The idea of shadows is used a lot in the scriptures. I was raised on the concept of “foreshadowing”—items under the Old Covenant used as types of things in the New, Heb 8:5; 10:1; 1 Cor 5:7,8, etc. I think I had the notion that esoteric concept was the primary use of the word “shadow” in the Bible.
Then I discovered Psalm 102:11, 144:4, and Eccl 8:13. Our lives are depicted as shadows that decline and pass away. Have you ever stood outside when a breeze was blowing those puffy cotton ball clouds across the sky? One minute you are in the sun and the next in the shade—one minute you have a shadow and the next you don’t. Life is just as ethereal in several ways. One moment you are basking in the warmth of happiness and good times; the next your life is dark and gray with trials. One minute you are here, and the next you are gone. Remember not to lay up treasures for this world, but for the lasting one to come.
The word is also used in terms of protection, hiding in the “shadow” of God. David conveys thoughts like these in Psalm 17:8; 36:7; and 57:1. Jeremiah uses the figure in Lam 4:20. In a hot land with several desert areas, the protection of shade is important and that figure spoke volumes to these people. Down here in Florida we have a healthy respect for shade which can make a ten to fifteen degree difference in the temperature. We will walk the entire length of two parking lots in order to park a car in the miniscule shade of a thin-limbed sapling. I wonder why so few are interested in the huge cooling shadow of a loving God.
But then maybe I do understand. When you step into the shadow of someone who is bigger than you, your own shadow disappears. Our lives “are hid with Christ,” Col 3:3. Maybe we just cannot stand the notion of giving up self. We want to retain just a touch of independence. “That’s just who I am,” becomes an excuse for our failure to overcome sin and become new creatures. We fail to realize that we have merely swapped dwelling in the protective shadow of God for dwelling in the outer darkness of the Devil.
Think today about shadows—about the interesting study of Old Testament items foreshadowing those in the New; about the fleeting nature of life, like a shadow dissolving when a cloud sails across the sun; about the great protection found in God’s shadow. Think too about hiding yourself in the larger shadow of a Big Brother whose life we must emulate if we ever hope for that Father’s protection, and a life that is no longer as ephemeral as a shadow.
He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust, Psalm 91:1,2.