with image of the Father, which Jesus perfectly presented, I regard as a shadow, something hidden. Just replace the words ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ with Jesus and see what happens: ‘And the people spoke against Jesus… …and Jesus sent fiery serpents among the people, they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
Can you imagine Jesus sending snakes to kill people? People spoke against Jesus and He said ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do’ and thus I regard this scripture as a shadow that can’t only be taken literally. But what is the reality then? The reality is found in the next few verses when God instructs Moses to erect a bronze serpent on a pole, and all who look on it are healed. Now this clearly shows Christ as the Saviour on the cross! And now look at Paul’s interpretation of this very event.
1 Cor 10:9-10 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (NKJV)
This paints a whole different picture of what happened and links the serpents to the destroyer, aka satan. Now the story makes more sense. Now I can see Satan planning and launching a well-timed attack against Israel, exactly when they complained, which firstly makes Israel think the attack is a punishment because they complained, and secondly that God is short-tempered, unreasonably cruel and in the killing business. But God comes and destroys the devil’s plan and saves His people through a prophetic image of Christ on the cross. Now that is a much better story, and one that lines up with what Christ revealed about the devil and about the Father. (John 10:10). And there is one question answered.
I hope that this example will help you to identify what is shadow and what shouldn’t be interpreted literally line upon line and precept upon precept when you read the Bible. Always read it through the lens of Jesus on the cross. And if something doesn’t seem to reconcile, ask God for wisdom to interpret the shadow.
God is light and in Him there is no shadow at all! Oh, and before I forget. Remember those shadows at the start? Below you will see the full picture and hopefully realize why shadows can easily be misinterpreted.
Grace to you!