God created us as creatures of sight. We are bound by time and space. We need pictures, stories, visual aids. We need God to open our eyes to physical truth so that we can see spiritual reality. I do not believe that God created things and then later revisited those creations when He decided He wanted to illustrate something. It seems to me that God created objects and processes specifically to illustrate spiritual realities. The spiritual reality existed in the mind of God, and then He created the physical picture to illustrate that spiritual reality. The Father is pictured by fathers. The King is pictured by kings. Sheep picture God’s people. Gold pictures spiritual riches. Thirst illustrates spiritual thirst. Water pictures spiritual refreshment. Food illustrates spiritual satisfaction. Wind pictures the Holy Spirit. Chaff pictures the unrighteous. The tree planted by the water pictures the righteous.
God created a world in which everywhere we turn our heads we see a spiritual lesson. In the soil we see the hearts of men. In the vine, we see a picture of abiding and fruit bearing. The sun reminds us of spiritual Light. Darkness reminds us of separation from God. Milk pictures spiritual food for the new believer. Meat pictures solid food for the mature believer. Wine illustrates joy. Yeast illustrates sin. When we see weeds our thoughts should turn to the fact that spiritual counterfeits abound. When we experience marital intimacy we should marvel at the mysterious union between Christ and His church. Salt should remind us of the purifying, healing power of the gospel. Jesus told us to consider the flowers and the birds. Even though Creation is cursed, it is still groaning out the story of Redemption. These pictures, these physical illustrations of spiritual truths cause believers with eyes to see and ears to hear to love life in all of its mystery and grandeur.
The Old Testament is full of pictures which illustrate spiritual truth. The Tabernacle, the Temple, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies are all full of spiritual truth. The Egyptian slavery and the Babylonian Captivity picture spiritual truth. The Red Heifer and the Scapegoat, the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan River are vivid illustrations of spiritual truth. The Passover and all the festivals, the Sabbath and the Year of Jubilee, manna and water from the rock all point us to powerful spiritual truths. The list goes on and on and on.
Eating and drinking is perhaps the most ordinary and mundane of all illustrations. Every person in every culture in every age has done it. If you do not, we will be having your funeral soon. What we eat was once alive. It had to die in order for us to live. It seems to me that Jesus poured an eternity’s worth of Light onto this picture of eating and drinking in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. The bread they were about to eat was once alive as grain on a stalk. It suffered a violent end. It was ripped from the stalk and ground into dust so that it could be made into bread. The wine they were about to drink was once a grape alive on a vine. It too suffered a violent death. It was ripped from the vine and all its life-blood was squeezed from it. As believers in Christ, in the Lord’s Supper, we ceremonially remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That is right and good, but I think Christ intended more. I think He intends for us to remember this marvelous truth each time we eat or drink. The most repetitious picture of life reminds us that we can live because Someone died, not because of any guilt of His, but because of my guilt.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.