As my knowledge of biblical symbolism slowly expands, I feel more and more like a novice. I’m starting to see themes fit together like the pieces of an intricate puzzle. The Bible is an incredible document comparable to a sumptuous feast: the first course is barely over when the second course is being ushered in. There are so many delectable platters, one feels overwhelmed with the sheer extravagance. There is so much richness to be found in the pages of this book. Though written in language simple enough for the common man to understand, there are layers upon layers of meaning that would captivate even a genius. Yet for me, by no means a genius, connections are made much more slowly.
Having long been intimidated by the study of biblical symbolism, I now feel brave enough to dip my feet into this fascinating topic. After studying the Christian headcovering ordinance, I decided to make note of other symbols in the Bible as I came upon them in my personal Bible study. I have also benefited greatly from sermons by various pastors. Here are some of the associations that I have already observed between Old and New Testaments, focusing on the Israelites in the time of Moses:
PASSOVER & THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
Exodus 11 & 12
- Lamb’s blood brushed over the doorway and on the side posts = Jesus’ blood applied to the abode of our hearts. The wrath of God passes over us when we have the blood of the perfect Lamb of God covering our sins: “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
- The unleavened bread = the sinless body of Christ broken for our sins on the cross. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us…” 1 Corinthians 5:7
MANNA IN THE DESERT
Exodus 16 & Numbers 11
- Manna/bread from heaven = Jesus, our spiritual sustenance. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that beieveth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:47-51).
WATER FROM THE ROCK
Exodus 17:1-7 & Numbers 20:1-13
- Water which flowed from the rock = spiritual life and refreshment from Jesus. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).
- After the people of Israel sinned against God, He sent poisonous serpents among them as a punishment. When they repented, God instructed Moses to make a serpent out of brass and put it on a pole. If anyone who had been bitten looked up at the serpent, he would be healed. The brass serpent = Jesus lifted up the cross. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). The serpent represents the vileness of sin. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of mankind, and became sin for us. Our disgusting, degraded, filthy actions and thoughts were transferred onto Him. He took our sin, so that we might take His goodness. Salvation cannot be earned by our “good” works or good intentions– it just doesn’t work that way. Salvation is an exchange: bad for good. However, this transaction only applies to those who accept it by faith.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galations 3:13; see Deuteronomy 21:23).
I have cited these examples to serve as an introduction to biblical symbolism, with more posts on this subject to follow. Isn’t it captivating, the way that God provided the imagery through the happenings of the Old Testament, that would help us understand the concept of salvation revealed in the New Testament?