Discerning the Spiritual Movements of Nations(Grade Recieved: 98%)

Heschel opens this chapter with a provocative analysis regarding the folly of humanity’s philosophy of might and its baffling prominence in the world. Often such movements begin with nihilistic and so called humanistic ideals set forth in works like Fredrick Nietzsche’s The Will to Power and Beyond Good and Evil, which are then feasted on by empty, yet impassioned men like Hitler and Stalin. Heschel seems to push us to explore what it is in man that so easily takes pride and honor in this militant state and how does it occur. These peoples and nations convince the citizens that they are apart of a great cause, hence the state becomes their source. The rejection of morality and objective truth seems to enable a demented superman fantasy where the sword can now rule. During Hitler’s rise, Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoler wrote a book called God is my Father and in it warned the German people that they could not serve God and follow this madman. Perhaps it was the people’s fear or frenzied support for the cause conveyed to them by their new spiritual informants, but just as some past prophets, his message was not adhered to.
As Heschel rightly implies, the only way to obtain real and lasting victory is by the way of the Spirit. It all starts from within. We must decide that our institutions will teach and remain loyal to God and his principles. When people stop believing in God, there now exists a vacuum to believe in anything. As Heschel depicts throughout the chapter, the allure of power without possessing God’s character can be unyielding and a disaster waiting to happen. It is unclear if Heschel would entirely agree but it does seem that force of some varying degree would be needed in dealing with extreme situations or persons, as sometimes the wolf will not pass by the door. Although the Lord did not want his temple to be built by David, a man of war, perhaps David did serve his divine purpose necessary for that time. Heschel brings forth the scripture of Isaiah 2:4. Today this is the same verse that appears outside the United Nations, an institution which deals only in secular human insight and pieces of paper, from which we have seen mostly failures and even injustices.
Through scripture, Heschel profiles the horrors of warlike minds and civilizations and gives opinions and insights from Biblical figures and prophets. In doing so he shows the results that can occur when man believes that he lives unto himself only. It is not power itself that is the problem but the love and lust of power that produces the same spirit that Satan possessed when he desired the highest throne. Passages from the Book of Isaiah make clear that the Lord will be against the haughty, and in the final analysis the Lord will be exalted. In contrast to the views of Roman tyrants regarding the god’s favor for the strong, the prophets believed that God’s divine concern was for the weak and for Zion, as shown in passages from Jeremiah. To the ancient Greeks, nature and the cosmos was man’s source and guide, while to the prophets man’s doings within history and nature were subject to God. History has been a conflict between human experience as defined by a chess game for power and assumed superficial consequences, versus the spirit of man’s actions as related to God and defined by what was done for his kingdom. Humans may remove ruins and monuments, but the voice of the soul remains to stand before God and His Law.
The prophet is connected to God and therefore cannot help but have a heightened interest and love for the people and civilization. Consequently they must assist in exposing its sickness and insecurities and are unafraid to combat ideas with ideas. Heschel puts it best: “It is an act of evil to accept the state of evil as either inevitable or final. Others may be satisfied with improvement, the prophets insist upon redemption” (Heschel, p. 231). The spiritual sensitivity and awareness of the past and present, and vision of what could happen, is desperately needed amongst more peoples today. Cultural and individual sin may cause a lack of vision and sensitivity to divine purposes. Today there appears to be a lack of concern regarding what our time demands and what our future requires.
Great prophets run to the battle that God has given them, shining a light where darkness is. The prophet is ready for a potentially hard life as it is difficult at times even for them to understand the Lord in all his ways, particularly regarding deeds of wickedness. To avoid being consumed with despair or hatred, the prophets keep close the knowledge that all are able to repent and that Israel’s God is the God of their enemies, even if they are not aware of it. Whether the Lord intervenes or does not, we are assured that it serves a gracious and just future cause. Humans can, in their intelligence, attempt to make a tidy theological package, restricting the parameters of God’s sovereignty and interaction with his creation. To this Heschel offers the following statement: “Any attempt to formulate a theory, to stamp a dogma, to define God’s itinerary through history, is a shame, fraught with pretension” (Heschel, p. 225).
Throughout this chapter Heschel gives a different and more relatable portrait of the prophets and their psychology. Now that we have a closed canon, we must discern what comes from the mouths of modern-day prophets by holding it next to the Word. Yet prophetic voices and history itself act as some of the greatest guides and teachers we can have. However we can disregard and ignore these models, choosing rather to indulge ourselves and our pursuits. When we do this we invite our own moral, physical, and spiritual tribulation. One could argue that the majority of wars have been fought over the issue of who is the one true God. This issue will be put to rest and the previously mentioned passage of Isaiah 2:4 will be fulfilled when Messiah returns: “He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
Sources: The Prophets by Abraham J. Herschel

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