Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Children are home from school. Government and school workers enjoy the day off, too.
On a day like today, I can’t help but think about MLK’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The text is masterful and practically sings off the page.
What was Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream?
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
King dreamed of more than racial equality, he dreamed of brotherhood and sisterhood—regardless of color or creed.
Four years later, on August 28, 1963, King was allegedly assassinated by James Earl Ray. He was only thirty-nine years old.
Did Martin Luther King Jr’s dream die that hot summer day in Memphis, Tennessee?
If you’re like most Americans, you would probably answer, “No.” Martin Luther King, Jr. died, but his dream didn’t.
We all carry dreams deep inside us that seemingly die. The central character in one of our readings refused to let his dream die.
And neither should we.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Genesis 37:2. It’s interesting that this verse begins with “This is the account of Jacob.” Then it tells the story of Joseph and refers to Jacob as “Israel.”
Genesis 37:5-9. Duplicate dreams were an indication that they would be quickly fulfilled.
Genesis 37:21-22. Given the animosity between Rachel and Leah’s children, Reuben’s efforts to preserve Joseph’s life are admirable. Joseph was the son of Rachel and Reuben was the son of Leah. Perhaps Reuben felt the responsibility of taking care of his brothers since he was the oldest.
Genesis 37:28. Twenty shekels was the going rate of slaves in those days. It’s the equivalent of three years wages for a shepherd. Also, the names Midianites and Ishmaelites are mentioned interchangeably because they were closely related.
Genesis 38. What a disturbing story on so many levels. Judah has sex with a “temple prostitute”, and the passage doesn’t seem to place the act in a positive light. Unbeknownst to him, the women he impregnated was his daughter-in-law, who sought to seduce him. Judah was the head of one of the twelve tribes of Israel! Obviously, Judah had taken on the values of the surrounding Canaanite culture.
Genesis 38:9. Onan avoided impregnating his dead brother’s wife (Tamar) because it would decrease his eventual inheritance. Apart from his greed, this also violated God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and increase in number.”
Matthew 12:31-32. On more than one occasion, someone has confessed to me that they believed they blasphemed the Holy Spirit and were eternally lost. My response? If you’re concerned that you’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit, then you haven’t done it. If you’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit, then you won’t feel the Spirit’s conviction. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be attributing to Satan what God has done. The New Bible Commentary points out, “Jesus was speaking not of a temporary lapse but of a settled decision to oppose the work of God.”
Matthew 12:34. What convicting words: For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Our words betray our hearts.
Matthew 12:41. Jesus’ words in this verse were pretty harsh—especially considering that he was addressing the religious leaders.
Psalm 16. This is a great psalm to read slowly. My heart really resonates with verse 2: “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Although I can’t pray this line in complete sincerity, I’d like to.
THE WORD MADE FRESH
He was cocky, which makes sense when you consider Joseph was the only son of his father’s favorite wife. The gaudy jacket Jacob gave him served as a visual reminder of his “most favored son” status within the family.
How would you feel if your father refused to hide the fact that your younger brother was his favorite?
But then Joseph poured fuel on the fire of their jealousy by sharing his audacious dream. Someday, his brothers and sisters would bow down to him. The older children would serve the youngest child. How absurd!
The beginning of Joseph’s story in Genesis 37 reminded me of similar kids I knew growing up. Their immature, cocky, know-it-all attitude drove me nuts. At times in my life (hopefully not now), I likely resembled Joseph.
Finally, Joseph’s brothers put an abrupt end to the irritation. And like Martin Luther King, Jr, the dream came to an end.
Or did it?
Fortunately, I can read Joseph’s story with the end in mind. This chapter in his life reminds me that we can’t define our dreams by the present because the last chapter hasn’t been written.
For twenty-three years, a dream has ruminated inside me. The circumstances in my life tell me they won’t come true—but I refuse to let them die. The last chapter hasn’t been written.
There’s a word that describes our refusal to give up on the dream. It’s called hope.
If you’re hanging onto a dream and refusing to let it die, remember Joseph. You might find additional hope by meditating on today’s psalm: Psalm 16.
- Joseph suffered an incredible amount of pain. To what extent was God the author of this?
- What dreams has God placed in your heart? How is he using the waiting process to shape you and the dream?
- Jesus was an ancestor of Judah and Tamar (Matthew 1:3). What does this tell you about Jesus?
- In your estimation, was Tamar justified in her actions? Why or why not?
- A great deal of Matthew 12 deals with casting out demons. In light of the modern mindset (even in Christian circles) that doubts or at best avoids the subject, how does the chapter make you feel? Do you think your mindset should change? Why or why not?
- How would you rephrase Psalm 16:2 in your own words?