Echoes …(an introduction to typology)

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One of the exciting things you spot as you read through Scripture especially if you’ve ever done that thing where you read from beginning to end in a year, or if you spend a bit of time reading through big sections is that you begin to spot patterns and echoes. 

For example, here are three repeating patterns or echoes:

Creation and De-creation

In Genesis 1 God creates out of nothing.  He then takes a watery mass and forms, orders and shapes it, dividing dark from light, space from planet, land from sea before filling it, populating it with creatures and setting humans to rule and protect.  The Flood, then brings de-creation as humanity is deposed and the plants and creatures blotted out. Boundaries are erased so the division of land from sea goes as well as between the waters above and below and all returns to a watery mass. 

There is a return to creation after the flood as the boundaries between land and sea return and the creatures spread out from the ark to re-populate the world.  Noah is the new Adam with responsibility for creation.

There is an echo of this when we come to the beginning of the Exodus.  The Ten plagues as well as being signs of God’s power and defeat of Egyptian Gods are also examples of de-creation as we see examples of boundaries crossed and erased and death bringing de-poulation.  Re-creation then is through the people of Israel, transplanted into a new land with Moses as a new Adamic figure. 

Israel will see its own de-creation as God judges the nation for sin, allows enemies to lay waste to the land like locusts devouring everything and scatters a people who had been set apart among the Gentiles. 

The opening of the Gospels with Matthew’s genealogy echoing “These are the Generations of” from Genesis and both Mark and John alluding to “In the beginning …”  mark a new testament, a new covenant, a new re-creation, this time in Christ.

When we come to the end, there’s de-creation as God brings this world as we know it to an end with the burning up of the elements.  There is of course plague imagery in Revelation.  Furthermore, if the sun and moon are darkened and the stars fall, then not only are the heavens depopulated but the boundary between light and darkness, day and night is lost.  Of course, there is new creation to follow with a new Eden, the heavenly city, the Tree of Life is there and Christ the new Adam reigns.

Exile and Exodus

After the Fall, Adam and Eve are banished from Eden. Cain will face further banishment from the ground, ending his settled life as a farmer, east of Eden.  If the trajectory is “east of Eden”, this places the lost garden somewhere to the west of the cradle of civilisation.  That being so, I would suggest that we can see Abraham’s journey to Canaan as a kind of return to Eden. It is certainly an Exodus from Ur, with a generational delay (wandering in the wilderness) in Haran. 

The main exile and Exodus event is of course, seen when the people have to go down to Egypt for food are enslaved by Pharoah and then God rescues them, taking them to the promised land via the wilderness where there is a generational delay.

God’s people experience exile again to Babylon and Persia.  Eventually they return with Isaiah 43 using Exodus language of through fire and water to describe that new Exodus.  Dare I suggest that the return home is not fully realised until Christ comes as prophet, priest and king. There is another generational delay.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus driven into the wilderness to be tempted mirroring the Israelite’s testing in the wilderness. His baptism in the Jordan revisits the crossing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan.  There is a further experience of exile in his abandonment on the Cross, outside of the city. 

The Church are pictured in Peter’s epistles as exiles.  There is a new Exodus happening as we look forward to the new Jerusalem, the new promised land.  Perhaps the Exodus imagery helps us to get a better understanding of Jesus’ words when he says “this generation will not pass away until …”  Unlike with the previous times, there will not be a generational delay in spiritual terms, those who set out for the new promised land will all see the new promised land.

Death and Resurrection

I remember our OT tutor at Oak Hill, Thomas Renz suggesting that when Jesus took the disciples on the Emmaus Road through the Scriptures “beginning with Moses” that he wasn’t just picking out the predictions about him but showing how the whole of Scripture pointed to him, including the way in which the story line was a pattern of death and resurrection.  I have mentioned elsewhere that exile in the Old Testament is a form of death.  Return then is resurrection.  So, we see death and resurrection for God’s people, death in Egypt, resurrection in the promised land, death in Babylon, resurrection with return from exile. We also see it in the lives of individuals,  it is death for Naomi to leave Bethlehem, the house of bread and in fact her family die in Moab literally but return with Ruth resurrects life for the family.  Abraham heads down to Egypt and there are curses and the shadow of death there but he returns to the land.  David in the Psalms talks about going down to the pit and his exile when Absalom stages a coup is a form of death like dissent into the put but he is raised up again.  The story of Job is one that speaks of death and resurrection.

Indeed, those other images and themes, both Exodus and Creation/De-Creation/Re-Creation point to the death and resurrection theme which is central to the redemptive story.  That is because all of these images are meant to point to Christ, his life, death and resurrection and so the certain hope we have in him.

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