The Proper Use of the Allegory
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
Allegory – A literary, dramatic, or practical device in which each literal character, object, and event represents symbols illustrating an idea or moral or religious principle.
“We do not allegorize the Bible!” I was told quite firmly by a theologian. Of course he was only a theologian and not an apostle. The Apostle Paul recognized that God had designed His word to contain them and he interprets one for us in Galatians 4:22-26.
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
But Jerusalem which is above (Hebrews 12:22, Rev. 21:2, 10) is free, which is the mother of us all.
The theologian’s response was due to the fact that at some point in time the Bible had become over- allegorized, so to correct the problem the church went to the opposite extreme by eliminating the use of the allegory completely. The baby that God birthed into His word was pitched out with the bathwater and left wailing in the wastelands of neglect.
We can use the allegory as long as it is utilized as God intended it – to teach and illustrate the coming and purpose of the Messiah and His grace, which is the example that was set for us by His Apostle, and our Lord Jesus who used the allegory of Moses and the serpent on the pole in the wilderness to relate to Himself and His crucifixion (John 3:14, 15, Numbers 21:5-9.)
Utilizing the allegory strictly within the Biblical precedent that has been established for us by the Apostle and the Lord Himself in the Scriptures, protects from any misuse of that which God has intended to use for our instruction in who the Messiah is and what He came to accomplish for us.
The allegories contained in God’s word are important because they reveal the unique and wondrous design of God’s word glorifying the Divine Mastermind who so skillfully wove them into the intricate pattern of the scriptures. They are important because they further the instruction of God’s plan of salvation to the Jew and the Muslim who so desperately need to know and understand that Jesus is the pre-planned Redeemer of mankind.
The allegory is to be used for this purpose only, to transport the souls of men from the mountain of bondage of the fear of death to the glorious mountain of freedom and eternal life found only in Messiah Jesus.
Copyright 2009 by H.D. Shively
A Bird in the Hand
The fourteenth chapter of Leviticus, verses one through seven, describes a ritual for the cleansing of a leper. The priest commands that two birds be taken. One is killed in an earthen vessel over running water. Then a cedar stick with a scarlet cloth and hyssop are dipped in the blood of the bird, and so is the living bird. Then the priest sprinkles the leper with the blood on the cedar scarlet hyssop pole seven times and releases the living bird to freedom. Then the leper is pronounced clean.
I can picture a small child, the son of the priest, perhaps, watching this ceremony with a curious expression on his face. Afterwards, he asks his daddy, "Abba, what does it mean when you kill the bird and let the other one go free?"
The priest doesn't really know what it means. He only knows that God has told them to do it that way. He might add in his explanation, that it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul and quote Leviticus 17:11. He doesn't know exactly why. It is the command of God and that is enough.
He couldn't hope to understand what it all means back then. But now, the scenario is quite a bit different.
A modern child has read these Scriptures and comes to his father, a pastor, perhaps. The child asks, "Daddy, what does this mean? Why is the one bird killed and the other goes free?"
The father smiles. He knows the answer because the shadows of the past have been unveiled in the light of prophecies fulfilled.
"The first bird is killed in an earthen vessel because someday The Spirit of God would be in a man, the Messiah to save His creation. He would enter an earthen vessel and be killed and the water of His Holy Spirit would flow. The scarlet hyssop pole is symbolic of the cross He died upon in order to sprinkle His blood upon many nations, cleansing them from the leprosy of their sin. And covered by the blood of the Messiah, the captive soul is set free and can rise into new eternal life because of the other's sacrifice. Do you understand?"
The child smiles. He understands and repeats, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life, because He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our sins." John 3:16, Isaiah 53:5. There is a flutter of wings outside the window and the child looks up in time to see a bird soaring out into the daylight, free.
copyright 2000 by H.D. Shively