Sitting in the Front Row

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A few weeks ago my wife and I had the great joy of going to see the musical Hamilton.

We don’t go to the theatre much and these tickets were a lottery prize. As a result we got sat right in middle of the very front row. It’s not a seat that many would enjoy. You’re looking up at an angle at the stage and lose some of the sense of the entire scenes as they develop. Even the nosebleed section would give you a better experience with an overview of what was going on. Instead I worried we’d be asking what’d I miss?

Or so you might think.

King George, played by Brent Hill. image: DT

But it turns out siting in the front row is the best place to be. First, you get to see some amazing detail. For instance, I had no idea that King George (obviously the real hero of the whole show and superbly depicted by Brent Hill) has a spectacular jewelled pendant hanging off his regal chain with a depiction of St George slaying the dragon. That appears to be unique to the Sydney production and not something I would have possibly noticed sitting further away.

In the same way we saw buckles on shoes, garters on legs, the actual script on Declarations and Federalist Papers and so much more. For someone who mines for information it was a real treat.

However, that wasn’t the best bit.

Our seat put us right behind the musical director, looking over his shoulder onto his score and beyond him into the orchestra pit.

And so the next three hours were spent absolutely geeking out looking back and forth from the stage to the score. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me, who has been playing piano since the age of 7 and done a small bit of musical theatre at the keys myself it was an absolute delight.

What was most enjoyable was watching as the Director read ahead in the score and led his orchestra forward. You could see every note coming in advance and anticipate every cue and prompt. The pages were flicked a bar or two ahead and not a note was missed. From the moment the first page of the score was opened up we were in safe hands and there was never a doubt we would get to the end. Everyone in the theatre might have been in the room where it happens but I got to see what comes next.

Going to see Hamilton was a real treat towards the end of what’s been a very difficult year for so many of us. Wearing our masks was a small price to pay for the joy of that afternoon. As I write covid numbers are rising again in NSW and you can feel the anxiety thicken around us which is why many are recurring to buy Delta 8 products. Will restrictions have to be reimposed? Will our loved ones stay safe? Will we even get to church on Christmas Day? It really does seem like we live in a world turned upside down.

Yet for the Christian, while we face the same uncertainties as everyone else there is one enormous difference.

We’re sitting in the front row.

The Christian, with a Bible open in front of them is not perched at the distant lofty heights of the very back of the theatre, struggling to see what’s going on. No, we’re positioned right behind the director with full view of the score of the entire show and able to watch him confidently direct all things to their intended conclusion.

The Scriptures are full of assurances that God not only has his own plans for our place history but is utterly sovereign over them. You may ask Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139

As history appears to hurtle on non-stop it’s good to know that every event is under control. We can affirm with Job,

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Job. 42:2

Most of all, we learn that our security is secure with God’s Right Hand Man.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:3–10

So there’s no need to feel helpless despite the hurricane of uncertainty around us.

In a few days we get to celebrate that God always gets the timing right:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,

Gal. 4:4

and his calendar still has important events remaining.

Christian, we’re sitting in the front row. As we open up the pages we see the entire score in front of us and we can watch the director effortlessly guide things through to their planned conclusion. The times may be uncertain to us, but our God has never been unsure of what is happening. Far from it! Perhaps we need to pay a little more attention as we watch along over his shoulder. I suspect we’ll enjoy it all the more.

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  1. bulamatari

    Hi David
    I saw it for the fourth time this year after seeing it in London in October 2019 (my last holiday). The gospel is in Hamilton. I am not sure if Lyn Miranda intended it but having now listened five times there is definitely a gospel theme. I retire this week and one of my hopes is to write something about how the gospel is in Hamilton. Lots of examples to draw from

  2. Jill England

    Great article – thank-you!

  3. Robert Bruce

    Binny and I have not seen Hamilton. We do not have much access to such shows living out in the bush, as we do, and Covid has cruelled what small chance we might have had otherwise.

    However, I have had an experience which I can compare to sitting in the front row, seeing with my own eyes that everything is under control and how it will all turn out.

    When I was 14 I lost my Dad, suddenly in a car accident. He was the man I looked up to and expected to lead me into adult life. Dad had taught me about Jesus from a very early age and even at 14 I was a committed Christian, but when Dad was taken from me I was gutted. I could not see how my life would develop without Dad’s guidance but I still knew that Jesus was in charge and would show me the way forward. I trusted Him but I was at a loss to understand why things were happening as they were. I lived in Sydney with my mother but she had her own life, with other men, and I felt there was nothing meaningful for me there any more.

    My Uncle Colin stepped in and became my surrogate father. He was a grazier with a large property and he had me to stay there whenever I could, and to grow up with my cousins. I learnt to ride and had my own horse, and I learnt to shoot, and to trap rabbits, and do all the things country boys do. That all gave my life new meaning but it wasn’t the same as when Dad was with me.

    One night When I was 17 I was on a country train, the North-West Mail, going up to Uncle Colin and Aunty Ruth’s property for the holidays. I had a compartment to myself, one with two bench seats that country trains had in those days. I intended to roll out my sleeping bag and sleep for most of the trip, and I went to the toilet before turning in. When I came back to my compartment there was a bloke sitting on the other seat. He was about 25, dressed in country clothes, a check shirt and moleskins. There was something about him I could not quite fathom.

    Anyway, we started to talk and he made it clear he knew a lot about me. He looked up at my locked leather suitcase in the rack and said, “they’re great, those old leather suitcases. It could have been your father’s”. (It was). Then he said, “You can put almost anything in them. You could have a bridle, or a 12G shotgun broken down”. (I had both). Then he looked at me very intensely and his face seemed to glow. He said, “It’s alright, you know, he’s with the Lord. He’s happy and they’ll both be looking after you”. I suddenly realised he was an angel, sent to comfort me and show me the way forward. I felt like Nathanael in John 1: 51. I just stared at him in wonder as he smiled at me. Then the train went into a tunnel and the compartment went dark. When the light came back the bloke was gone. I watched at every stop but he did not get off.

    That experience has guided my life ever since. When I was 20 I met the most wonderful girl, an absolute gift from God, and 54 years later we are still desperately in love, like Jamie and Claire (sorry, too much information). These days I preach at four churches and I just love spreading the Gospel. I have always felt that the Lord is letting me sit in the front row and see how He is developing things, and I know that when the time comes Binny and I will be with Him in Heaven together, forever. Letting me see life as I do has been the greatest gift and to know that He is with me, every second of every day is just awesome.

    1. chris russell

      That’s a very beautiful testimony, Robert. Thanks a million.

  4. David Churchill

    Amen David.

  5. Ian Copland

    the name Robert Bruce warms my Scottish Free Kirk roots and family. More importantly your testimony encourages my walk with Jesus having known Him for 60 years after a dramatic teenage conversion to Christ while living in the Parramatta district.

  6. Karen

    We had the exact same seats today ( yes won in a lottery). Thoroughly enjoyed watching Hayden do his magic. What a joy.

  7. Jenny Barltrop

    Hi David, I’m continually amazed at the way God uses each of us to encourage and comfort each other, even when we’re unaware of where we sit in that tapestry and who we touch. I stumbled across this article at probably the lowest time in my life after suffering many long years of emotional abuse at the hands of my business partner. It was so hard to see what had been the point of it all, and how God might turn my experience around for His purpose and glory. Your article reminded me of His loving sovereignty in such a personal way – you see Hayden Barltrop is my son! It couldn’t have been a clearer reminder to me that God doesn’t just hold all of history in His hand, but each of our personal journeys with Him. Thank you for allowing God to use you in His amazing weaving together of His perfect plan – I can’t wait for the time when we all meet Him face to face and see more clearly our small part in His complete big picture!

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