by Bill Somers
We often hear mention of types and shadows in the Bible. These are part of the figurative language the Lord uses all throughout scripture. In order to understand this figurative language, I believe it will help to consider exactly what are types and shadows. The use of the terms 'type' and 'shadow' are themselves figures of speech. And a figure of speech is a device or means of presenting information, written or spoken, through verbal images, figures or pictures.
What are verbal images? Analogies, metaphors, similes, symbols etc. What skills are needed to use or understand them?
What peculiarities of types and shadows in the natural (in real life) are carried over into their use in the Bible? What can this teach us about understanding God's word?
Shadows. Compare for example a photo and a silhouette. A photo shows a realistic likeness of its subject while a silhouette shows only the outline of the subject. The details of the outline are accurate but everything inside is obscured. Sometimes it takes a fair amount of skill or guesswork to identify the subject from looking at the silhouette. Now compare a silhouette with a shadow. Both are outlines of the subject; and both may be quite accurate in the details of the outline. A shadow however can be drastically out of proportion, it can be distorted by stretching or by foreshortening. It can be skewed at an odd angle. It may fall across an uneven or irregular surface whose details make the shadow hard to discern. Discerning a shadow is more difficult when you have very little light to go by. It often helps to have light from more than one source. Sometimes a shadow will be mixed in with shadows of other subjects. In these cases it helps to have a good knowledge of the subject when you try to pick out the shadow.
So when it comes to understanding the language in the bible, we find that the figures of speech are very often obscure. They are dark sayings or dark speech. 'Shadows' is actually a very accurate description. Picking out various shadows from a confused background can require a lot of skill. A particular person or thing can be used as one kind of shadow in one chapter and be used as another kind in the next chapter.
Types. One of the root meanings of type as used in Greek is 'footprint'. Let's consider the nature of footprints and the problems we sometimes have in reading them. A footprint is the print or impression that is left in the ground by a man or animal. It indicates the outline or shape of the foot that made it. The quality and readability of a footprint can vary greatly with the condition of the ground and the attitude of the subject. Prints on hard ground are very faint, on uneven ground, they can be distorted. On grassy soil they may be totally unnoticed. Also if the subject was running or turning at the time, the print can be greatly distorted. Commonly footprints can be mixed in, over or under other ones adding to the difficulty. A tracker has to develop great skill in reading footprints to be successful. Again, the more you are familiar with the subject that made the print, the better you can identify it. The more light you have during your investigation, the easier time you will have.
So it follows that the more you know of the things of God, the easier you can see what the types and shadows He uses in His word refer to. And the more light, illumination of the Holy Spirit, you have, the easier it is to see what His word means. It is the experience of receiving the quickened word that develops your understanding. Add to this the fact that every revelation of His inner truth can be the foundation of a further revelation. This is the maturity, or skill in the word referred to in Hebrews 5.13 For every one that useth milk [is] unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, "
Another very important element in this skillfulness is the understanding that there can be and often are several themes active in a given passage of scripture. And there are multiple lessons that can be found in the same verses. This is because types and shadows can overlap. Just as footprints can overlap or be mixed up with others, and shadows can overlap and cross, so can the 'types and shadows' in the bible. So part of the skill in discerning these is to be able to filter out details that do not pertain to a particular theme or lesson. This sometimes means taking things out of context, and sometimes means adding missing details. So how do you do this with out adding to or subtracting from the word of God? Only as led by the Spirit. And as you receive revelation knowledge in this way, submit it to others for judgment, just as you would with any prophecy.
This means that not only are there multiple lessons in a passage of scripture, but there can be multiple interpretations of the passage, all correct.
For example, in the Story of Balaam and the Ass there are multiple lessons found. And it's all in how you explain the elements of the story to bring out the lesson you wish to give.
A. Balaam can be seen as a type of man in general. When the ass wanders off into the field, it speaks of man distracted by the things of this world. When the ass crashes into the wall of the vineyard, it speaks of the Lord chastising those in the Church [the vineyard]. When the ass comes to the narrow place, it speaks of truly following the path of holiness.
B. Balaam can be seen as a type of the Church coming into revival.
C. Balaam and the Ass together can be seen as a type of the Church coming into revival, here Balaam in the main body of the Church and the ass represents the prophetic ministry, which can see what the main body of the Church cannot.
D. Balaam can be seen as a type of false ministry contrasted with the ass, a type of true ministry. Then the story becomes one of role reversal. The prophet acting like an ass and the ass acting like a prophet.
E. This can also speak of the way true prophetic ministry is often rejected.
F. There is also a lesson in judging by the outward appearance. Someone you may think is an ass may suddenly begin to move in the prophetic. And some who commonly move in the prophetic, may act like asses when they are in the flesh.
G. The conflict portrayed when Balaam strikes the ass can be seen as a type of the prophesied 'Civil War in the Church'. In this case when the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, the conflict stopped.
H. The vision of the Angel of the Lord with drawn sword causing the ass to lay down speaks of intercession being made upon seeing the Lords Judgments in the Earth [the sword].
And so on. Each of these is a good sound interpretation, but does not exclude the others. The lessons and messages derived here just have to be presented at the right time and with the anointing of the Spirit to have the effect He intends.
Many examples can be made of these principles in other parts of the bible. They will come to us as we are open to the Spirit's teaching us and developing our skill in the word. The diet of meat, that belongs to them of full age, brings skill in the Word of Righteousness.
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