When Shadows Are Better than Reality: A Devotion for Easter Tuesday on Exodus 15 & 16

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come…”
(Hebrews 10:1)

moses_parting_the_red_seaWho would settle for looking at a shadow all day if you had the option of seeing the real thing? You don’t get very much detail in a shadow. They are dark and only give you an idea of the general shape of whatever’s casting it. The thing casting the shadow, however, is brilliant. It’s filled with color, detail, and life. Generally speaking, it’s much better to look at what is casting the shadow than the shadow itself. But not always.

Daily the world floods us with images that breed death. Money and sex drive a good deal of the images we see in the world around us, whether it’s on television, a billboard, at the mall, in magazines, or on the internet. If sin were able to cast a shadow, you would see a silhouette of death.[1]

The Old Testament, on the other hand, presents us with a shadow of the good things that our Lord has given us. Exodus 15 & 16 cast a shadow in the shape of a font and chalice.[2] Long before Handel ever composed his “Water Music”, Miriam praised God in song for the gift of water (Exodus 15:21), water which the Lord had used to save the Israelites from certain death at the hands of Pharaoh. In Holy Baptism, God has rescued you from a threat so much greater than Pharaoh or physical death. At the font He saved you from the second death in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14; cf. Titus 3:5—8; 1 Peter 3:21).

Moving from the Red Sea to Marah, next our Lord makes bitter water become sweet (Exodus 15:25). The waters of Holy Baptism are far worse than bitter to the Old Adam; they are wormwood to him (Revelation 8:11). Holy Baptism is a bitter liquid poison to the sinful flesh, but is sweeter than honey to the one who has set his mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5ff.).

Christ High PriestIf Exodus 15 casts a shadow in the shape of a font, Exodus 16 gives us a shadowy glimpse of the chalice by which Christ sustains us during our time of wandering (1 Peter 1:17; Exodus 16:1). Israel was good as dead at the Red Sea, but Christ gave His children new life when they were baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2). But He didn’t leave them to starve in the wilderness; He sustained them with manna from heaven (Exodus 16:4, 12; 1 Corinthians 10:3–4).

Likewise, Jesus sustains the baptized by feeding them with that which is so much greater than manna in the wilderness: the Living Bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:51). This Living Bread is Jesus, who gives us His body and blood to eat and drink in the Sacrament of the Altar (Matthew 26:26–28).

The luxurious and sensual images which the world sets before us are enticing, and we see them in crystal-clear high definition. The Old Testament presents us with but a shadow of the good things which we have in Christ Jesus. But here’s a case where it’s so much better to fix your gaze on the shadow than that which you can see clearly, for that which we see works death. Remember what our Lord said to do if your eye causes you to sin? (see Matthew 5:29). The things that are unseen, however, work eternal life (2 Corinthians 4:18).


[1] Sin isn’t an object, but a corruption of that which is good; see Formula of Concord, article I: Original Sin for more on the nature of sin.

[2] The Old Testament readings for Tuesday after Easter in the Treasury of Daily Prayer.

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