During this Advent season, we will be sharing a devotional reading from John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy for each week’s Family Devotional Guide. A suggested plan would be to simply read the devotional one day, discuss it another day, and then spend a third day looking up and discussing the Scripture references he cites. For additional use, please note that the complete devotional is available for free: www.desiringgod.org/books/good-news-of-great-joy
“Old Testament Shadows of the Coming of Christ”
One of the main points of the book of Hebrews is that the old-covenant system of worship is a shadow replaced by Christ. So Christmas is the replacement of shadows with reality. (You can see this in Hebrews 8:5, where it says that the priests “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.”) Consider six such shadows that the coming of Christ replaces with reality.
1. The shadow of the old-covenant priesthood – The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues
forever. (Hebrews 7:23–24)
2. The shadow of the Passover sacrifice – Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7 NASB)
3. The shadow of the tabernacle and temple – Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (Hebrews 8:1–2 NASB)
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:19–21)
4. The shadow of circumcision – Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:19 NASB)
5. The shadow of dietary laws – He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:18–19 NASB)
6. The shadow of feast days – Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16–17 NASB)
The meaning of Christmas is that the substance belongs to Christ. That is, religious ritual is like a shadow of a great and glorious person. Let us turn from the shadow and look the person in the face (2 Corinthians 4:6). My little children, keep yourselves from (religious) idols (1 John 5:21).