How many generations passed between Joseph and Moses, seeing nothing but the decay into slavery and the lonely, weary, angry rebellion of a heart against the unkept covenant? We do not know what they thought, how they might have raged against the God of their fathers. And rightly so.
How many more generations passed between the prophets of a newly restored Israel and the astonishing revelation of a dead and risen Messiah? We know much more about what these people thought, as Persian conquerors gave them hope and Greek conquerors changed it to temptation, as Seleucid conquerors then made it despair and Roman conquerors finally scattered hope to the winds. We know there was a brief period of victory for “God’s people,” though even that fell easily to corruption and made even the holy temple a place of simony and nepotism. Wicked, aggressive and ultimately co-opted Hasmoneans gave the Davidic throne to an Idumean tyrant and sold priestly office to aristocrats. No wonder Essenes changed hope into waiting in the desert, and Pharisees changed hope into the labor of establishing a perfect law.
How many generations shall we who live these millennia later labor in hopeless fear of a glorious faith sold to a culture of achievement and self-satisfaction? We, like those who waited for centuries in apparently forgotten silence — we will cling to an ancient promise in our spiritual moments and in darker moments secretly despair of a real world’s redemption. We cannot remove ourselves to some hermitic cave nor pretend a perfect law in Talmudic detail. Yet we, too, must continue these centuries alone as an over-used faith dies of a passed popularity.