A shadow can mean different things to different people. They are beneficial to some, and ominous and oppressive to others. For example: A shadow of sickness moved across a country. A child lives under the shadow of his or her siblings, never able to achieve his own position of authority. A renowned scholar has become just a shadow of his former literate self. The eager young boy was the shadow of his big brother. The large building’s shadow provided welcome relief from the scorching sun.
In the Old Testament, Egypt was often used by God as a symbol of the world and its lavish yet oppressive systems—a world controlled by the Devil. If you followed the world’s ways, you could become quite successful (by its standards), but if you didn’t keep up, or didn’t want to follow any or all of this system, you were left behind and significantly oppressed. The Israelites (descendants of Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by God) were just such people caught up in this system. They were brought into Egypt because of a severe famine, sustained by the storehouses of Egypt, and subsequently grew into a great body of people. But now they were stuck, because the leadership of Egypt changed. The new leadership was no longer favorable to them.
“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour [harshness]: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour [harshness]” (Exodus 1:13, 14).
This is what happens when the world takes over our lives—we end up in bondage. We may try to get out ourselves, but, like a bungee cord or rubber band released at its fully stretched position, we snap right back.
God, in His infinite love, provided a way out of this system. For the Israelites, He provided a man named Moses. Through Moses, Israel was led out of this bondage of Egypt. The monarch of Egypt tried to detain the Israelites and almost succeeded, but God ultimately made it possible for their release and exodus out of the land of Egypt. The real problem, though, was that the shadow of Egypt continued to hang over most of the Israelites. Why? They would not let go of Egypt and put their trust in God. They regularly complained to Moses as he led them through the wilderness. They wanted the pleasures of Egypt (the world) and they wanted the freedom from bondage (to the world). The ultimate result of this continual complaining and unbelief was God denying entrance to the Promised Land for all of the unbelieving Israelites, the very land God had set aside as their ultimate inheritance. Had they let go of Egypt, their journey through the wilderness would have been significantly shorter, and they would all have been much more likely to have entered the Promised Land themselves.
For every man, woman and child (past, present and yet to be born), God provided His Son Jesus Christ, of whom Moses was a type or symbol as their deliverer. But Moses was only a human, sinful being, like we are. While he led the people of God out of the captivity of Egypt, and was very, very close in relationship to God, he could not remove the captivity of Egypt (the world) out of them.
That is why Jesus came to this earth over two thousand years ago—to fulfill all of the requirements God laid out in the Old Testament for our sins (or all aspects of the world’s system, in this case) to be removed.
Jesus can free anyone from the captivity of the world, if we allow Him to do so. He did what Moses, or anyone else, could never do. Sinful man could not eliminate his own, or anyone else’s sins. Only a sinless man, Jesus Christ, could do this.
If we continue to live under the shadow of the world, we have never truly escaped from the world. We must live instead in the shadow of Jesus the Almighty. “He that dwelleth 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 emphasis mine). We must place all of our trust in Him and His complete, finished work, accomplished through His death as a sacrifice on the cross.
Under whose shadow do you abide—the shadow of Jesus, or shadow of the world? If you have put your trust in Christ, are you resting in His shadow, letting Him do the work in your life? Or is He in your shadow as you try to do His work yourself?