In my last post I remarked how I had a fascination with God’s providence. My morning devotions today took me back to my old friend Thomas Boston. If you followed my posts in the past, you remember that I regard him to have been the greatest preacher who ever lived. While still working through his posthumously published 12 volume “Complete Works,” at the end of a sermon he preached at Ettrick, Scotland, July 7, 1728, on 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” he drew some conclusions that really struck a chord with me.
Obviously the doctrine taught here is that the Christian’s walking is a dependence on what God has promised to be the appropriate way, as opposed to by sight which is the appearance things make to their sight, senses, and human reason. In other words Boston says that we should “walk like men of another world.” Why should we do this, beside the fact that God tells us to? We are to do this first because when we are born again we literally become aliens. Thus we then live in a foreign land, and where we are going is Heaven, where Christ is. So far Boston was teaching fairly basic doctrine. In his wrap-up to the sermon was where the fun really began. In his second point to confirm the doctrine he states, “Thus the Christian’s life is distinguished from that of the Saints in Heaven and that of the wicked, as he is in a middle state betwixt the two.”
So you may say, “Ok, where’s fireworks and the crescendo?” You may see where I’m going with this post. If you do, then you may be as weird as I am. If you don’t, then you are probably quite normal, and just don’t have the time spend following my line of thought. However, if you read my post a few days ago, “Faith to See Beyond the Shire,” I was pointing out this very topic. Our world view should be distinctly different than those around us because of the nature of our citizenship. We literally are living in, not only, a foreign country, but a foreign world. In God’s perfectly good providence he brought together two trains of thought I had been riding onto the same track, in the same direction, and the same time. These are Boston’s middle state and Tolkien’s Middle Earth. For me this is simply magical.
Let me breath. Ok, I’m better now.
What is this place that we live in? By sight, it looks like a familiar place, what I called my Shire. But when the scales fall from our eyes, by regeneration and sanctification, what is revealed is Middle Earth, Tolkien’s fabled world. Some pundits on Tolkien simply want to make Middle Earth an old world continent, sort of a mystical archaic Europe, with the Hobbit’s Shire as a representation of England. However many believe, from Tolkien’s perspective, Middle Earth was conceived as the setting for his tales by the Old English, pre-Christian, language translation of the word “middengeard,” the everyday world between Heaven and Hell.
If you surf around the internet you will find endless material about the symbolism of Tolkien. Some of it some pretty strange stuff. I prefer however to have fun with finding in Tolkien the symbolism I recognize in the world we live in. Tolkien’s stories symbolized the world God has temporarily set us in. Nothing in Tolkien’s Middle earth was what it appeared to be. Both animate and inanimate morphed from apparent to obscure. Lust of the eyes, the flesh, and pride were always the downfall of the characters. Entropy was placed in motion with no hope of reversal accept for divine intervention. Even the good were powerless against evil, barring some propitiation. I could go on indefinitely, but you can get the picture.
As you walk through Middle Earth, whether you are descending to the depths of Mordor, with the flames all around you, trying to rid yourself of your precious sins, or you are merely tending your garden in the Shire, feeling sheltered from danger, beware, things are not as they appear. You live and walk with the triune God constantly providing faith in his promise of deliverance to your true home, eternal life with him in Glory.