Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made excellent use of the story of Moses being prohibited from entering the promised land. God gave Moses that view of the land (Deuteronomy 34:1-12). This is a very interesting use of this text. King speaks of his desire for a long life, but he also faces the reality that he would not see his dreams fully accomplished.
This might be seen as a tragic story, but it is certainly not that different. It is the same story as the ancient people of faith who did not see the promise fully realized, but had to embrace them from afar off. (Hebrews 11:13).
Is This A Tragic Story?
It does seem tragic to work your whole life for something that you will never fully experience. It seems tragic to desire a promise only to have God tell you that you will not receive it and must sleep in the grave. It certainly looks like a tragic tale from the outside.
But somehow Dr. King found a way to celebrate this moment. This celebration is made possible for two reasons. First, he celebrates that “we” will get to the promised land. American Christianity has all but eliminated the “we” from our religion. We have turned the essentially corporate promises of God into individual ones. We no longer have need for anyone else, but the Hebrew religion was based in the “we.” Certainly we individually decide whether we will be true to the covenant, but the promise was given to Abraham and his descendants (the we). The children of Abraham corporately inherit the land. (Genesis 12:1-7) Paul says that we are “Grafted in” to the “we.” (Romans 11:17) We are a part of the body and we all must do our part if the body as a whole is to function correctly. (Romans 12:4-8) King saw the importance of “we” and celebrated that “we” will get to the promised land.
How Could King Celebrate?
Next, Dr. King found a way to celebrate the moment because he could actually see that better day that was on the way. He knew it was coming, he knew that his people would get there, and he celebrated that ultimately God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
As we go live our lives today, let us remember that we may not always see the fruit of our labors, but if we would both recognize the importance of the “we” and if we would embrace the vision of the future it will brighten our dark days and lighten our load until our Lord will make all things new.