Monday, May 30, 2016

Behind the Scenes


“Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” Genesis 16:13.


In the following I want to take you behind the scenes. You’ve no doubt seen one of those programs on the TV, “The Making of Jaws”, “The Making of Jurassic Park” or “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” etc., that kind of thing. You know, the ones where they take you behind the scenes. They show you things like how they got the giant shark to open its mouth. Or how they got the tyrannosaurus to eat the car. Or how they got Jabba the Hut to walk and talk. Or the Incredible Hulk to grab the flying helicopter, Superman to fly etc.

When we watch a movie, we see the finished product. But who would doubt that many things have gone on behind scenes to produce what you see? Movies are all about “make-believe”. Sometimes they succeed in making the unbelievable believable! Actors perform amidst mechanical sharks and computer generated dinosaurs and such like on “green-screen”. And there’s a Director calling the shots off-screen. However, in the finished product the strings have disappeared. The papier-mâché, the rubber and the silicone and the CGI looks real as we sit and watch the story unfold in the movie.

Though not set out in perfect chronological order, the Bible is the unfolding of a story. You can start at the beginning and see the unfolding of a story as you read through to the end. The story is the history of redemption. The Bible records the unfolding of God’s Plan of Salvation. It begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth and its fall in the fall of man. And it ends with the redeemed heavens and earth in the redemption of man. The Bible is the finished product it is not to be added to or taken away from. It records and unfolds the story of redemption. It is a true story. It is not make-believe.

In the following I want to alert you to some of those things that went on behind the scenes in the making of the greatest story ever told. I want to, as it were, make the invisible visible. We’re only going to look at a short clip, a snippet, of the story. However, it should be enough to illustrate something of what went into the making of the history of redemption.

The general gist of what we’re looking at is: Always stay in the spotlight of God’s Word.

In the Shadows

In Genesis 16:11 the Angel of the Lord says to Hagar, “Behold, you are with child.” So, first off, we need to figure out how this happened. How come Hagar is pregnant? And before you ask me aside to tell me about the birds and the bees, remember that our subject is “Behind the Scenes.”

There is a seed in Hagar’s womb. Who sowed it? How did it get there? We know that Sarai, who couldn’t bear children, gave her servant Hagar to Abram. We know that Sarai had come up with a well-thought-out plan. We know that Abram agreed to this well-thought-out plan. Hence the child in Hagar’s womb. But where did Sarai’s idea come from? Did she get the idea from the Lord? Had the Lord written it into the script or was Sarai improvising? Was she doing a bit of ad-lib here? She was making this all up as she went along, wasn’t she? It was never God’s intention to use Sarai’s servant Hagar to produce the Redeemer. So Sarai must have got this idea from somewhere else. Where?

Apparently there was a custom in those days, according to historians. If your wife couldn’t produce you an heir, then, as custom would have it, you were free to use a surrogate. Needless to say, this ancient custom was a pagan practice that goes against the revealed will of God of one man and one woman in marriage. So, was it a pagan custom that was sitting in the director’s chair, directing Sarai to act this way? No! I think there was something more than just an idea skulking around in the shadows. It seems to me, that it was Satan himself who was skulking around in the shadows. However, I don’t think he was walking around with one of those director’s mega-phones in his hand. I don’t think he was yelling out his directions to the stage-players. He’s much more subtle than that. He’s the one who whispers sweet nothings in your ear. Sometimes he’s the subtle initiator of those things about which we say afterwards, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!” Usually we’re never that sure where the idea came in the first place! Was it Fred? Was it Freda? Was it me? Or did it just seem to happen?

I’ve been to committee meetings attached to church where they record the names of who moved and who seconded what. This seems like good practice. So it was moved by Sarai and the motion was seconded by Abram that Abram and Sarai use Hagar as a surrogate mother. But we can see what went on behind the scenes. Sarai might have moved the motion, Abram might have seconded it. But where did the idea come from? It didn’t come from the Director, God. The idea came from the pseudo-director, Satan, didn’t it?

Even if Sarai got the idea from pagan practice, the idea still came from Satan. Scripture says Satan is the father of lies, John 8:44. The trouble with the Devil is that he dresses up his lies so that they look like truth. It’s a bit like the street organist who used to dress up the little monkey in human clothes.

So then, although Sarai, Abram and Hagar are each responsible for their own actions, Hagar is “with child” on account of the Devil working behind the scenes. It was the Devil who sowed the seed of thought that sprouted in Sarai’s heart. The Devil, not Abram, was the father of the lie planted in Hagar’s womb.

Do you know about the Scottish cuckoo? The Scottish cuckoo lays an egg in another bird’s nest! It keeps an eye on its prospective candidate’s nest. Then in an unguarded moment it swoops in and lays an egg, yes, just one egg. Then the host birds are run ragged trying to raise this other bird’s offspring! In a very real sense this is what the Devil was trying to do here. He was planting a counterfeit, a cheap imitation, a substitute for the real thing.

God had promised Abram that his Seed would be a blessing to the whole world. This seed in Hagar’s womb was no blessing. He was to be a wild-man, a wild donkey of a man! His hand was to be against every man and every man’s hand against him. This seed in Hagar’s womb was a false promise. He was a lie – the Devil’s lie. The serpent, through Sarai, Abram and Hagar, had given birth to an offspring. And the scary thing about it is that it all seemed like a good idea at the time.

You’ve heard it said that the Devil is in the detail. Well, I’d like to put it to you that he’s even more subtle than that. At least you’ll see him hiding in the detail if you would just take the time to read it. All you have to do is read the small print. However, the Devil hides in the shadows. He always remains behind the scenes. Listen to what the Lord teaches if you don’t believe me, “Everyone practicing evil hates the light & does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” John 3:20.

The Devil doesn’t like the spotlight – certainly not the spotlight of God’s Word. He’s happy to direct from behind the scenes. And if he ever does step out of the shadows, he always wears a disguise. And his disguise is usually more than a pair of sun glasses like Clark Kent when he’s not being Superman. Satan is an angel of darkness who poses as an angel of light. He’s the enemy who comes along and sows the tares among the wheat and goes his way. Watch him because he’s a planter of thoughts, of things that seem like a good idea at the time. And he likes to see Christians forget their lines and resort to improvisation and ad-lib. Therefore, we must keep going back and keep on reading the fine print of the Bible. Keep on trying to memorize your lines. Always stay in the spotlight of Scripture. As the Psalmist says, “You Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You” and, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

Knowing the Word of God is the only way we can be safe from his suggestions. That’s how Christ handled the Devil in the wilderness, wasn’t it? The Devil lurks around in the shadows. But what about the Lord? He works in the light.

In the Light

In the passage before us, the invisible has become visible. The Angel of the Lord has manifested Himself before Hagar. He has materialized Himself in human form, perhaps, though we can’t be certain. I don’t think there would be too many arguments against the belief that the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself. Hagar seems to think this is the Lord Himself, Genesis 16:13, “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” The Angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar in the first person, where He says in Genesis 16:10, “I [ie, I, the Angel of the Lord] will multiply your descendants exceedingly” etc. So, Hagar herself actually believes she has seen the Lord Himself. And I wouldn’t try to convince Hagar otherwise!

The movie director Alfred Hitchcock would usually make a cameo appearance in his movies. You’ll see him get on a bus or walk out of a shop, or something. He makes just the briefest of appearances, i.e., a cameo. Well, here in this passage the One who usually directs from behind the scenes has made a cameo appearance, if you will. The Lord Himself has come out in the open. The Lord is consistent with His own teaching. For He says in John 3:21, “He who does the truth comes to the light, that His deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” So the real Director has come onto the set!

We see that he is compassionate because He has heard Hagar’s affliction. And we see that He is all-seeing. He saw Hagar in the wilderness. However, more than that, He can see into the future. He knows where the story is going. He knows the end from the beginning. He’s making sure Hagar learns her lines before He sends her to report back to Abram and Sarai. And what is Hagar to tell them when she gets there? Well first off she’s going to tell them that God heard her affliction. And she’ll tell them that the Lord is going to multiply her descendants exceedingly, “So that they shall not be counted for multitude.” That must have been a great comfort for Hagar to know that. But just so that there’s no mistaking that this seed is not the promised seed, it’s revealed to her in Genesis 16:12, “He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” So we see clearly in these words that Ishmael is not the promised seed.

There’s no mention of him being a blessing. In fact he’s to be the opposite. But let’s not miss what’s going on here. The Lord has just sprung another of Satan’s evil plans. Satan had planned to mislead Abram and Sarai in letting the promise appear to have been fulfilled by substituting another seed, that of a slave. However, who should show up on the scene and make, as it were, a “cameo” appearance? None other than the Promised One Himself – the Lord! That is, the One who would, in the fullness of time, become the Great Redeemer. He steps out from the Old Testament shadows, from behind the scenes, just long enough to direct Hagar.

Notice His compassion. He says to her, “Call your son ‘Ishmael’ because the Lord has heard you affliction.” “Ishmael” means “God hears.” So every time Hagar would call on the boy for lunch, for tea, “Ishamel! Ishmael!” everyone in the whole street would be reminded that “God hears.”

So, God hears, He hears affliction, even the affliction of the slave. But where does all of this fit into the story, the story of redemption? Well, before we fast-forward ahead let’s rewind the tape a little. You’ll remember the bit where in Genesis 15 where the Lord made a covenant with Abram. Remember the dead animals and the smoking oven and the burning torch? Well, the Lord had said to Abram in Genesis 15:13, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will AFFLICT them four hundred years.” This is of course a future reference to Israel’s enslavement in Egypt. Let’s begin to fast forward. Do you know how the descendants of Abram ended up in Egypt? Abram had a great grandson whose name was Joseph. You know about Joseph and his coat of many colours. You know that his brothers wanted rid of him so they sold him to some travellers. Listen to this verse of Scripture, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from THE ISHMAELITES who had taken him down there.” Genesis 39:1. Joseph’s brothers sold him into the hands of the “Ishamelites!” The “Ishmaelites,” the descendants of Ishmael, sold Joseph, Abram’s grandson, to the Egyptians.

And you know that Jacob and the whole of Israel came to live in Egypt with Joseph. But in the process of time what happened? Joseph died. “[And] there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Exodus 1:8. And Egypt set taskmasters over Israel “to afflict them with their burdens.”

Let me cut the long story short: Ex. 2:23-24, “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out...So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham.” “God heard their groaning...” “Ishmael” “God hears” – affliction, even the affliction of the slave! And you know the rest of the story. “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.” Exodus 3:2. The Angel of the LORD in the burning bush is another Old Testament cameo appearance of the Lord.

So the moral of the story is that God hears. He’s not a God who hides Himself in the shadows. He doesn’t do things in a corner. He’s the God who does His deeds so that they may be clearly seen. He’s the God who hears your affliction. He hears you when you cry out to Him in times of trouble. How do we know? Well we know how the story ends, don’t we? As the Scripture says, “But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” Hebrews 9:26b. He sets slaves free.

Christ on the cross of Calvary was the greatest deed ever done! Not to mention His resurrection from the tomb. The blessing is ours! And none of this was done in the shadows, but in the light. Satan might have tried to fob off Abraham with a counterfeit, a substitute promise – a false christ. He was even raising up false christs in Christ’s day. And, depending how you read Matthew 24:24 he’ll be doing it until the real Christ appears. However, take comfort in the fact that, though Christ, the real Christ, is at the moment behind the scenes. He hears your affliction. The Ishmaelites might be persecuting the covenant children of Abraham in the Sudan, Indonesia, and elsewhere, but God hears our affliction. He will appear. As Scripture says, “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” Hebrews 9:28. When will this appearing be? No one knows the day or the hour. Therefore make sure that everything that you do is done in the light.

Stay in the light and don’t spend time in the shadows, for you know who skulks around there. And he wants to sow some thoughts in your head thoughts that seem like a good idea at the time. But listen only to the direction of the Lord who still directs from behind the scenes.


Now, when you think of it, your life and mine is but a “cameo appearance”, isn’t it?
We get to walk onto the world stage mumble a few lines and then we’re gone. Most of us don’t even get mentioned in the credits. That’s reserved for kings and queens, and famous people. But this doesn’t mean that what you and I say or do is not important. For we know that God is recording every idle word that we speak.

I’m not totally sure what Judgment Day will be like exactly. But in today’s terms, it seems to me that we will get to watch a movie in which we are the stars! It will be a “This is your life!” (or, this WAS your life) I don’t know about you, but I’ll be embarrassed all to pieces if I get to see a movie of my whole life It’ll be, “Why did I do that?” And, why did I say that?” Could you imagine how embarrassed you will be if everyone gets to watch the story of your life? It’s then that I’ll be truly thankful more than ever that I have Jesus Christ as Saviour! For my acting on the world’s stage has been anything but perfect, everything but perfect.

Yes even after God, by His grace, set me free from my bondage to sin I haven’t served Him perfectly. But thanks be to God that He won’t be looking at your imperfect life or mine on Judgment Day. Rather God will be looking at the perfect life Jesus Christ lived in our stead on Judgment Day. Therefore, shouldn’t those of us who belong to Christ be striving to be obedient to Him out of love and gratitude for His grace? Therefore, always strive to be on your best behavior even when in the super market, when driving your car, even when filling out your Income Tax Return. In a word, no matter what we are thinking, saying, or doing we should strive to always stay in the spotlight of God’s Word.

No comments:

Post a Comment