I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” – Dr.Martin Luther King on 4/3/68

On the following day, the great visionary leader was assassinated.  By invoking Moses, Dr. King was portraying the future vision of equality in America between whites and blacks to be the moral equivalent of the “promised land.”

Moses was not allowed to lead the nation of Israel into the promised land, but instead was directed by God to forfeit his life beforehand…

Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah…and the LORD showed him all the land…Then the LORD said to him, ‘This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.’” (Deut.34:1-4)

It is chilling to consider the parallel between Dr. King and Moses.  The preacher could not have known that he was making a prophetic reference to his own end, could he?  Even more astounding is the connection this makes to Christ, who lay down his life in much the same manner as Moses, as an offering for the people.  Dr. King was struck down in the prime of his life and power, just like Moses and Jesus, and yet his ultimate sacrifice served to further galvanize a movement that could not be stopped.

Have we considered the real message of Dr. King? His was no violent protest, or an incitement to such ends.  Any violence which ensued from his involvement in the civil rights movement was either because of the reactions of his opponents or the misguided efforts of certain of his followers.  It did not come from him.  Dr. King trusted in the power of an idea.  Specifically, the power of the truth.  With an unwavering faith in the justice of God and the ethic of human dignity, he knew that if these ideas are properly articulated to the right people at the right time, that “no weapon could be formed against them.” (Is.54:17)

Unlike ISIS, or Hamas, or John Calvin, Dr. King knew that the rights of individual men and women before a Holy God took priority over the preferences of an elite few.  He certainly understood that his people (blacks in America) needed equality, but his convictions went beyond race and extended to all, regardless of race or creed.  His message was sacrificial. He didn’t seek power for himself, but for others.

In these days of sarcastic sound-bites, dismissive statements, and slanderous editorializing, may we remember that if we have not love, we are no more than “a clanging gong“.  Embracing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day means more than remembering the struggle for equality; it means the struggle to maintain our dignity as a culture.






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