“What do we and the people of the Bible have in common? The anxieties and joys of living; the sense of wonder and the resistance to it; the awareness of the hiding God and moments of longing to find a way to Him.”
Heschel begins by noting the absence of the Bible in general philosophies of God and specifically Western philosophy. Heschel states that the “basic premises of Western philosophy are derived from the Greek rather than the Hebraic thinking…….philisophical reflection about religion has been operating from Athens rather than Jerusalem.” This view unfortunately, has also been prevalent in the Church and prevails through-out much of Christian Theology and history. Fortunately though, the last 30-40 years has seen an increase in scholarship working towards bringing out the Hebraic context of Jesus, the New Testament and 1st Century Christianity and Judaism as a whole. While scholarship is working toward bringing a more balanced approach to the philosophies of religion and theology, there is much to be done to get this information to the masses.
Heschel says the central thought of Judaism is The Living God and that the supreme problem for a philosophy of Judaism is:
- What are the grounds for man’s believing in the realness of the living God?
- Is man at all capable of discovering such grounds?
- Unless we seek God, may we fail to find Him?
- Is there a way of developing sensitivity to God and attachment to His presence?
Heschel says that the prophets appeal to the spiritual power in man and that the initiative and intensity of seeking God is within man’s power. He also states that “it is true that in seeking Him we are assisted by Him.” Heschel states that an element in seeking Him includes the fact of keeping His commandments (Psalm 119) and that prayer goes beyond seeking help and it is ultimately about seeking Him.
“But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13
“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” Psalm 105:4
Heschel states that God is waiting for man to seek Him. That we must go on trying to return to Him, to care for Him.
“The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand,  who seek after God.” Psalm 14:2
“It is an exceptional act of divine grace that those who do not care for Him should suddenly discover that they are near Him”
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by  my name.” Isaiah 65:1
Heschel lists three ways to seek Him, three starting points of contemplation about God that are based on three Biblical passages:
- The way of sensing the presence of God in the world, in things. (Isaiah 40:26)
- The way of sensing His presence in the Bible. (Exodus 20:2)
- The way of sensing His presence in sacred deeds. (Exodus 24:7)
These three ways that lead to Him also correspond to the main aspects of religious experience: worship, learning and action. “The God of nature is the God of history, and the way to know Him is to do His will.”
May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah!