Each Wednesday night, in my Old Testament class, I pose the question, “why should we read the Old Testament today?” Weighing in at over half of the Bible, there must be a purpose behind it? Now, there are many reasons why we today may open up to read it, but the one I want to focus on today is this: we see Jesus through types and shadows.
First let’s plant our feet in the book of Hebrews before, going back to, say, Leviticus or 2 Chronicles. The primary purpose behind the book of Hebrews is to show how Jesus is our ultimate, high priest who is greater than the Old Testament heroes. In chapters 3-7, the author lays out his reasoning, and points us to events in the Old Testament that were “precursors” to Jesus’s ministry. In these chapters we see a clear comparison from people and acts in the Old Testament, to Jesus and His ministry in the New Testament. These are what we call “types and shadows” of Jesus.
Each major biblical person in the Old Testament (Adam, Moses, Noah, David, etc…) mirrors Jesus in some capacity. When we examine their lives and actions, the significance of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection become more clear. We see Noah as a type and shadow of Christ as he saved the godly people from God’s wrath and destruction. We see Jesus in David, as He rules and reigns over his people and leads them to godliness. We see Him in Moses, as he leads God’s people into safety and as God speaks through him. Much more could be said of Elijah, Solomon, Hosea, or even Daniel, but we begin to get the idea. In each person’s life, we see Jesus being the “greater Moses,” or “greater David.”
An important shadow that is worth noting is found in Leviticus 16. Here we see the regulations and the purpose behind the Day of Atonement sacrifice. See if this sounds familiar to you: the blood of a pure, unblemished animal covers the sins of all the people who believe in God. The priests take off their filthy garments, and replace them with clean ones. All the sins are atoned for and forgiven through the sacrifice. How can we read Leviticus 16 and not think of Jesus’s death and sacrifice on the cross? Read Hebrews 13:11-12 so get the comparison.
Lastly, other than Jesus, we begin to see types and shadows of ourselves in the Old Testament. We see our sinful inclinations in the wantonness of Israel, the adultery of Gomer, the arrogance of King Ahab, and the pride and desires of Adam and Eve. In short, we see our desperate need for a savior. The entire Bible, from start to finish, is about Jesus. We miss so much of Him if we neglect the Old Testament. These types and shadows that we see display His beauty and glory all the more, and we ought to read the entirety of the Bible with Him in mind.