This Is the Way Walk in It
A 45-Year-Old Dream With Shades of Eternity
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The moment had arrived. Martin Luther King Jr. walked onto the national stage and into history by bringing a message marked with his even-paced and ever-rising oratorical crescendo that mixed words, metaphors and thoughts from the biblical prophets of old, Shakespeare and slogans of long ago New Deal optimism. In his now well-known conclusion, he defined his dream with word pictures of mountaintops ringing with freedom (crafted from "My Country ' Tis of Thee") and then punctuated all he had said with the valiant cry of joy from an old "Negro spiritual."
The "I Have a Dream" speech would be the oratorical catalyst that would awaken social consciousness to such an appropriate level that the U.S. Congress would ultimately pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, forever changing the country. Dr. King would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, but he would also be cruelly rewarded with a martyr's death in 1968 for his life's work "for the cause of brotherhood and peace."
Another dreamer, another time
Dr. King would not be the first dreamer to be faced with the taunt of, Who does he think he is? Neither would he be the first dreamer to seemingly be silenced or cruelly struck down by people seeking to maintain the status quo. Long ago, another young man shared a dream that placed him in harm's way. It is recorded in your Bible in Genesis 37.
Joseph, Jacob's next-to-youngest son, came to his half brothers and declared, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed" (Genesis 37:6). This and an accompanying dream (Genesis 37:9) plainly indicated that young Joseph would ultimately hold an influential position over his family and ultimately the world of his time.
The key word and concept that distanced Joseph from his brothers was the term bowing. Joseph interpreted it in the sense of "preeminence" and his family members interpreted it as "subservience." Based upon immediate reactions and no time for reflection, both sides handled the dreams poorly. Both were wrong and both would have to grow in maturity. But for the moment, selling him into the living death of slavery seemingly silenced "the dreamer."
But Joseph held to this simple dream God had planted in his heart. He held on through being cast into a pit, being sold in the slave market and being falsely accused and put in prison. Whatever position Joseph was placed in, he ultimately found favor, whether as a servant (Genesis 39:4), a prisoner (Genesis 39:21) or standing before Pharaoh interpreting his dreams (Genesis 41:25-41). Sometimes it takes a dreamer to know a dreamer.
Joseph's dream never wandered from him. It gave him purpose and created a discipline to meet the future. His dream would serve as the defining vision of his life. The dream never changed. Joseph changed!
Yes, Joseph and Martin Luther King Jr. have something very much in common. They were dreamers. Their dreams cost them dearly, yet each held to his vision.
Dripping with freedom
Forty-five years down the lane of time, what do we gain from the dream of this latter-day dreamer, who would feed a nation and world with the sustenance of personal dignity and freedom? So often we only hear the echo of the famous last words of his speech: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" Little do most people realize that the entire speech is soaked, saturated and dripping with one thought and one thought alone—freedom!
Dr. King began his speech with homage to Lincoln by echoing the thoughts of the Gettysburg Address: "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation." He quickly moved to the present by stating: "But one hundred years later, the Negro is still not free...And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition."
Rays of hope and optimism
But Dr. King, while ever the realist of the present plight, injects rays of hope and optimism by further declaring: "We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."
He recognized there was hard work ahead. A work that could be deterred by seeking immediate gains of payback—hurt for hurt and injury for injury. Therefore, he stirred the audience toward better passions by reminding them to "forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
A few lines later, he would pepper this thought with the basic Christian rule of thumb to "continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive." It is here that Dr. King expressed the redemptive optimism of people of faith given by Paul in Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good [not that all things along the way are good] to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Hammering home the point
With the force of a blacksmith's hammer on an anvil, Dr. King nine times declares, "I have a dream." The rhythm of his speech carried his listeners toward a vision of the dynamic future foretold by the prophet Isaiah: "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth. The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isaiah 40:4-5).
With this picture of a godly world in place, Dr. King then concluded with eight lines of "let freedom ring" from the heights of America.
But it is in the ninth verbal sounding of "let freedom ring" that Dr. King purposefully introduces the last tolling with an inclusive "when we let freedom ring." It is here that Dr. King avoids the mistake of the younger Joseph. The dream is not solely about him, but about the good of others. It is now no longer an exclusive dream; now it is everyone's dream and everyone's responsibility to bring it to pass.
"The fierce urgency of now"
It is a 45-year-old dream that has stood well the test of time. But it is a dream not yet enjoyed by all people around this globe. We, the staff of World News and Prophecy, also have a dream. In spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, we still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Christian dream. It is rooted in the words of Jesus Christ, who stated in John 8:32, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
There are times when people will say to our staff, "Why be so critical? Why not leave some issues alone? Why do you have to keep bringing up matters like the rise of a Beast power, the deception of a False Prophet, the ungodliness of society, the future demise of these United States, the wrongfulness of abortion, the sin of practiced homosexuality and on and on?"
Why? These matters aren't simply going to get better or go away by putting our heads in the sand and being satisfied with the ever diminishing nature of the moral and spiritual status quo. The fierce urgency of now places personal and divine demands on us to "cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression" (Isaiah 58:1).
We choose to ring a bell
Yes, like Dr. King, we choose to ring a bell of moral clarity in a world that wants to be left alone to go its own way. We choose to ring a bell of warning to awaken those nations that mistakenly interpret the patient mercy of God for the lack of a sure Judgment Day that is coming upon the nations. We rejoice in ringing a bell of freedom's joy that the very real Kingdom of God under Jesus Christ is coming to this earth.
We choose to see a world beyond this troubled moment. We look forward to a world free from Satan, free from sin and free from selfishness. Freedom is a beautiful word. Freedom in Christ is a beautiful experience. For a Christian, freedom cannot be an afterthought; it must be a value laced throughout our thoughts, words and deeds.
In the midst of his famous speech, Dr. King asked the rhetorical question some were asking regarding his civil rights crusade, "When will you be satisfied?" His answer resonates with the fullness of the millennial refrain of Isaiah 30:21, "This is the way, walk in it." He proclaimed, "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream'" (referencing Amos 5:24).
Those times are yet ahead, so we remain dissatisfied in a world apart from godly freedom. Oh yes, the way of a dreamer can be lonely, be it Joseph in the pit or Martin standing alone before throngs of people in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln. The path of a dreamer is never easy, but worth the wait. Thus, we wait along with you. Hold on to the dream!