Before we look into the family lives of some of the holy men of God in the Old Testament we need to realize that the whole system of the Old Testament was a symbol of something to come. The Old Testament ceremonies, and the lives of the patriarchs, contained the gospel message.
For example, the animal sacrifices were pointing to that great sacrifice on Calvary. Even all the feasts of the Old Testament, all their solemn assemblies, were a shadow of the Gospel. In all of it God was trying to teach His people how He was going to save humanity in the symbolic language of the Old Testament. God has used various symbols and permitted various events to happen to reveal the gospel in reality—the gospel in Jesus Christ!
Paul wrote to the Romans:
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Roman 15:4)
All the things that were recorded in the Old Testament Scripture, Paul said is for our “learning”. And while we learn and study the “patience” of God in dealing with His people we “might have hope”. God’s saving method is concealed therein.
Slowly the fullness of the Gospel was being revealed to man. The apostle said:
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. (Romans 16:25)
The gospel of Christ was a “revelation of the mystery”. And the apostle says, it “was kept secret since the world began”. God was slowly revealing the gospel of Jesus, which was kept secret. He was slowly unfolding the mysteries of the gospel.
Peter talks about the angels who were deeply interested to see Christ’s life on earth, because that was the revelation of the mystery of the gospel that was kept secret. It was getting unfolded beautifully in the life of Jesus Christ. Peter wrote:
The gospel…which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12)
The reason angels desired to look into the gospel was that they were finding it very fascinating. They had been looking at the symbols of the Old Testament—in the sacrificial ceremonies and in the lives of the patriarchs—and studying the details as God was unfolding it step-by-step. When the gospel, in reality, was revealed from Bethlehem to Calvary, what a joy it was for the angels to behold the greatness of the gospel!
The Old Testament contained the gospel in symbolism. Paul wrote in the book of Hebrews:
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (Hebrews 10:1)
The law of Old Testament, that is, the laws of sacrifices in the writings of Moses, was “not the very image of the things”, but “a shadow of good things to come”.
All these sacrifices were shadows of something to come. And all that happened in the Old Testament too were shadows of the Gospel of Christ.
Did father Abraham, the father of faith, know the Gospel? Yes, he did. Paul wrote:
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham. (Galatians 3:8)
And Jesus also told the Jews of His day:
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. (John 8:56)
Symbol and Reality:
We need to get a point very clear when talking about the Old Testament symbols, and the New Testament which is the reality of the Gospel. Looking at an event from the right angle is important. Let us look at one of the symbols in the Old Testament.
Passover was a great feast for the children of Israel. It was a symbol of the real deliverance to come, and also it was a memorial of the deliverance from Egypt to Canaan, on that great day when God delivered them through Moses, His servant. God instructed:
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. (Leviticus 23:5)
God specified the date when the Passover was to be celebrated. Who was the essence of the Passover? The New Testament makes it clear:
Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: (1 Corinthians 5:7)
The Passover was nothing but a symbol of Jesus, who was sacrificed for our deliverance from sin.
Jesus Himself said:
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (John 5:46, 47)
Christ was clear. He was telling the people during His time if they really believed Moses they would believe Him, because Moses wrote about the Christ. The Passover, for example, was nothing but a symbol of the gospel, which would become reality in Jesus. It was Christ that would be sacrificed for our deliverance, the true deliverance—of the soul. Jesus said:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin…If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8: 34, 36)
So, Jesus was the real Passover Lamb.
Did Jesus die on that 14th day of the first Jewish religious month? Absolutely! Otherwise God would not have told the date!
Behold the scene at the hall of Judgment. Jesus was already in the hands of the wicked men. Caiaphas leads Him to Pilate’s judgment hall with all the people screaming for His life.
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. (John 18:28)
They, in their blindness, could not see that Jesus was the real Passover! They were more interested in the symbols, and missed out the reality. They did not know that the symbol had no virtue in itself. They missed the mark so badly that they ended up killing the Son of God and fulfilling prophecy.
Jesus died exactly on the Passover day, the 14th day of the first Jewish month; exactly the same time, the same hour, on the cross. He said “it is finished” (John 19:30).
God is a great timekeeper. Everything was well thought of and planned by God. It is written:
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son. (Galatians 4:4)
God was keeping time as He prophesied the date of that event 1500 years earlier.
The important question is—did Jesus die on the 14th day of the first month because it was the Passover? Or, did God tell Moses to have the 14th day of the first month as Passover, because His Son would die on that day? Well, that can be found out easily.
Which is the symbol and which is the reality? The symbols were the Old Testament ceremonies; the reality was Jesus Christ. So it was not Jesus trying to fit into the symbols, but rather all the symbols were there to fit the reality! So Jesus died on the 14th day of the 1st Jewish month not because it was Passover, but rather the 14th day of 1st Jewish month was celebrated as the Passover because, in the future, the Lamb of God was going to die on that very date!
Consider the shadow of our body. Does the body follow the shadow or the shadow follows the body? We know that the shadow is not the leader but the follower. Sometimes the shadows may be ahead of us as we walk; sometimes it can be behind us; and sometimes at the side of us. Wherever the shadow is does not matter; the shadow just shows us that there is a substance that it is reflecting. So also the shadows of the Calvary, some were before the cross, some were after—the Passover was before, and the Lord’s Supper is after.
Look at Pentecost: The feast of weeks was celebrated on the fiftieth day after the first fruits. The first fruit was on the 16th day of the 1st Jewish month, i.e., the day Jesus rose (See 1 Corinthians 15:20). The fiftieth day after His resurrection is called Pentecost. We know from Acts chapter 2 that the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost.
The question is—did the Holy Spirit come down on the day of Pentecost because it was the day of Pentecost? Or, did God command Moses to have the fiftieth day after the first fruits as Pentecost, because the Holy Spirit would be coming on that day? The Holy Spirit was the reality! It is the shadow that follows the substance and not the other way!
The gospel is beautiful, but we need to look from the right angles to see its beauty.
The Marriage of Jesus:
The greatest mystery is God saving lost humanity. And not just that—He has bound Himself to the human family with an eternal binding! It is a bond of love. Jesus prayed to His Father:
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. (John 17:21)
Marriage is a symbol of oneness. In the Garden of Eden God united two individuals as one in Marriage. “They shall be one flesh”, He declared (Genesis 2:24).
God adopts the symbol of marriage to show the oneness He desires us to have with Him. Look at Ephesians 5. Paul talks about this mystery of marriage. He is talking about the shadows and the substance—marriages on earth and the marriage of Jesus.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:22-32)
Paul is talking about a “great mystery”. He says it is Christ and the church becoming one. Husband and wife are symbols of it.
In a marriage the husband and wife are first for each other then for the rest. As it is written:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
The same way the church and the believers have to give their first allegiance to Christ. The Bridegroom made it clear:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)
The believers are the church. We come from various backgrounds. All of us have various histories and, for sure, our histories are no good. It is written in the Word of God about all of us. It simply says:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10)
Who constitutes the church? It is the people who believe in Jesus. In the precious verse of John Jesus talks about the ones who will be saved:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The people who form the church are, one different from the other, yet united like the various parts of our physical body. Paul used the human marriage and the human body as symbols of Christ’s Marriage and Christ’s Church. Paul said:
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
The body is the church. Various members are there with different backgrounds, and it is Christ that keeps us united as one. Though all have sinned He offers us a gift that we don’t deserve:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
He calls everybody to be a part of the holy bride. He said:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13)
He is calling everyone to be one with Him. And marriage is a symbol of oneness.
The Holy Spirit is the one who is uniting us to Christ. Those who are already a part of the body will be instruments of the Holy Spirit. Look at the final recorded invitation:
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
The open invitation by the Holy Spirit and by God’s church is, “come”. Finally when Jesus comes, He takes all the saved ones to heaven. Revelation records the scene—and what is the picture presented?
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God (Revelation 19:9)
For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)
It’s a marriage scene! Please notice that it is “wife” and not wives. It is in singular. The church, or the body, is always portrayed as “one” though there are many members.
That is the ultimate truth about marriage. It carries a gospel message in it. The marriage on earth of God’s people is basically a symbol of the real marriage—the Church with Christ!
When a symbol meets reality, it would have fulfilled it purpose, and therefore it ceases to exist. For example the sacrifices of the Old Testament were symbols of the sacrifice of Christ. And when Christ was sacrificed for our sins all sacrifices ceased.
The human marriage is the shadow of the marriage of Christ with His Church. And when the marriage of the Lamb finally takes place, the symbol ceases. Therefore Jesus said:
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:30)
Paul also talks about the church being the virgin of Christ. He wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
Yes, before the marriage actually takes place, God will have all His saints, pure and holy, washed in the blood of Jesus, because the Bridegroom is spotless!
Isaiah records the famous invitation from the Bridegroom to His bride:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
That is how God is going to have a pure, holy, and spotless bride ultimately.
Remember that the bride was not holy, not pure, nor sinless from the beginning. “All we like sheep have gone astray”, says the Word of God in Isaiah 53:6. But God has called us and separated us. The church, in the Greek language is, “Ecclesia”, which means, “Called out”. He has called us from darkness into His marvelous light to be the bride of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
In the next chapter we will discover why God permitted polygamy though it was not His will, and why God continued to bless the patriarchs in spite of their flawed married lives.