By Pierce Taylor Hibbs
01.19.2023 | Min Read

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The Forgotten King belongs to a tradition of books that communicate the biblical story with an imaginative overlay. It tells the story of Scripture, in other words, without telling the story of Scripture. Attempts at this succeed or fail for a number of reasons. But I’m always interested in asking the basic question: Does this book portray the truths and spiritual realities of the Bible faithfully and creatively?

Faithful And Creative

Faithfulness is a bit easier to assess, since the core stages of redemptive history are well-known to most readers: creation, fall, redemption, consummation. As long as the story showcases the beauty of creation, the ravages of sin, God’s refrain of promise and grace, and Jesus’s coming (life, death, resurrection, and ascension), we’re content. Bonus points go to authors who work in the sending of the Holy Spirit and the role of the church.

But creativity is where the book truly stands out. It’s not just a matter of substituting other characters for the biblical ones and changing up the environment (though that certainly does happen). It’s a matter of portraying spiritual realities in concrete images. Doing this with language that’s eloquent and accessible is even harder. That’s why I was so pleased with Kenneth Padgett and Shay Gregorie’s The Forgotten King

In addition to having beautiful, engraving-like illustrations from Stephen Crotts, the story captures the essence of spiritual realities in the narrative and also uses poetry as the medium:

In the days of old, a long time ago,
There was a high mountain with a village below.
Up on the mountain stood a castle great,
Where the King would gaze down from his big, golden gate.

“Yes,” I think, “God the Father can seem like a great king in a high kingdom . . . a kingdom with spires piercing the sky.” And humanity as a whole, despite its variation and spread over the globe, is like a village.

Next comes the conflict, and I loved how closely it resembled Satan and his deceptive schemes:

But, one dark moonless night,
An evil wizard appeared,
Slithering into the village,
With a long scraggly beard.

Where did he come from?
No one really knows.
But, he hated the King
From his head to his toes.

And then look at his devilish work:

A dark, heavy cloud settled over the town.
When the people woke up, they felt gloomy and down!
All around, it was dreary and gray.
When they looked up, there was no light of day!
And no sight of the castle way up in the sky.
They felt a bit lonely and didn’t know why.

Doesn’t it sometimes feel as if Satan has left a fog over the world? We search for the light of God to pierce through it, but we wish it was just gone, that we just lived in the light (1 John 1:7).

And just as the Son of God followed the prophets to herald the coming Kingdom of God, the son of the King in this tale comes riding down the mountain on a steed. He came down so that we could go up. But rather than have this son just sacrifice himself and rise from the dead, they have him fight for the King. He looses an arrow and cries, “Long live the King!”

He Fought for Us– And Won

Amidst all of the suffering and submission of Jesus, we overlook that he was actually a divine warrior. He didn’t just die for us; he fought for us against the devil. And he won. This story was a great reminder of that.

The rest of the book I’ll leave for you to enjoy. Suffice it to say that this book went into my top ten list for children’s books. It was eloquent, accessible, beautifully illustrated, and—most importantly—engaging for my kids! Sure to become a classic!