What Do the Shadows Say? :: by Gene Lawley

When songwriter, Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers, penned the words to his classic of the Old West, “Cool Water” I think he was on to something:“The shadows sway and seem to say…” His intent may have had a deeper purpose than just physical water, as the lines went on: “Tonight we pray for water.” And another line that says, “Old Dan and I, with throats burned dry, and souls that cry…for water, cool, clear water.”

It truly is a great western classic. Those lines, though, remind me of the cry of Jesus, as recorded in John 7:37: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”

So, what do, the shadows say?

Several decades ago the radio commentator, Paul Harvey, used the phrase, “When little men cast long shadows, the day is almost ended,” to characterize the impact of the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, on the world scene.

What do shadows say? Were you to walk north alongside the east side of a building in the late afternoon on a sunny day, and as you come to the building’s corner and the intersecting east-west sidewalk, you see on the sidewalk the shadow of an approaching person, coming from the west, you would know someone was approaching.

The shape of the shadow is that of a person, not an elephant or horse, and you naturally conclude that a person is going to cross your path. That reflection foreshadows a coming event—an encounter with another person.

Is this what the writer meant when he penned the words of Hebrews 10:1, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.”

Writing in Colossians 2:16-17, Paul clarifies the ”good things to come” of that verse: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

What Reality Do the Ten Commandments Foreshadow?

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on the mountain, inscribed on tablets of stone.

What did they foreshadow? According to the Colossians passage, they foreshadowed Christ. How? One of the declarations Christ made was,

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).

How that played out is described in Romans 8:3-4: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

In summary, the Ten Commandments, then, are a picture of the character of a completely, righteous Man.

Romans 5, describes it this way: “Therefore, as through one man’s offensejudgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:18-21).

That truly righteous Man took our sins upon Himself!

What Realities Do the Seven Feasts Foretell?

Up on that mountain God also gave Moses the specific seven feasts that were to be celebrated every year. Leviticus 23 records the directives. The first one, Passover, celebrated their deliverance and exit from the bondage of Egypt, which can be identified as a type of bondage or slavery to sin in our lives.

That event, the smearing of blood over the doorways to allow the death angel to pass over that household with his judgment, along with the various sacrifices of the tabernacle and temple rituals, portrayed that future fulfillment in Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary.

The next two feasts, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits, follow right on the heels of Passover, and the three of them portray the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unleavened bread is a bread-type that has no life to it—flat and heavy; first fruits speaks for itself, as well, indicating that new life has emerged.

It is interesting how this third feast, the fourth and the fifth ones are tied to the harvest season, from spring until fall. What are the spring harvests? In Israel it was the barley harvest. It is followed by wheat harvest in late May and early June.

Then, in the early fall, the final harvest comes about—late-term fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. This is the time of the fifth feast or festival, RoshHashanah, or Feast of Trumpets, which we will look at later.

The fourth feast, fifty days after First Fruits, is called Shavuot, or of Weeks in Hebrew.

Pentecost is the Greek term for the festival, picking up on the fifty days until the celebration, after the First Fruits festival. (Seven weeks plus one day.)

There follows a period of time before the next scheduled festival, Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah. This spread of time between the fourth and fifth feast is explained, perhaps, by Jesus:

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35)

Lay this annual feast schedule alongside the history of the church and one can see that this time parallels the age of grace, the preaching of the gospel to the whole world, and when God is finished “taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name” (Acts 15:14), that final harvest in this age of grace, foreshadowed by the Feast of Trumpets, will take place, the Rapture of the saints.

Removal of true believers in the Rapture will open the door for the man of sin, the Antichrist, to move into operation and the seven-year Tribulation begins. Not long after the start of the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), the Jewish people will realize their “savior” and peace provider is not their true Messiah. They will realize that Jesus is their Messiah and will accept Him as their atoning sacrifice, made back at Calvary. The Feast of Atonement foreshadows this festival. And finally, when Jesus comes back to earth and establishes Himself upon the throne of David in Zion, we see the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles—God dwelling among His people!

What do the shadows say?

They say that God has had a plan in progress from the beginning, and it is laid out before us in His Word. Little men are casting long shadows, so we know that this harvest season is about over.

And, Jesus is coming soon!