1 Kings 14:19-20 – Jeroboam, James Earl Ray & Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted: January 25, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 14:19-20

The End of Jeroboam’s Reign in Israel

Who is it that we remember long-term, even after their death? Why is it that 50 years, almost 51, after his death, we still remember Martin Luther King, Jr. as vividly today as we did at the time of his death in April 1968 by an assassin’s bullet? Do we remember who killed him as vividly? I had to go to my google search to remember who did that dastardly deed. When the results returned, I said to myself, “oh yeah, now I remember!” Can you name his assassin? If you have a better memory than me, you would know that James Earl Ray was the man who shot Martin Luther King, Jr. and killed him.

What do you remember about James Earl Ray? The first thing that he is known for is for having killed another man. That’s the highlight of his life. That is the high point. Here’s the story on James Earl Ray. Ray was born to a poor family on March 10, 1928, in Alton, Illinois, the son of Lucille (née Maher) and George Ellis Ray. He had Ulster Scots and Irish ancestry and had a Catholic upbringing. In February 1935, Ray’s father, known by the nickname Speedy, passed a bad check in Alton, Illinois, then moved to Ewing, Missouri, where the family had to change their name to Raynes to avoid law enforcement. Ray left school at the age of fifteen. He later joined the U.S. Army at the close of World War II and served in Germany, although Ray struggled to adapt to military life.

Ray’s first conviction for criminal activity, a burglary in California, came in 1949. In 1952, he served two years for the armed robbery of a taxi driver in Illinois. In 1955, Ray was convicted of mail fraud after stealing money orders in Hannibal, Missouri, then forging them to take a trip to Florida. He served four years in Leavenworth. In 1959, Ray was caught stealing $120 in an armed robbery of a St. Louis Kroger store. Ray was sentenced to twenty years in prison for repeated offenses. He escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1967 by hiding in a truck transporting bread from the prison bakery.

Following his escape, Ray stayed on the move throughout the United States and Canada, going first to St. Louis and then onwards to Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and Birmingham, Alabama, where he stayed long enough to buy a 1966 Ford Mustang and get an Alabama driver’s license. He then drove to Mexico, stopping in Acapulco before settling down in Puerto Vallarta on October 19, 1967.[7]

While in Mexico, Ray, using the alias Eric Starvo Galt, attempted to establish himself as a pornographic film director. Using mail-ordered equipment, he filmed and photographed local prostitutes. Frustrated with his results and jilted by the prostitute with whom he had formed a relationship, Ray left Mexico on or around November 16, 1967. Ray returned to the United States, arriving in Los Angeles on November 19, 1967. While in Los Angeles, Ray attended a local bartending school and took dancing lessons. His chief interest, however, was the George Wallace presidential campaign. Ray harbored a strong prejudice against black people and was quickly drawn to Wallace’s segregationist platform. He spent much of his time in Los Angeles volunteering at the Wallace campaign headquarters in North Hollywood. He considered emigrating to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where a predominantly white minority regime had unilaterally assumed independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. The notion of living in Rhodesia continued to appeal to Ray for several years afterwards, and it was his intended destination after Dr. King’s assassination. The Rhodesian government expressed its disapproval.

Arriving in Atlanta on March 24, 1968, Ray checked into a rooming house.[15] He eventually bought a map of the city. FBI agents later found this map when they searched the room in which he was staying in Atlanta. On the map, the locations of the church and residence of Martin Luther King Jr. were circled. Ray was soon on the road again and drove his Mustang to Birmingham, Alabama. There, on March 30, 1968, he bought a Remington Model 760 Gamemaster .30-06-caliber rifle and a box of 20 cartridges from the Aeromarine Supply Company. He also bought a Redfield 2x-7x scope, which he had mounted to the rifle. He told the shopkeepers that he was going on a hunting trip with his brother. Ray had continued using the Galt alias after his stint in Mexico, but when he made this purchase, he gave his name as Harvey Lowmeyer.

After purchasing the rifle and accessories, Ray drove back to Atlanta. An avid newspaper reader, Ray passed his time reading the Atlanta Constitution. The paper reported King’s planned return trip to Memphis, Tennessee, which was scheduled for April 1, 1968. On April 2, 1968, Ray packed a bag and drove to Memphis. On April 4, 1968, Ray killed Martin Luther King Jr. with a single shot fired from his Remington rifle, while King was standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Shortly after the shot was fired, witnesses saw Ray fleeing from a rooming house across the street from the motel; he had been renting a room in the house at the time. A package was abandoned close to the site that included a rifle and binoculars, both found with Ray’s fingerprints.

Would you have known any of this without doing research on James Earl Ray? After googling for the name of King’s assassin, it did jog my memory of him being the man who killed King, but little else. There was nothing in my memory banks but the name and a flash of an interview he did with 60 Minutes in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s but that’s it. No idea of how he came to be the man who assassinated the leader of the American civil rights movement. Nothing burned into my burn. I had to do research to find what I found about him. Nothing rolled out of the files stored away in my brain.

Why is that? That’s the idea that came to mind this morning as I struggled with this two verse, really kind of non-descript set of verses about the remainder/the end of Jeroboam’s reign. Two lines. Two verses. The whole of the remainder of Jeroboam’s reign set down in two verses. Is it because of the fact that he stood for that which is rebellion against God? Is it that he was known more for what he was against than what he was for? Is it that he was known for desperate attempts to consolidate his power rather than developing a culture of togetherness? Is it because he was known more for hate than love? That’s the powerful larger message that came to me as I read these simple two verses. These verses pounded that idea into my head and heart more for what these two verses DO NOT say as for what they DO say. Join me now in reading 1 Kings 14:19-20:

19 The rest of the events in Jeroboam’s reign, including all his wars and how he ruled, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel. 20 Jeroboam reigned in Israel twenty-two years. When Jeroboam died, his son Nadab became the next king.

In this passage, we see that the author, under the divine inspiration and supervision of the Holy Spirit, mentions the non-biblical historical book, The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel, to allow the audience to which he was writing to go elsewhere to see what happened in the remainder of Jeroboam’s reign. For in that there is very little account of the reign of Jeroboam; but in the annals and diaries of the kings of Israel, written by persons appointed for that purpose, and out of which it is generally thought that inspired writers, by divine direction, took what was thought proper to be transmitted to future times. a book of civil records, the annals, wherein all remarkable passages were recorded by the king’s command from day to day; out of which the sacred penman, by the influence of God’s Spirit, took those passages which were most considerable and useful for God’s honor, and men’s edification. The whole of the remainder of Jeroboam’s reign is boiled down to two verses.

Getting back to the two pictures that I drew earlier – Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Earl Ray. Who is it that we remember? Whose speeches have inspired generations and not just the ones who heard them live but for two generations now afterwards. Is it not that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often and eloquently about love rather than hate? Similarly, among civil rights activists do we remember the leaders of civil rights groups that espoused a radical overthrow of the white majority by the black minority or do we remember the one who espoused loving your neighbor into accepting that all men are created equal? Love will be remembered. Love leaves a legacy. Love inspires people to do the right thing.

And that is exactly what Jesus taught us too through His life on earth and His action on the cross. If Jesus had been an anti-establishment rebel and tried to bring down the Roman Empire and its puppet religious council in Israel, would He have been remembered for 2,000 years. When people paint Him just as a man and not as the Son of God, God in the flesh, we reduce Jesus to a martyr in a lost cause. But why is it that Jesus is the centerpiece of the history of the world? We measure time by his death and resurrection. Christianity is still the world’s largest religion. Christianity transformed the world. Christianity is still transforming the world. Jesus Christ inspires people to seek to worship Him and follow His Word in countries where simply to be a Christian can get you imprisoned or killed. Every religion on the planet has to have a position on Jesus Christ. Every one of them must respond to Jesus Christ. Think about that. The story of Jesus Christ endures because it is not myth. It is real. God so loved the world that He sent His Son (who is of the same essence and is of the same being as the Father and the Holy Spirit) to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled unto God and have everlasting and eternal life with God in heaven. Christianity is the only religion that tells us that we cannot perform our way into heaven. Christianity is the reality that we cannot outweigh our daily sins with good deeds. Christianity says that, in reality, we are destined for hell and we need an intervention of cosmic proportions. That is what makes Jesus so necessary. God could have zapped us all into submission by force. But He chose love. Love is remembered. Love endures. Love wins.

Just as we celebrate this week a true national hero in Martin Luther King, Jr., that message is one that is remembered. Love wins. It was through King’s constant and persistent preaching and leading us in seeing that violence and hatred are self-destructive to us all and that love is the agent that opens our eyes to injustice on the part of both the oppressor an the oppressed. The words of hate are not remembered and do not give a legacy. Who remembers any quotes of James Earl Ray? But just think of all the beautiful, love-based speeches of Martin Luther King that endure and will endure for generations to come. One of my favorites of his speeches is the one that is about love and reflected the character of a true Christ follower:

“I’m concerned about a better World. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

And so I say to you today, my friends, that you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned and die the death of a martyr, and your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as one of history’s greatest heroes; but if you have not love, your blood was spilt in vain. What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.”

Love stands the test of time. Love is written about over and over and over. Love endures. Love wins.

Amen and Amen.

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