In The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien’s second book of his classic work The Lord of The Rings, a battle rages between the vast evil forces spewing forth from Isengard and the small numbers of the Riders of Rohan sequestered away in their fortress, Helm’s Deep. As the battle begins to turn against him, Theoden, Rohan’s king, says,
“Now my heart is doubtful. The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure. How shall any tower withstand such numbers and such reckless hate? Had I known the strength of Isengard was grown so great, maybe I should not so rashly have ridden forth to meet it.”
With wave after wave of orcs throwing themselves against the walls of Helm’s Deep, Theoden had nearly lost all hope. The world of love and hope he once knew was being torn apart and replaced with a different world of hate and despair.
But hopelessness in the face of overwhelming evil is not relegated solely to Tolkien’s fictional world. All men at all times stand between the forces of good and the forces of evil torn between hope and despair, and today’s world is no different. In fact, I think our current political climate is an example of this. While there are many views, there are basically two sides, both heavily populated with fear-filled people who often say and do hateful things. While I’m not going to offer an analysis as to which side has the moral high ground, I think it likely that both sides have posed a question similar to the one Theoden asked in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings, “What can men do against such reckless hate?”
Sadly, however, I have to admit my response to such things is often to stay silent, hide, and wait for the storm to pass. But, while a passive approach may help alleviate the exacerbation of public hate and fear, it does nothing to calm the heart nor does it offer real hope: it simply allows the reckless hate to grow.
We may be able to learn something about how to respond to the forces of evil arrayed against us from David’s cry against reckless hate and evil in found in Psalm 52. In keeping with the logical progression of the psalms, specifically those beginning at Psalm 42, after foretelling God’s judgment on the wicked man David calls us to trust in God’s eventual judgment and victory. In a poetic fashion, he likens himself to a young olive tree flourishing in the house of God and then details what it is that allows for the tree to flourish.
The tree flourishes first of all because it trusts in God, for it is he alone who provides unfailing love, never changes, and always fights for the underprivileged, persecuted, and outcast. Placing our trust in anyone or anything else, no matter how good and noble they or it might be is, quite frankly, a grave mistake allowing for the eventual victory of reckless hate.
Secondly, the tree flourishes because it praises God for his works and protection: God judges the wicked man and actively helps the righteous to flourish. One might say that much of our life is spent trying to find or build protection, in fact, history is full of examples of leaders and nations offering protection that soon turned to exploitation and persecution. But as we can most likely all attest to, nearly every good thing a man seeks to do on his own power turns to evil over time. It is only God’s works which are immutably good, and only God can protect forever.
Finally, the tree flourishes because it hopes in the name of God alone, it doesn’t seek salvation elsewhere. But we must realize this doesn’t mean we clam up waiting for God to act: scripture tells us otherwise. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” The Israelites had been taken into Babylonian exile and were told to pray for their enemy’s prosperity but they were also told to actively work for the good of the Babylonian people.
Returning to The Lord of the Rings, it’s no mistake that Aragorn, the king of Gondor, following Sauron’s demise and the triumph of good, finds a sapling of an ancient tree long thought to be extinct and then plants it in the center of the city of Minas Tirith. With evil banished, hope was renewed. In like manner, God treats us as a young sapling, planting us in his holy city as he continues his work of conquering evil, as was described in Psalm 46, 47, and 48. As such, we must, in the face of this present reckless hate, trust in God’s unfailing love, praise him for his works, and hope in the name of the Lord, for what else can we do?