A Thing Bigger Than Itself
We are awash in symbols. Our language, our(hence our
thoughts, even) are symbols, representations of things other
than themselves. The letters of the word dog aren’t a
dog or any dog. They’re a symbol, composed of type on
a page, made of letters and sounds that, no matter how
construed, never can be what they stand in for. The word dog,
in every tongue and script, represents something bigger than
Language, culture, society, politics—everything to
some degree—comes to us filtered through symbols:
flags, icons, pictures, slogans, idiom, art, poetry,
sculpture, dance, architecture, ritual, and custom, with
meanings often varying from place to place. So many things
mean more than what they, in and of themselves, are.
Maybe that’s why the Bible is awash in symbols, as
well. In Genesis
2, God made the seventh day a symbol of all that came
before it, the six days of creation. The first gospel
promise, the first promise of salvation for the fallen race,
was revealed in symbols: seed, head, heel (Gen.
3:15), all referring to a reality much greater than
seeds, heads, and heels. Then, too, when He said to the
murderous Cain, “the voice of thy brother’s
blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Gen.
4:10), the Lord Himself was speaking in symbols.
All through the Bible, symbols—representations of
things and ideas bigger than
themselves—appear—the rainbow after the flood
9:13), Joseph’s dreams (Gen.
37:1–11), the three angels of Revelation
14:6–12), the entire sanctuary service of the
Old Covenant period (Hebrews
9), the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper
14:22–25). They all point to realities and
truths beyond themselves.
Of course, as Seventh-day Adventists, we’re all
familiar with the prophetic symbolism of Daniel: a winged
7:4), a beast with iron teeth (Dan.
7:7), a goat that “touched not the
8:5), a statue with feet of iron and clay (Dan.
2:33). Again, all these are symbols of greater
Then there’s the powerful symbolism of biblical
poetry: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of
his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and
comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed
the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?”
40:12). Or something as simple as, “ A word
fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of
And the parables Jesus told? The lost sheep (Luke
15:1–6), the rich man burning in hell (Luke
16:22–31), the marriage supper (Matt.
22:1–13), and the ten virgins (Matt.
25:1–13) are all symbolic representations of
concepts that, in their essence, have little or nothing to do
with their symbols. (Christ came to give eternal life to a
fallen race, not to find lost farm animals.)
This quarter’s lessons focus on biblical symbolism
of a certain kind: clothing imagery. (We give special thanks
to Myrna Tetz for this concept. Myrna, now retired, was
managing editor of the Adventist Review.) We will
consider the garments that people in the Bible wore and what
that clothing really meant, what truths it symbolized, what
great realities it pointed to, and what lessons we can learn
from it. From the fanciful adornment of Lucifer in heaven to
the filthy rags of our own righteousness, from the coats of
animal skins for Adam and Eve in Eden to the “garments
of splendor” mentioned in Isaiah, the Bible uses
clothing and clothing imagery to portray truths about sin,
pride, righteousness, salvation, justification, resurrection,
and eternal life in Christ.
Though, of course, we’re not what we wear, what we
wear can say much about who we are; in that sense, as with
all symbols, garments can point to something greater than
Giardina Sabbath School Study
Jerry Giardina of Pecos usually prepares a
series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He
includes all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry
has chosen the "New King James Version" of the scriptures
this quarter. It is used with permission. The study helps are linked from each lesson and
links to the whole quarter's Helps are provided here.
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