The Shadow of the Lord
In Psalm 17:8 the Psalmist writes, "Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Thy wing." Most people know that the shadow of the Lord is a reference to God's shelter, the safety of His people such as is referenced in Psalm 36:7: "How precious is Thy loving kindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wing." Also notice Psalms 57:1, 63:7 and 91:4, all of which use shadow as a place of refuge. But is there more? Based on the definition, we see that there is more to this word. So, with all this in mind we want to take a closer look at God's shadow.
So we start by asking the question, what is a shadow? A shadow can be many things, so let's get the definition. A shadow is a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface, like a silhouette, outline of an object or shape, a profile; an inseparable attendant or companion, a reflective image; a supernatural being such as a ghost or spirit; a shelter.
A Matter of Light
A shadow is an image cast by light. That shadow creates a silhouette, an image of that which originally caused the shadow. Like in photography when using film, there is a negative that is produced, a shadow of the image; and then when that negative is developed, we see the positive image which occurs: a picture. It is the identical image, but one in the positive and one in the negative. Like the saying, "Me and my shadow," they are one and the same. So let's look at the Scriptures to see how this pertains to the idea of a negative and positive.
Exodus 33:22-23 tells us that God placed Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him with His hand till He had passed by so that Moses only saw the glory of God's back. What Moses saw was the shadow of God. God is light, and a shadow is an image cast by light. If what Moses saw was so glorious and that was just God's shadow, just think when we see him face to face!
In Luke 1:35 the angel is sent to Mary to tell her that she will give birth to a child. Mary, confused by it all, asks how this will be possible: "The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'" What did the angel mean by saying His power would overshadow her? Well, a shadow is an image, and Scripture tells us in Colossians 1:15, "And He (Yeshua) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." Hebrews 1:3 tells us that He is the exact representation of His nature. So we see that God, when He overshadowed Mary, created in her His image, the shadow that was created by His Light over her. Again, like photography, there is the positive image, the Father, and the negative image, which became the positive image when born, Yeshua. Yeshua says, "The Father and I are one," John 10:30.
A Shadow of Things to Come
When Colossians 2:16-17 tells us, "Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or new moon or a Sabbath day, things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Messiah," it is simply telling us that all these things are the image of Messiah, and when Messiah returns, that shadow, that image, of Messiah will become real. The negative image will become the positive image, and so for now, because Messiah is not with us, He left us the negative image. All these things mentioned are all part of God's commandments in His Torah, His word, His teachings; and one day we will see them all in Messiah. So should we not keep these commands because they are only a shadow? No! That should not stop us, because the shadow, the negative image, is the exact image of the positive image. The shadow, the negative, does not nullify the positive, nor the other way around, for they are the exact image of each other.
We see this same thing in the Feast of Pentecost. God came down on Mount Sinai and gave His Torah, His word, to the people. And yet at Pentecost, when the tongues of fire came down on the disciples, God gave them the Holy Spirit. So, what is the connection between the two? The first Pentecost at Sinai was the foreshadowing of things to come, and it did come when the Word, the Torah, became flesh, the living word of God, and dwelt among us: Yeshua. Then Yeshua returned to the Father and sent us His Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, so all who believed could be filled with His Spirit. Once again this is a foreshadowing of things to come when Yeshua will come back and we will dwell together for eternity.
As believers, to be in the shadow of God's wing is a good place to be, because His shadow is the same as being in His arms. Let us not look down on those things of God which are just a shadow of things to come, because in reality they are the exact image of that which is real.