Saturday, 07 January 2017 22:36

The Hands of the King

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For those who know the slightest bit about me, it’s no secret that one of the greatest (and nerdiest) joys in my life is professor J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece, “The Lord of the Rings.” If you know me personally, you have likely experienced my efforts to convert you to some higher order of Tolkien fandom firsthand. These “come to Tolkien” talks often end with snores and sighs, which, I confess, may be deserved… But what can I say? The human heart cannot escape its allurement to truth and beauty, and Tolkien’s tale is brimming with both.

As the Professor’s dear friend, C.S. Lewis, wrote in his review of “The Fellowship of the Ring:” “…here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart. They will know that this is good news, good beyond hope.” So, my friends, I hope you will overlook my earnestness, and allow me a few moments to share with you but one of the beauties laid up in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

As a Christian, I find the tale’s fundamental commitment to the biblical worldview to be one of its more enticing elements. The true magic of Middle Earth is not to be found in legendary swords, mighty kingdoms, or even in overtly magical wizards. No, the true magic of Middle Earth is to be found in the witness it bears to the first storyteller and to His story. And in my mind, we catch no greater glimpse of this than in the character of the man Aragorn.

When first we meet Aragorn, he is a mysterious figure, a rugged wanderer known as Strider who is, by all accounts, homeless. To say that Aragorn would have been last on the list of men that godly mothers want around their children is to put it lightly. As the story progresses, however, we discover that Aragorn, though rough around the edges, is a man of high intellect, fierce loyalty, and valor in battle. Moreover, we learn that Aragorn, though a man of low estate, is heir to the throne of Gondor, a kingdom long bereft of a king.

While these traits certainly do Aragorn many favors in the minds of readers, there is another aspect of his character that is often neglected in favor of flashier qualities. Namely, Aragorn is a skilled healer.

For those who have read the books or seen the films, you are aware that by tale’s end, Aragorn is crowned High King of Gondor following his victorious conquest of Mordor. However, just as in our lives, the victories of Middle Earth are won at great cost, and not without seasons of despair.

It is in just such a moment, as the armies of Mordor are moving to lay siege to the city of Minas Tirith, that an “old wife” of Gondor testifies to the hope she has in the return of a king known not for the sword he carries but for the remedy he offers:

Then an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served in that house, looking on the fair face of Faramir, wept, for all the people loved him. And she said: ‘Alas! if he should die. Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.’

And Gandalf, who stood by, said: ‘Men may long remember your words, Ioreth! For there is hope in them. Maybe a king has indeed returned to Gondor; or have you not heard the strange tidings that have come to the City?’ – The Return of the King

This bit of conversation has never failed to fascinate me. With death and destruction on the doorstep, one might expect Ioreth to lament the absence of a warrior-king, whose very presence would incite fear in the enemy ranks. But Ioreth, in keeping with cherished tradition, longed for a king whose hands are for the mending of his people.

Though “The Lord of the Rings” is a poor substitute for the word of God, I cannot help but be stirred to deep affection for my king, Jesus, each time I remember the hopeful words of Ioreth. Aragorn, though a wonderful literary character, is but a meager shadow of the reality to be found in Christ Jesus. The hands of Aragorn can heal only the physical body, not the maladies of the soul. The hands of Aragorn are bound by space and time and can heal only those within arm’s reach. The hands of Aragorn, no matter how skillful, sometimes fail.

Like Ioreth, we too are in desperate need of a healer-king who stands ready to make well those who are suffering. And, thanks be to God, we have a far better monarch than Aragorn. Our Lord is able and willing to cleanse not only the body, but the soul of cancerous sin. Our Lord is not bound by the reach of his arm but may extend the remedy of his gospel to whomsoever he pleases. Our Lord’s cure is certain and cannot fail.

In the dark night of the soul, when our enemy musters his forces against us and all hope seems lost, we must remember and cling to our king, whose hands are not only able to heal, but were pierced that we might be made whole. We must call to mind the cherished tradition of our own people, the Church:

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. – Psalm 103:2-5

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:2-3

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. – Jeremiah 17:14

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. – Malachi 4:2

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. – Luke 4:40

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. – 1 Peter 2:24

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. – Revelation 22:1-3

Friends, I urge you, in times of comfort and suffering alike, to remember that “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” If you are a citizen of the Lord’s kingdom, his remedy, though often imperceptible, is at work to relieve you of the affliction of sin. To echo the sentiments of C.S. Lewis, “this is good news, good beyond hope.”

Contributor: Scott Busby, MMFT, LMFT-A

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