We just finished watching the Lord of the Rings cycle (stormy weather got us started) where ‘shadow’ describes the malevolent presence hanging over Middle Earth. But that is not what Hebrews’ author has in mind with his use of this metaphor. As the context indicates, shadow here has to do with a lack of fullness and detail, an absence of texture and effect.
Shadows give some information–they outline basic shapes and can, in certain cases, suggest size. But they are lacking in what we really want to know. Indeed, a shadow, confined as it is to two dimensions, is always less than the object which casts it.
This seems to be our writer’s point, insisting as he does that we focus on the realities themselves. Apparently some of his readers were looking more at the pavement than at the trees, and missing the fullness of what was theirs to enjoy.
Metaphors, stories, riddles, poems–they’re gems that catch the light and shoot off sparks, crops that yield fruit long after the seed was sown. Writers like this use them to get into hearts and minds so as to reshape lives.