I wonder how many of our lady readers may have in their possession a cameo brooch, or perhaps a cameo ring? Perhaps it was made by the prestigious Wedgwood firm. If so, then it will probably be moulded in “Wedgwood blue” acolour known throughout the world due to the popularity of Wedgwood ware. Josiah Wedgwood founded his pottery business in 1759, when he was just 29 years of age. He became known as “the father of English potters.” In 1787, as a result of his concern for social reform, he helped Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp to form the “Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.” Sadly he never lived to see this come to fruition in the days of William Wilberforce, having died in 1795. He produced the Abolition Society’s seal which showed a black slave in chains, kneeling, hishands lifted up to heaven. The motto read: “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?”
Wedgwood reproduced the design in a cameo with the black figure against a white background and donated hundreds of these to the Society for distribution. Thomas Clarkson wrote that “ladies wore them in bracelets, and others had them fitted up in an ornamental manner as pins for their hair. At length the taste for wearing them became general, and thus fashion, which usually confines itself to worthless things, was seen for once in the honourable office of promoting the cause of justice, humanity and freedom.”
In the later years of his business, he called in the services of his friend Erasmus Darwin, and in due course the bond between the two families resulted in the marriage of Erasmus’s son Robert to Josiah’s daughter Susannah. From this union came Charles Darwin, who in his manhood married Emma, the grand-daughter of Josiah Wedgwood. Essentially, the double-barrelled inheritance of Josiah’s money permitted Charles Darwin the life of leisure that allowed him the time to formulate his theory of evolution.
So much for this brief snatch of history. Our concern in this article is to understand a bit more about cameos, which were made famous by Wedgwood as described above. What exactly is a cameo? Our Webster’s Dictionary says, “Fine ware decorated with relief figures on a different-coloured ground.” Hence all the small medallions and brooches made by Wedgwood consisted of figures raised from the background to stand out in relief. The word “cameo” is Italian in origin, and many fine examples of cameo are found in museums. The Italians used not only this “relief” method, but also a sculptured form, where the figure was below the background. This was called intaglio.
Notice these words, “to stand out in relief.” Somehow, the image takes on almost a three-dimensional appearance, and causes the viewer to appreciate the display better than if it were just painted on a surface. This is important in our study. We shall be focusing on that which “stands out in relief.”
The word “cameo” is used in other ways. For example, the Dictionary tells us it can be “a brief appearance of a prominent actor, as in a single scene of a motion picture. Also called cameo role.” An example was given from a film review in which Vanessa Redgrave appeared. “She cameoed as Anne Boleyn in A Man for All Seasons.”
But of greatest importance to us is the following usage. “A brief literary or dramatic piece that brings into delicate or sharp relief the character of a person, place, or event. A brief vivid portrayal or depiction: a literary cameo.”
The Old Testament contains a wealth of material relating to particular individuals, men and woman who “stand out in relief”. These historical sketches may be referred to as cameos. But what concerns us now is the meaning behind the cameos. Let me give one example from the life of Abraham.
We are given a rich inheritance of material relating to this man’s life, but I want to focus on the most painful event in his life, when God asked him to sacrifice his only beloved son. None of us can fully appreciate the mental agony that he must have endured on that trip to Moriah. This cameo has often been likened to the grief that God our Father must have felt at the crucifixion of His beloved Son. That is clear enough. But there is something else here that I’ve never read about before, and I’d like to share it with you. The parallel is clear enough, but why did God allow this event to happen? Was there something beyond just a parallel? In the last article I spoke of a Cosmic Chess Game, in which God works with human beings and Satan uses human beings to further the progress of the heavenly warfare. I am now looking at the Abraham cameo as a move on the chess board. And if this is so, we cannot just look at the event as mere theatre. As with an ordinary chess game, each move represents progress in the game. What progress was made by Abraham’s obedience? This is where we must look beyond the mere parallelism. Something was achieved, something of great significance as a result of the stalwart faith and obedience of this man. What was it?
I am going to make a suggestion here, something that came to me only this morning when I was drinking my first cup of tea in bed. Suppose this great cameo provided power to our Lord Jesus when in the greatest test of His earthly life, as He prayed in Gethsemane. The sustaining power of Abraham’s obedience upheld Him when He was all alone, when His disciples had been too weary to pray for Him, and fell asleep. No matter that the event occurred 2000 years before Gethsemane. The power of Abraham’s faith was held in readiness to assist another beloved Son when in great distress. Have I understood this correctly? Please let me know, because this is just the beginning of a new enquiry on our part, as we shall look at other characters in the O.T., to see whether we can glean further precious thoughts relating to the cosmic battle. I shall leave that until next time.
But I must finish on a provocative note. If great stalwarts of faith in olden times were used to achieve significant progress in the cosmic battle, what about today? Is God still looking for people who have a rugged earnestness of faith, those whom God knows can be tested in ways that would destroy others, so that further overcoming, further conquering, may be obtained to God’s glory? If this is the case, then it may very well explain why some have written their stories, showing what pains they have had to bear, even if they have not been fully aware why they have been through the fires, when others seemingly have enjoyed feasting at God’s table. Who is ready for such things? Hebrews 11 was not written as theatre. It was exemplary.