“A Light In A Dark Place”: A Tale Of Two Kings And Theological Interpretation Of The Old Testament -- By: Stephen Dempster

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:2 (Summer 2010)
Article: “A Light In A Dark Place”: A Tale Of Two Kings And Theological Interpretation Of The Old Testament
Author: Stephen Dempster


“A Light In A Dark Place”: A Tale Of Two Kings And Theological Interpretation Of The Old Testament1

Stephen Dempster

By your words I can see where I am going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path (Ps 119:105, The Message).

Introduction

Near the end of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of his magisterial trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, there is a poignant scene. As the motley group of human and non-human characters are about to leave on their fateful mission to save Middle Earth, the elven queen, Galadriel, appears and gives each member a parting gift. None is aware of the horrific dangers ahead. The protagonist, Frodo, who is carrying the burden of the Ring, is given the final gift suited to his particular task. The beautiful queen presents to him an extremely valuable jar of crystal containing the Light of Eärendil. Unknown to Frodo himself, this light is directly descended from the light of Iluvatar, the name of God given by Tolkien in the foundational creation story of his entire mythology, the Ainulindale that opens his Silmarillion. “May it be to you a light in dark places,” Galadriel remarks, “when all other lights go out.”2 It is this precious gift, one directly (and indirectly) given by God, that will help Frodo navigate his way among the dangers that lurk ahead in the darkest of nights on his momentous mission.

A scene from the real world of 622 B.C. is equally significant in its context. A king of Judah is given a valuable gift during a period when his nation is walking in moral and spiritual darkness, whistling cavalierly, oblivious to the dangers of the times (2 Kings 22). This gift has been recovered from the rubble while repairs are taking place in the Temple of Jerusalem. It is a holy book which

has long been lost, and this fact alone is probably the reason for the darkness. It is brought to the king and his courtiers and when read and interpreted, they rip their clothes in desperation—they see themselves and their dire situation for the first time. It is as if this book shines a light in a very dark place, and immediate measures are taken to use this light to produce changes in themselves and their nation. Indeed, as the historical narrative unfolds, this light saves the nation as long as it uses it to see by. The just king, Josiah, is remembered with an epitaph written by the Lord himself: “He looked after the cause of the poor and needy. Was this not to know me?” (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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