We continue with Part 2 of a series considering the uniqueness of the Jews in world history. Part 1 concluded with a reflection on the ultimate futility of the Pharaohs of Egypt building their massive structures, and how most of them have essentially died and been forgotten forever. The following is taken from my new, recently released book, "God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God."
This task that had long since lost its grasp on eternal significance haunted me. Inevitably, one is similarly drawn to question the value of one's own life. What is it being spent for? What, to use a phrase, is the point of my puzzle piece?
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But this, in turn, led to another line of questioning directed at the metaphorical puzzle itself, going from the particular to the universal: how could a civilization that was easily the most powerful on planet Earth for thousands of years have crumbled into the dust? And its leaders, once literally thought of as gods in the flesh, and its gods, once believed to be the most formidable deities worshipped among men for millennia, are nearly all forgotten? And even more perplexing, how is it possible that such a mighty civilization lies decrepit in the desert sands while that small tribe of Hebrews, whom they once enslaved, not only remains – speaking their same, native tongue and worshipping their same God of old – but flourishes once more in their ancestral homeland? Finally, how is it that the gods of Egypt are but ancient history known to few, while the God of that tribe of slaves is the object of worship of the majority of the billions of human beings on this planet? If a phrase from the Egyptian Book of the Dead were uttered, no one beyond a select few in the halls of a miniscule number of universities would recognize it. And yet, the ancient worship cry of that tribe of slaves, "Hallelujah," is instantly recognizable the world over, even by those who do not worship the God to whom it is directed. If any of the liturgy conducted by the pagan priests of Ozymandias were read aloud today, even in the native tongue of their hearers, no one would understand it. And yet, the holy book of that backward, feisty tribe of Jews not only continues to be read, but even in this age of widespread secularism, remains the best-selling book of all time, a source of inspiration, encouragement, challenge, and salvation to billions.
How on earth is any of this possible? Most of us would conclude that those with the greater power, the greater wealth, the greater buildings, the greater military powers, and the greater resources would stand supreme in the estimation of the world – that it would be their religion that was most widespread, their culture that would reign supreme, their sacred books and rituals that would fill the souls of the world, their language that would remain alive and well. And yet, history shows that exactly the opposite has happened as far as the mighty Egyptians and their feeble slaves are concerned. Today, Egyptians do not even speak their native tongue, but that of the Arabian Peninsula. And yet the Jewish people continue to speak theirs, after more than three millennia.
Not only are the language and culture alive, they've had a profound impact on mankind and Western civilization in particular. Consider the words of John Adams regarding Jewish influence, "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization." And all of this in the midst of being the most persecuted people in world history: pogroms, inquisitions, crusades, vendettas, and holocausts have not stunted this phenomenon in the slightest.
By all accounts, all logic, intuition, common sense, historical observation, and precedent, this should not be happening. And yet it is.
Joshua Charles' latest book takes a fresh, biblically based look at how God has and continues to use both Israelis and Arabs to further his purposes: "God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God"
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