Sometimes reading the Old Testament can feel like listening to Ben Stein’s portrayal of the economics teacher in the movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
Many followers of Jesus avoid the Old Testament as if they might catch one of the plagues Moses called down during the Exodus if they read it. Instead, they head for the easiest content by centering their study of Jesus almost entirely on what they can read about Him in the gospels. The gospels are a beautiful portrayal of Jesus when he walked the dusty roads of ancient Israel, but given that He existed since before time began (John 17:5) they leave us with a partial picture of His character.
The Old Testament is full of imagery, foreshadowing and cameo appearances of Jesus which effectively add dimension and depth to our understanding of who He is. In a Part One of this series, I explain Christophanies–which are cameo appearances of Jesus before He was born of Mary. In Part Two, we will look at types in the Old Testament as a means of learning more about Jesus.
Types are Old Testament representative figures, institutions, or events that foreshadow Jesus. So you’re looking for roles, rituals, and historical happenings that prophetically anticipate and reveal how Jesus would come and what He would do. Types are prophetic symbols of Jesus.
Some famous types in the Old Testament are the Passover story, in which the blood of a lamb serves to protect the Hebrew people from death (Exodus 12); the life of Moses, in which he survived an infant genocide and grew up to save his people from bondage (Exodus); or the Tabernacle which echoes the patterns of heaven in its materials and constructs (Hebrews 8:5).
If you want to dive deep exploring this idea, I’d suggest starting with the role of the High Priest. Hebrews points out that Jesus is made entirely human so that He can identify with us and intercede for us as a high priest in a compassionate way.
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 (NIV)
When you stop to think the role of the High Priest was conceived in order for us to understand Jesus and His role in God’s Kingdom, suddenly the previously droning chapters like Leviticus 21 or Numbers 18 take on significant meaning. There is a lot of detail there I don’t understand still, but thinking about the instructions God gave Aaron as a sketch of one of Jesus’ primary roles awakens my curiosity. I want to understand.
Do a simple word study by using an online tool like www.biblegateway.com and search for the term “high priest”. Read the different references and see what you learn. Go on a treasure hunt through the scriptures while you keep Jesus, the High Priest, in your mind. As you travel through the Bible on this adventure, the picture of Jesus character will be filled out more fully in your mind and heart.
Somehow when I read about the solemnity and the ceremony surrounding the duties and ritual of the high priest, it makes God’s plan stand out as even more wonderful. Jesus came as fully human so that he could stand in the reverant role of mediator and intercessor, presiding as One who can empathize with our every weakness.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)
Whether it is learning about Jesus as a high priest or allowing the events of the Passover to shape our understanding of Jesus’ sacrificial covering, the Old Testament types give a more complete picture of the glorious gospel message. For me, seeing the way God wove His love story and prophetic pictures of the coming redemption into the lives and events of history builds my faith in His sovereignty. He has had a plan all along. It will not fail now.
From the very first words in the Bible, He is declaring His love, our sin and His plan to make it right. We get the joy of discovering those treasures through out all of the Bible and exploring Old Testament types is a great way to do it. Happy treasure hunting!
If you want to read about Jesus in the Old Testament – Part 1 on Christophanies, click here.