The best of all Church Historians, Edward Gibbon, in his inimitable style, points out an implication of God’s dealings with the Jews that I’d never noticed:

When the law was given in thunder from Mount Sinai, when the tides of the ocean and the course of the planets were suspended for the convenience of the Israelites, and when temporal rewards and punishments were the immediate consequences of their piety or disobedience, they perpetually relapsed into rebellion against the visible majesty of their Divine King, placed the idols of the nations in the sanctuary of Jehovah, and imitated every fantastic ceremony that was practised in the tents of the Arabs, or in the cities of Phoenicia. As the protection of Heaven was deservedly withdrawn from the ungrateful race, their faith acquired a proportionable degree of vigor and purity. The contemporaries of Moses and Joshua had beheld with careless indifference the most amazing miracles. Under the pressure of every calamity, the belief of those miracles has preserved the Jews of a later period from the universal contagion of idolatry; and in contradiction to every known principle of the human mind, that singular people seems to have yielded a stronger and more ready assent to the traditions of their remote ancestors, than to the evidence of their own senses.

The difference between Jewish behavior in the two different periods of history seems to be undeniable; whether it was only belief in the ancient miracles that preserved later Jewry from apostasy is debatable. It may well be that human beings are such that only when God’s discipline of us begins to seem irrevocable (as it must have done by the New Testament period) do we truly believe He is real. Perhaps the contempt increasingly being heaped on Christians will last long enough to have the same effect on us. Let’s pray that it doesn’t take something worse than contempt.

Advertisements