Their leaders had taught the Israelites that they were a chosen people, not for special indulgence and monopoly of divine favor, but for the special service of carrying the truth of the one God over all to every nation. And they had promised the Jews that, if they would fulfill this destiny, they would become the spiritual leaders of all peoples, and that the coming Messiah would reign over them and all the world as the Prince of Peace.
When the Jews had been freed by the Persians, they returned to Palestine only to fall into bondage to their own priest-ridden code of laws, sacrifices, and rituals. And as the Hebrew clans rejected the wonderful story of God presented in the farewell oration of Moses for the rituals of sacrifice and penance, so did these remnants of the Hebrew nation reject the magnificent concept of the second Isaiah for the rules, regulations, and rituals of their growing priesthood.
National egotism, false faith in a misconceived promised Messiah, and the increasing bondage and tyranny of the priesthood forever silenced the voices of the spiritual leaders (excepting Daniel, Ezekiel, Haggai, and Malachi); and from that day to the time of John the Baptist all Israel experienced an increasing spiritual retrogression. But the Jews never lost the concept of the Universal Father; even to the twentieth century after Christ they have continued to follow this Deity conception.
From Moses to John the Baptist there extended an unbroken line of faithful teachers who passed the monotheistic torch of light from one generation to another while they unceasingly rebuked unscrupulous rulers, denounced commercializing priests, and ever exhorted the people to adhere to the worship of the supreme Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel.
As a nation the Jews eventually lost their political identity, but the Hebrew religion of sincere belief in the one and universal God continues to live in the hearts of the scattered exiles. And this religion survives because it has effectively functioned to conserve the highest values of its followers. The Jewish religion did preserve the ideals of a people, but it failed to foster progress and encourage philosophic creative discovery in the realms of truth. The Jewish religion had many faults—it was deficient in philosophy and almost devoid of aesthetic qualities—but it did conserve moral values; therefore it persisted. The supreme Yahweh, as compared with other concepts of Deity, was clear-cut, vivid, personal, and moral.
The Jews loved justice, wisdom, truth, and righteousness as have few peoples, but they contributed least of all peoples to the intellectual comprehension and to the spiritual understanding of these divine qualities. Though Hebrew theology refused to expand, it played an important part in the development of two other world religions, Christianity and Mohammedanism.
The Jewish religion persisted also because of its institutions. It is difficult for religion to survive as the private practice of isolated individuals. This has ever been the error of the religious leaders: Seeing the evils of institutionalized religion, they seek to destroy the technique of group functioning. In place of destroying all ritual, they would do better to reform it. In this respect Ezekiel was wiser than his contemporaries; though he joined with them in insisting on personal moral responsibility, he also set about to establish the faithful observance of a superior and purified ritual.
And thus the successive teachers of Israel accomplished the greatest feat in the evolution of religion ever to be effected on Urantia: the gradual but continuous transformation of the barbaric concept of the savage demon Yahweh, the jealous and cruel spirit god of the fulminating Sinai volcano, to the later exalted and supernal concept of the supreme Yahweh, creator of all things and the loving and merciful Father of all mankind. And this Hebraic concept of God was the highest human visualization of the Universal Father up to that time when it was further enlarged and so exquisitely amplified by the personal teachings and life example of his Son, Michael of Nebadon.
[Presented by a Melchizedek of Nebadon.]