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Let us find some foreshadowings in the Old Testament concerning the Cross of Jesus.
Ironically, to see the first place in the Old Testament where the cross is prefigured, we must look to the New Testament.
The apostles call the cross a tree.
Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers hath raised up Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging him upon a tree.
Acts 5:30 tells us that Jesus was put to death on a tree, which we know as the cross.
Keep that in mind as we look at a few other passages.
Then, earlier in John 6:51: Jesus says, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
All of this was, of course, in the context of the Eucharist, and the words here eat and live forever are used only one other time together and that is in Genesis 3:22. God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden lest they eat of the Tree of life and live forever.
So, the Apostles, empowered with the Holy Spirit, recognize that Jesus was giving us His flesh on the cross, and that this flesh was given for eternal life, which we would experience in communion.
That is why, I imagine, they say that Jesus died on a tree, because they see that the cross is the New Tree of Life.
Now, let’s look to the book of Wisdom, which says some interesting things about the Noah’s Ark.
Wisdom 14:6-7 For even in the beginning, when arrogant giants were perishing, the hope of the world took refuge on a raft, and guided by thy hand left to the world the seed of a new generation. For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes.
It is as if the ark is a prefiguring of the cross. Solomon says that “the arrogant giants were perishing”. Now he is speaking of the Nephelim who were the offspring of the sons of God with the daughters of men. But we can also see this happening in Jesus’ day as well as our own day. The arrogant giants in politics, and entertainment ARE perishing, they do not last forever.
Solomon then says that “the hope of the world took refuge on a raft”. Solomon is comparing the ark to a raft. When the ark is compared to the flooding of the world it is likened to a raft, small and insignificant. The same is true with the Cross of Christ. A Jewish man was crucified 2000 years ago because he got some people upset. Yet Solomon says “the hope of the world took refuge on a raft.” The cross is exactly that; “the hope of the world”.
Solomon goes on and says that after the flood Noah and his sons were guided by God’s hand and gave to the world the “seed of a new generation.” Who better fits this than Christians? We are the Children of God born from water to eternal life. We are that new generation.
Finally, in verse 7 Solomon says, “For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes.” Pointing backward, he is speaking of the ark, but pointing forward, he is talking about the wood of the cross by which righteousness comes.
We also see some powerful imagery with Abraham and Isaac.
We see poor Abraham in Genesis 22 being asked by God to sacrifice the son he was promised as a burnt offering. They travel three days to Mount Moriah, which is the same mountain Jesus would be crucified on. Here, we read:
Genesis 22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son;
So Isaac here is carrying the wood up this mountain just like Jesus would do 1700 years later. It is as if they were preenacting the carrying of the cross.
Moses too points to the cross.
When Israelites had crossed over the Red Sea, the first thing they do is grumble and ask for water. Now the Hebrew word Marah, means bitter, or rebellion, so there is an interesting play on words here.
Exodus 15:23-24 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"
And he cried to the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he proved them,
saying, "If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD, your healer."
So, the water reflected the rebellious attitude of the people. But God heals the water and those who drink it become healed of their rebellion as well.
And then in the New Testament we see
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
I cannot help but think that Christ does the same thing on the cross. He takes the punishment of a rebel and He makes that punishment something that we are all called to imitate because it leads to eternal life.
Sirach 38:5 Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that his power might be known?
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.