Shadows That Teach

This year while homeschooling my children I've learned the importance of a good visual aid. When we grit our teeth with math concepts or tricky word problems that feel so abstract, it’s a sweet relief to narrow our focus, pull out our blocks, and build the problem with something we can see. 

As Christians we often find ourselves in the same place. Big ideas like grace, forgiveness, wisdom, sovereignty, trust, patience, mercy, and sacrifice run by our eyes and ears each day. Some days you might wonder how to even begin to process the true weight of these mighty concepts. But whether we realize it or not, throughout our lives God has graciously been building our knowledge of who He is, little by little. In His kindness, He narrows our focus and helps us see His words lived out with something we can see. 

Shadows and Revelation 

This truth is found throughout the pages of the Bible. God has always proven to be a God who condescends to His people. Though He is mighty and all-wise, He knows His creatures are limited. Who are we to grasp—to understand the concept of—the incredible salvation of the Lord? Or even the utter depravity of the reality of sin? Instead of simply telling them, God graciously showed His people. 

We see this most visibly in the beautiful model of the sacrificial system He created. Think about it: each time an Israelite woman walked by the tabernacle and smelled the aroma of the incense burning, or pictured the inner tent that housed the sacred Holy of Holies, she grew more deeply in the knowledge of God’s holiness. Every year, the priest sacrificed the atonement offering as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. They burned the sacrifice and then cast the sins on the scapegoat that was sent running out of the camp. In this the people of God saw with their own eyes the reality of what their sins required. 

These shadows pointed to the reality that would come in Jesus Christ and demonstrated a picture of what was to be fulfilled. These shadows still teach us today. We see the hints, clues, and examples as they progressed throughout history until they finally culminated in the visible, touchable, audible Jesus who came to dwell with man. This is incredible. 

Seeing the Building Blocks

The good news is that God is not done teaching His people through examples. His Holy Spirit teaches us each day through the varied situations of our lives. An adopted daughter might taste a deeper meaning as she joins the family of Christ. A woman suffering from chronic illness might have a greater perspective of what it means to hope in the joy of Christ’s resurrected body. The new mother might be taught a deeper understanding of God’s sacrificial love or even disciplinary care. We all can look back at our lives and recall periods of time or relationships that the Lord used to give us a clearer understanding of His Truth. 

Perhaps it was a friendship that required deep forgiveness. Maybe it was a period of physical suffering that taught us the meaning of faithfulness or our own helplessness. Maybe God showed His provision when we felt lack, or we understood more clearly His sufficiency as we watched dreams slip away. 

It’s important to remember that when we became Christians, God did not leave us with the Bible and a pat on the back. Just as He was the source of our salvation, He is the source of our sanctification. He is committed to drawing us near to Him and sovereignly using our individual circumstances to teach us. 

We can look back with wonder and we see how He took words from our Scripture reading or the preaching on Sunday and wove them into our days, graciously giving us a visual to enhance our understanding. Sometimes in the present it feels as if the growth is small, but when we look back, we will often see the patient, faithful work of the Lord (Phil. 1:6).

Thanking God for His Work

As we make our lists of gratitude this month, let’s spend some time looking back at the ways the Lord has grown our understanding of Himself. What relationships or circumstances has God used as a visual in your own life? It’s important to remember these not only to thank Him for them, but because they are lessons in themselves. For when we look back at the building blocks of our growth, we see real life examples of the Holy Spirit at work, moving us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). We see evidence of the God who progressively revealed himself to His people throughout Scripture and how He does it in our own lives as well. We are reminded once again that our God is not far off, but He is Immanuel, God with us. 

Praise the Lord that He narrows our gaze so we can more deeply grow in our knowledge of Him. 

About the Author

Brianna Lambert

Brianna Lambert

Brianna Lambert a wife and homeschool mom of three. She is a writer for Gospel-Centered Discipleship, and also contributes to various online publications, incuding her blog Looking to the Harvest. Brianna delights in serving in her local church. She … read more …

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