A shadow implies an object between that shadow and a source of light.
One approaching you from behind, when you have the sun at your back, will cast a shadow in front of you before that one catches up with you and is revealed to you.
A shadow, therefore, also declares a reality, a real object. That which does not exist cannot cast a shadow. The tree that is not there casts no shadow on the ground. But the tree in the field full of foliage produces a large and often enjoyable shade.
The shadow may be long, or it may be short, depending not only on the size of the object, but also upon the angle of the light. In the treeless and grassless desert the pebbles and rocks will cast very short shadows even just before the sun is at its lowest point on the horizon. But the skyscrapers of man’s construction skills that tower up some hundred and more stories, will cast a very long shadow as the sun sinks in the west.
Consider that the day of shadows began at the very dawn of history. Of course there were natural, physical shadows cast when the sun shone upon the trees and the creatures in the land of Eden. But figuratively speaking, as we take note of the events that happened in the day of shadows from a spiritual point of view, we find that there were shadows from the very beginning. Paradise itself was a shadow of the paradise to come. The tree of life in the garden was a shadow of the tree of life which John sees in the new Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from God. And the cross of Christ casts its shadow down the ages from Calvary to the very feet of Adam and Eve before they were cast out of the garden. Looking in the direction of the source of the light they could see that cross, be it then dimly and without all its detail.
This means, of course, that by faith as Adam and Eve looked into the face of God, Who is Light, they saw the cross of Christ as their only hope of salvation. Christ was not yet there, and many generations would rise up and pass away before He would appear in our flesh. But His coming in Bethlehem, and particularly His cross on Calvary were evident in their shadows there in paradise. From that moment on, God’s people had a Saviour towards which by faith to walk and unto Whom they could look. Even before they were cast out into the curse outside the garden and away from the tree of life, Adam and Eve had a way pointed out that would bring them to the better tree of life. They had a shadow which assured them of a reality between them and God, the Light, which would bring them and guide them back to covenant fellowship with God in the better paradise.
It also means that it is the grace of God that Adam and Eve—and we with them—had this shadow for their comfort. You have no shadow when there is no object between you and the light. But you have no shadow either when you have no light. In the dark cave all is blackness. You can be surrounded by objects and even stumble over them or walk into them. But you have no shadows until a light of some kind is produced; and then some very grotesque shadows may suddenly appear to strike terror into you. Adam and Eve had—and we with them—entered into the night of sin and death. They at first saw no shadows but only felt the cold, clammy hand of death. But God came. What a tremendously rich truth that is! God came! The Light appeared; and then it first produced grotesque and terror-producing shadows. Adam and Eve were filled with the most awful fear. Their blood pressure soared—a thing so unknown to them before. Their hearts pounded in their breasts as though their ribs would crack. God came! They heard His voice walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Their hands were icy cold with fear and tension. What would He say? What would He do? The shadows of that death which He had already predicted to them were all around them reaching out to take hold of them. Every little sound was terrifying. They who only knew peace and tranquility, who knew no tension or nervousness, were suddenly in stark terror! Suddenly they found themselves in the valley where the shadow of death is cast. They saw death coming at them with all its horrors.
But God came in His grace, and that they did not expect. How could they? They deserved that death which cast such an awful shadow in their beautiful garden. How could they expect the holy God to come with words of peace and comfort? They could not, and they might not. Yet He came, He Who is Light and in Whom is no darkness; and He cast a shadow of the cross of Christ, and gave them eyes to see that shadow in the valley of the shadow of death.
We said that the cross cast its shadow at the very feet of Adam and Eve. It did as a very long shadow. And it is that long shadow not only because the cross is such a tremendously great reality, and one of such tremendous significance, but also because of the angle of the light: for the reality is some four thousand years away. The Light of the work of God on that accursed tree is not directly over head for Adam and Eve. It is centuries and generations away. But it is there in God’s grace to assure Adam and Eve and the whole church of salvation.
In Genesis 3:21 we read, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” In that act the grace of God cast the shadow of the coming reality of that cross of Christ. In that deed the grace of God cast into a new light man’s situation after his fall from righteousness and into death and the curse. God clothed them with the robes of the righteousness of Christ in a symbolic way by those skins. Therein by faith they saw the shadow of the coming cross.
There are several elements here to consider. God taught Adam and Eve that there was salvation only in the way of the shedding of blood. Coats of skin cannot be made without shedding of blood. And Adam and Eve witnessed the procedure. They must witness it, because they must seek God’s face themselves by way of that cross of Christ in this symbolic act of shedding the blood of animals. They must take hold of the cross by that shadow every day by faith. You cannot with the physical hand take hold of any shadow. In faith they had a spiritual hand that took hold of the cross that cast its shadow.
Further, the shedding of blood signifies the giving up of life. It means that there must be a life taken for them to escape having their lives taken. One must suffer the punishment, if they are to escape the punishment. By faith they must begin to look for the Lamb of God Who will lay down His life for the sheep. They could only see His shadow, but by faith they must take hold of the reality, believing that this shadow speaks of such a reality and aware of the fact that God sends forth the light to bring that shadow across all the ages to their very feet.
And again, it indicates to fallen man that GOD must clothe us or we are not properly dressed so that we can stand and live before Him. Man’s fig-leaf aprons must be discarded. Our works will only cover us with guilt and leave us with awful tensions and fears. God makes our coats, our robes of righteousness in Christ by His cross. The shadow cast at Adam’s feet is a shadow of grace and of divine wisdom and power. Adam and Eve were taught that the only way that they could come and stand before God in prayer was the way of being clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Hence, from then on they always built an altar and sacrificed a lamb in connection with their prayers. They came to God by way of the cross, yea, rather, by way of the shadow of that cross—still better, by that cross as they saw it in its shadow. We on this side of the cross do the same thing when we utter our, “For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
But let us learn a lesson from all this, a lesson that needs to be learned and relearned every day because of our sinful flesh. It comes with such force today because of the verses that precede these words in Genesis 3:21. God in broad lines sketched out the curse that would come upon fallen mankind. He spoke of the pains of childbirth for the woman, and of the fact that her desire would be to her husband with a multiplication of her conceptions. He spoke of the hardships of man’s toil among the thorns and thistles of an accursed soil, with the sweat of his face mingling with the bread he would eat. He spoke of a return to the dust in the way of suffering, pain, disease and miseries. And then we read that the shadow of Christ’s cross was caused to fall at Adam and Eve’s feet.
Let it be stated with all the force possible, and let it be seized by faith and held with a hand that refuses to let it go: There is no escape from the curse without the cross!
The unbeliever, and so often the believer in his moments of spiritual weakness, behaves as thoughGenesis 3:21 were not there. The way out of the pains of childbirth and the “inconveniences” and “the dangers of a population explosion” are the pill and abortion. Men see the shadows of the curse which was cast already in paradise, but they do not see the shadow of the cross. Science and invention, education and research, new medical and surgical techniques, money and labor saving(?) devices are the natural man’s way of fighting the shadows. And that is exactly what he does. He fights the shadow and not the reality that casts the shadow. He attacks thorns and thistles, sickness and disease, weariness and pain, but not SIN and guilt which must and do cast the shadow of the coming reality, which is not simply physical death but the pains and woes of the lake of fire!
But listen, as the shadows become sharper and more in focus some generations and centuries later, the psalmist writes in Psalm 103:3, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases. ” And somewhat later in Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed“. Only in the way of God covering us with the robes of Christ’s righteousness through the shedding of His blood and the laying down of His life is there any hope for the healing of any of our diseases and the removal of any part of the curse.
There is a healing of our diseases. There is victory over the grave and death. There is a sure removal of all the curse to leave no trace, no scar and no evidence of it. There are good things to come. But it all is in the way of the cross of Christ, because by it He satisfies God’s justice and removes our guilt, to clothe us with the robes of His righteousness. The psalmist puts it all together so beautifully and in the right order. “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth thy diseases.” The latter cannot come without the former. And the shadow of the cross of Christ in paradise spoke of the former and was therefore a shadow of the good things to come in the paradise of which that first one was a shadow, and wherein there shall be the tree of life that cast its shadow in that first paradise. And these, paradise and that tree of life, could be shadows of an undeniable and blessed reality exactly because that cross is a reality that brings us these good things of salvation.