Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Study in Shadows

Pastor Meng Pu has been coming over frequently this month to study the Bible with me, which is a tremendous delight and honor. There is something very exciting about reading the Bible in two different languages, matching up words and phrases, and retelling the Truth in broken and basic language we both understand. I love to listen to him read an old, familiar passage and explain it to me, because I inevitably see and learn something new through his perspective. This month we've been looking at the stories behind the characters mentioned in Hebrews 11... very cool study that I recommend!

Usually I can translate and decipher what he says pretty well, and I am certain the Holy Spirit has something to do with that. Also, I think my years of playing "Guesstures," "Charades," and "Pictionary" have certified me in non-verbal communication. But this week, he was fishing for an English word and I was struggling to figure it out.

He held his book in the air in front of him, and pointed to the table beneath it. "What is... how do you call...?" Stupidly, I stared at the book and the table, two words I know that he knows already. He's referring to something else, but what? He pointed to himself and the ground. He pointed to the chair and the wall. Some association between two objects? Distance? Prepositions? Comparisons? I could tell we were both getting frustrated, and he almost gave up, but we prayed together for understanding and clarity, and I urged him to try again.

I tried to put his actions in the context of our lesson, which was about Abel, in Genesis. Then we looked at Hebrews 12:24, which is about how Abel's sacrifice is like Jesus' sacrifice in some ways. Again, Meng Pu reiterated his example of the book and the surface of the table, but this time, he pointed to the light above us too. The light... hits the book... and creates... a shadow on the table!! And Meng Pu's body casts a shadow on the ground, and the chair casts a shadow on the wall!! He wasn't pointing to the table, the ground, or the wall... he was pointing to the shadows!! (Yes, I know I just used excessive exclamation points, but you have no idea how happy we both were when this became clear.)

Once we established the word "shadow," Meng Pu pointed back to the book, the chair, and himself. If these things create a shadow, what are these things called? Harder question to answer. He said, "Abel is shadow... Jesus is...?" Oh, now I get it! I told him the word "reality," or the real thing, or truth. And our conversation continued. Abel's sacrifice was a shadow of Christ's sacrifice. They're not the same thing - Christ is supreme, because Christ's sacrifice covered the sins of all men, while Abel's only covered his own, but the significance is there. It took a blood sacrifice of obedience to please the Lord.

Noah and the flood... Abraham and Isaac... Joseph in Egypt... Moses and the Passover... the snake on the staff... Ruth and Boaz... Israel's cry for a king... Jonah in the whale... the Old Testament is full of shadows, vague and foggy resemblances that prepared the hearts of people to understand and receive God's greatest gift to us. And if we follow the shadows to their source, it is all about Jesus. Everything points to him - he is reality to the fullest, truth in its purest and highest form.