FEW nations, if any, outside of Israel, have more often passed through the crucible of fire, and survived. The history of the ancient Hebrews is a long rehearsal of wars, both civil and foreign, with their accompaniment of invasion, destruction, oppression, and deportation or death. If, to this picture of woes brought about by human enemies, one adds the strokes of an adverse nature, such as locusts, floods, storms, famines, and epidemics, one may wonder how the Psalter could include any hymn of praise at all. Obviously, the joy which dominated their worship was not the manifestation of a superficial exuberance but the result of a triumphant faith. When they "rejoiced before Yahweh," they did so against the background of a long inheritance of national trials and tribulations. There were moments, however, when they could not rejoice. Faced by crisis, they turned corporately to their God and prayed for deliverance. Under the onslaught of national misery, their sense of election was sometimes shaken, but never completely shattered. It was at the time of their Exile in Babylon, when they had lost king, land, and sanctuary, that their faith rose to its summit and found in Second Isaiah and in Job its purest expression. Israel, the chosen servant of Yahweh, learned through suffering to become "a light for the nations" and the instrument of God's "salvation unto the end of the earth" ( Is. 49:6). It also discovered the grace of serving God for nought ( Job 1: 9). Then, one may ask,
"Is it so, O Christ in heaven, that the highest suffer most, . . .
That the mark of rank in nature is capacity for pain,
That the anguish of the singer makes the sweetness of the strain?"1