When I wrote On The Mountaintop, I knew that I would have to revisit it. And I’ll probably revisit it again and again–because that’s the nature of mountaintops. They aren’t for hiking up once and saying, “I did it.” Unless of course, that mountain is named Everest. That’s one that you can hike up once and say “I did it.” (Actually, a college friend of mine did this–climbed Mt. Everest. She–yes, SHE–was actually the first Kentuckian to accomplish this feat. Amazing.) But I digress…
The “Mountaintop” song that spurred me to write the first post was preceded on the album by a song named Spark. The last lines of the song are “Light a fire in my heart. Just a spark.” And then the song fades into audio from the last minutes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Mountaintop” speech. (Talk about a spark erupting into an enormous flame.) So naturally, I can’t write about mountaintops without giving a nod to the man who delivered this monumental, historical speech– that lives on today as a beautiful legacy.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. 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!
And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
I think we are all familiar with the prophetic story of this speech–how the Reverend delivered it to the crowds in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968. And how on the very next evening, Dr. King was assassinated. A man with a message of peace, his life on this earth extinguished much too early. It is something we cannot grasp or understand on this side of Eternity. But we can celebrate the beauty of the message and of the messenger. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.” (Isaiah 52:7) Although Dr. King wasn’t certain that he would get to the promised land of equality with his people during his lifetime, he believed in his soul that it existed. And that’s because he had been up to the mountain. His faith had carried him there.
Dr. King’s speech evokes the image of Moses leading God’s people to their own Promised Land. “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo. There the Lord showed him the whole land … Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … I will let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Shortly after, Moses dies– and his successor, Joshua, leads the people of Israel into the Promised Land. They had been to the mountain, too. Their faith had carried them there.
When we are in the throws of our darkest suffering, God beckons us to the mountain. Even when we are in the deepest valleys, there is always hope. Will you let your faith carry you there?
A song of ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Since this is beginning to sound way more like a sermon than a Messy post, I’ll close with one of my favorite encounters of God meeting us on the mountain.
From 1 Kings 19
When the prophet Elijah was fleeing from Jezebel, fearing for his life, he retreated to the wilderness. An angel of The Lord appeared to him and told him, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (I’m thinking Elijah was like, ‘Um, okaaaaaaaay?’)
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. The whisper drew Elijah out from hiding–drew him out of his fear–and there on that mountain Elijah met with the living God.
At the great prophet Elijah’s most vulnerable time (he was running for his very life), The Lord appeared to him in a whisper. On the mountain…in a whisper. In our broken messiness, are we ever “still” enough to hear God whispering to us? I have a feeling that Dr. King received a similar whisper from God, allowing him to proclaim that he was “not fearing any man.” Little did Dr. King know his earthly life would end the very next day, but his faith had led him to the mountain of the Lord…and so can ours. Claim that hope today.
“The mountains shall bring peace to the people.”
I added this photo on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day / January 19, 2015 — 5 months after Michael passed over the mountain to be with Jesus… and Dr. King. It has always been one of my favorite of these two sweet boys. I believe it speaks much, much more than 1,000 words.
“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that
we will be free one day.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream speech,
Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963