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Rings of Power: Sauron’s Call and the Way of the Servant King

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Editor’s Note

This article includes spoilers for The Rings of Power season 1 finale.

After pursuing her hidden foe for centuries, Galadriel finally came face-to-face with her greatest enemy, Sauron, in The Rings of Power season finale. Galadriel rushed the wounded Halbrand to the elves in hopes of saving the man’s life. But not long after, Celebrimbor echoed the words of Adar and awakened Galadriel’s suspicions. After finding evidence confirming her fears, she realized she had saved—not defeated—her great enemy. And worse, she had trusted him, befriended him, and found herself drawn to him.

Sauron’s Call

Halbrand did not shy away from his identity but instead issued a call to join him. He reminded her of their friendship, admitted a sense of penance for his wrongs, and bid her to forget the past and look towards the future, a future which she now finds repulsive. He played on her insecurities, claiming that he alone sees her value. He leaned into their feelings. He preyed upon her guilt and shame, questioning how the elves would respond when they discovered that she is the reason he lives.

But most enticingly, he offered her corrupt power for a good purpose. Whether or not he truly believed she could bind him to the light is a discussion for another day. Whatever his true motives, he beckoned her to be his queen. And together, he whispered, they could save the broken Middle Earth.

Galadriel hesitated. He offered her the things she desired along with the power to accomplish it. She could heal Middle-earth. She could be the one who holds back the darkness. All she had to do was listen to the call of Sauron.

Sin tempts us to grasp corrupted power for good purposes.

Galadriel’s Response

Galadriel’s next question cut through like a knife: “Save or rule?”

Halbrand responded, “I see no difference.”

Here we see the disparity between Sauron and Galadriel. For Sauron, the only way to save the people was to rule them and bend them to his will. His absolute reign alone would bring about healing to a war-torn land.

But in her heart, Galadriel recognized he offered her a counterfeit power, rife with the darkness infecting the dying elven tree. What she might mean for good would eventually poison her and the world she loves. Salvation for Middle-earth did not include ruling it. So, though this power continually tempted her heart (fast forward to the Lord of Rings), she resisted Sauron’s call, for she knew that the end goal was not worth sacrificing the light and embracing the darkness.

The Way of the Servant King

Though many people debate the accuracy of this rendition of Tolkien’s world, one theme rings true—dark power corrupts. Rulers are themselves in danger of being ruled by the darkness. Galadriel withstands Sauron’s temptation because she recognizes the darkness in her own heart. No matter how much she would like to be the beacon of good, this power Sauron offered her would ultimately destroy her.

Tolkien’s focus of the twisting power of the Dark Lord most likely stems from his worldview. As an adamant Christian, Tolkien knew about a real Dark Lord who calls and beckons us to choose the way of corrupting power. And sometimes his words promise that we can heal what is broken by ruling over others.

But Tolkien also knew the gospel offers another way, one less fraught with the unknown pitfalls of the darkness in our hearts. We can choose the way of the Servant King, Jesus. He turned expectations on their head. When Israel expected a military victor, God sent his Son, born to a humble woman in a backwater town. Jesus is the one “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

When the end of his time on earth drew near, Jesus, “knowing the Father had given all things into his hands,” washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:3). Though a king, he willingly “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). He knew that the way of the cross—his substitutionary atonement for the sins and shame of the world—was the only means to bring true healing from sin and evil.

When a mother’s request for positions of power for her sons caused a squabble among his disciples, Jesus responded,

  • You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

When his disciples asked the resurrected Jesus if it was time to restore the kingdom to Israel, he responded, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). The disciples mistakenly assumed it was time to rule. However, the King pointed to another way. The disciples would receive power, but power to be his witnesses, to make his name known, and to tell the world of the coming kingdom marked by peace and the new creation healed from sin and darkness.

Sin tempts us to grasp corrupted power for good purposes. The world is broken. People are hurting. Death, sickness, evil, sin, pain, and hurt exist.  “Turn from the light and embrace the darkness,” the evil one calls, “for there you will find the power to bring about good.” But in doing so, we touch the darkness and find ourselves controlled by what we thought we could control.

The Servant King calls us to a different path. Deny ourselves, and follow him. Strive for good. Seek the light. Serve, lay down our lives, and most importantly, proclaim the coming return of the king who will finally heal the broken land.

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Anna Daub

Anna is a PhD student in Applied Theology at Southeastern Seminary. She is interested in cross cultural studies, the arts and creative methods for theological education. She currently works for SEBTS' Global Theological Initiatives Department. When not studying, she loves being outside or in a coffee shop with a friend.

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