On The Alert: A Lesson from The Two Towers

On The Alert: A Lesson from The Two Towers
Posted on August 1, 2015  in Blog, Christian Warfare
If you have never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy before, it’s time that you did.  This trilogy will captivate you whether or not you are an avid reader. Currently, I am working my way through this trilogy for the second time. At the moment I find myself halfway through the second installment of the series, The Two Towers.
As many of you probably know, from Peter Jackson’s film adaptation, this trilogy is a fantasy depicting good and evil. Frodo, a home-body hobbit familiar with comfort and ease, journeys to the dark land of Mordor in order to destroy the evil ring of power created by the dark lord Sauron. This ring has the ability to corrupt anyone who wears it. Anyone who tampers with the ring will have their heart tainted; their heart’s desire will be for world domination and supreme control. Thus, Frodo’s task is to unmake – destroy – this ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Along the way Frodo and his companions (the Fellowship) encounter various evils. Late in the first volume they are separated and made to fight the battle for freedom on different fronts. Frodo and his friend, Sam, head to Mordor, while the rest of the Fellowship aim to overthrow the evil tower of Orthanc and the wizard who dwells there, Saruman.
Are you nerded out yet? Hold on just a little longer. As the plot develops, Isengard (the land surrounding the tower of Orthanc) is overthrown and Saruman locks himself in the tower of Orthanc. He knows he’s defeated. The opposing forces have surrounded the tower; it’s only a matter of time before he’s overthrown.
It’s at this point in the story that something incredibly interesting takes place. Gandalf, (a good wizard) and King Theoden (a king who has been oppressed by the evil rule of Saruman) approach the tower of Orthanc to speak with Saruman. The dialogue that occurs is a wonderful illustration of what Ephesians 6:11 means when it talks about guarding against the wiles, or schemes, of the devil. The devil is crafty, he knows how to sweet-talk. As Christians we have every need of showing discernment and vigilance in everyday life, otherwise we will become susceptible to the deceptive devices of the Evil One.
Tolkien’s description of Saruman’s voice is perfect. Many parallels with the voice of the Evil One can be observed. Here’s how Tolkien describes the voice of Saruman,
“Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler’s trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it. Its tone was that of a kindly heart aggrieved by injuries undeserved.”
Saruman pretends that he has only ever acted honourably; he pretends that he has always had the good of those surrounding Orthanc in mind. Tolkien goes on to explain how attractive Saruman’s words are to the hearers; they are enchanted by his every syllable. The words seem noble, kind, and wise. Tolkien writes, “The Riders stirred at first, murmuring with approval of the words of Saruman; and then they too were silent, as men spell-bound.” Many of those standing around the tower were sucked into the lies of Saruman. The voice of the Evil One is slippery. It confuses the hearer(s) and begs for mercy. While pretending to be innocent, the Evil One is really waiting to leap onto his sympathizing-prey with raging tenacity.
As those surrounding Orthanc sympathize with the deceptive voice, King Theoden remains quiet. He had been deceived by Saruman before – to such an extent that it nearly ruined him and his kingdom. Tolkien uses Theoden’s silence to compound the tension for the reader. The readers begin to ask themselves, “Is Theoden deceived? Will he submit to the seemingly-wise words of Saruman?”
Finally, after addressing other members of the Fellowship, Saruman turns to Theoden and asks, “Theoden King: shall we have peace and friendship, you and I? It is ours to command.” To this Theoden responds,
“’We will have peace’, said Theoden at last thickly and with an effort. Several of the Riders cried out gladly. Theoden held up his hand. ‘Yes, we will have peace,’ he said, now in a clear voice, ‘we will have peace, when you and all your works have perished – and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men’s hearts. You hold out your hand to me and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold! Even if your war on me was just – as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desire – even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there? And they hewed Hama’s body before the gates of the Hornburg, after he was dead. When you hang from a gibbet [gallows] at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc. So much for the House of Eorl. A lesser son of greater sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm.’”
Here is the lesson that we should glean from this encounter: Safeguarding against the wiles of the devil is essential! We need to put on the whole armour of God! All throughout scripture we are told to be on the alert (1 Cor. 16:13, 1 Pt. 5:8, 1 Thes. 5:6). The devil and the forces of unrighteousness in our world desire to deceive, seduce, and enchant us with their age-old lies. Their voices sound as though they are full of wisdom. They are mass-produce and mass-followed. Billions of marketing dollars have been used to hone the drone of their seduction. The crowds rejoice at their schemes. But we, O Christian, are called to stay on the alert! Being alert often startles those around us. It is a harsh wake-up call. People don’t enjoy being woken up from a soothing enchantment; it can cause tension. Nonetheless, we are called to stay on the alert.
So, to conclude, how do we stay on the alert? How do we keep from succumbing to the enchanting charm of the Evil One? The answer is somewhat obvious: Don’t listen to him!
1 Peter 4:7 tells us to be alert in our prayer life. Communing with the One who speaks truth into our hearts will enable us to grow accustomed to the voice of the Master; he will call us, his sheep, and we will know his voice (John 10:14, 27). Prayer is not pious petition that provides us with profit. No, it is an earnest plea to the Provider for that which we cannot provide for ourselves (salvation, diligence, discernment, and a heart that is full of God’s truth).
Additionally, absorbing the truth of God’s word in any and every situation will help to keep a Christian alert. Scripture refreshes our hearts (Ps. 119); the Spirit speaks and transforms us through the Word. Neither of these disciplines (prayer and Scripture) should be turned into a form of works righteousness where we think that just by praying and reading the Word we are guarding our hearts and staying alert. No, these disciplines are to be done in subjection to the power of God; He is the one, via His Spirit, bringing the transformation.
Notice how Theoden was vocal and bold. He stood up and boldly declared the truth. Christians need to be verbal declarers of the truth. Lies will penetrate the heart unless we preach truth to ourselves. Yes, that might sound weird, but we need it. A sentence in a paper doesn’t sound disjointed until we read it out loud to ourselves and others. So goes self-exhortation; deception sounds plausible until we speak it out loud before God, His Word, and other Christians.
Brothers and Sisters are you safeguarding yourselves from the wiles of the Evil One? He is an enchanter. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

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