True prophets are neither pessimists nor optimists. They do not view men, nations, or situations through the lens of negative hopelessness, nor do live in the land of naive presumptions. They are gripped with burden over issues of reality, but they are distinct because of their acute God-centeredness.
The prophets of Israel, in the last analysis, never assessed their national dilemmas with anxiety or dejection. On the flip side, they never ignored the gravity and high-seriousness of the sin of their people, and never shirked the revelation that God Himself would come to judge and purge all that was out of harmony with Himself.
It is no wonder that Heschel called the prophets “tragic figures,” for they were required, by their own revelation of God’s majesty, to stay outside of the boxes we normal folk tend to live in. As a pattern, we humans are normally pessimistic and negative, or naive and unrealistic, but an encounter with the Living God presses us out of those categories and into a heavenly view. At once we realize that we have sinned, that our people have sinned, and that the Ancient of Days is seated on a throne that will one day reveal all that our lives have been. The Lord means to move us into the seeing of the prophets, which is available to all who would receive the Holy Spirit.
Prophetic theology (meaning the understanding of God that Israel’s prophets carried), was marked with a transcendent kind of certitude and sureness. The confidence of the prophets was not some naive statement, that the earth is improving, all things are getting better, and we should all just be positive because life is good. Nor were they dragging their knuckles on the ground, moping and whining like defeated fatalists. Their revelation of God would not permit them to do either of the two.
Snippets of Micah introduce us to the sureness of prophetic theology:
“…. the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.”
“…. in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established….”
“…. I will watch expectantly for the Lord…. my God will hear me….”
“…. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
“…. I will see His righteousness….”
“…. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
The sureness of prophetic theology is in the revelation that God will reign in the hearts of His people. The prophet may weep over the condition of His nation, but it is not unto emptiness. It is a weeping unto the fulfillment of all that God has promised to accomplish for His glory. There is light and joy, even in the burden of prophetic theology. Thus, the prophet declares, “My God will hear me.”
Dear saint, do not sweep your sin, or the sin of your nation under the rug. Do not deny reality. But do not diminish under the weight of reality, either. Look upon the One who is enthroned, and who is the King of history and the Head of the Church. He intercedes in the heavens, with the aim of making all things new through His judgment and mercy, and He invites you to join in that intercession along with Him. He will wash you thoroughly, cleanse your mind and heart, and graft you into His glorious heart. There is a sureness in prophetic theology, and He is the Prophet, Priest, and King that we must necessarily follow in the pursuit. What a joy to be so joined!