God is the Greatest Author
When it comes to writing, there’s one element of prose that can often make or derail an author, and that’s foreshadowing. To understand this, we have to know what foreshadowing is, so let’s define it. Going by the dictionary’s definition, it’s warning about or hinting at a future event, and the more subtle an author is about it, the more they will please their readers. Think about stories with big twists, and then think about all the little clues that were dropped on the way there. My two favorite examples of this are the movies The Sixth Sense and Fight Club.
When Bruce Willis’s character has his major revelation in The Sixth Sense, it catches the viewer by surprise, but that’s okay because the movie then replays the many clues that leave us all going, “Oh yeah! I see it now!” We have the same reaction when Edward Norton’s Narrator (ever notice we never learn his name?) discovers the big secret about his friend Tyler Durden. Repeat viewings of Fight Club are fun because there are so many hints dropped throughout the movie. It really keeps you on your toes. And if you’re looking for some literary foreshadowing, go read Agatha Christie. She was amazingly skilled at it.
Of course, foreshadowing can be a difficult element to master. I recently read a novel by a first-time author that did it so poorly, I had the book’s big twist guessed by page twenty. Instead of dropping bread crumbs, the author was putting up giant, neon arrows that screamed, “Look over here! This is the direction I’m heading!” It also didn’t help that his story was very derivative, borrowing way too many tropes from other stories.
At this point, you might be asking, so what does all this have to do with the title of this blog? I’m talking about foreshadowing because when it comes to this particular art, no one does it better than God Himself. We can see this when we study Scripture, particularly the Old Testament which was always intended to point toward the life and work of Jesus. God plants what I like to call “Gospel seeds” all through the Old Testament stories. We see it in events like the first Passover when the blood of a lamb shields the Israelites from God’s judgment against Egypt. You’ll find it in popular stories like David and Goliath when David’s victory over Goliath is imputed to the Israelites, just as Christ’s victory over sin and death has been imputed to all Christians.
My favorite moment of Gospel foreshadowing in Scripture is so subtle, many pass over it without a thought. It’s found in Genesis 3:21, a single sentence that says, “And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Think about the events preceding this statement. Adam and Eve egregiously failed to follow the single rule that God gave them, and in their shame, they stitched fig leaves into aprons to cover their nakedness.
Once God uncovered their sin and pronounced curses on both of them as well as the serpent, He ditched the leafy aprons in favor of animal skins. But why? Why weren’t the fig leaves enough? It’s because they were the work of Adam and Eve, not of God. The works of two people stained with disobedience were not enough to cover their sin. Either they would pay the price with their lives as God had warned them, or something would have to die in their place. Enter the two animals that gave up their skins to cover Adam and Eve’s shame. We can probably surmise what kind of animals they were based on the sacrificial laws given later, but the most relevant part of this single sentence is that something died, blood was shed to pay for Adam and Eve’s sin. God demanded it happen to cover their shame.
Not only is God deftly foreshadowing the Israelite sacrificial system here, He’s also foreshadowing his ultimate plan of sending Jesus to the cross as the once-and-for-all-time sacrifice. We know this through the extended explanation found in Hebrews 10:1-10, which serves the same purpose as the montage near the end of The Sixth Sense, showing us what was really happening all along. Whoa, that’s some good writin’!
So here I sit, a man made in God’s image, my ability to think and reason and create paling in comparison to Him, my feeble scribbling unable to hold a candle to His masterful storytelling. But I’m okay with that because it shows that God Himself has written this story we’re all living. We can rest in the fact that the Greatest Author in the universe is firmly in control and is steering us to an ending that is for our good and for His glory. If you ask me, that’s comforting and joyous, all at the same time.