I’m a week into my September New Year’s resolutions and here is what I have discovered thus far about reading the Bible – I’m going to need a burning heart in order to carry this resolution out. Because we all know it’s really easy to check things off of a list and read from one big number to the next big number in the Bible. But is that reading changing my heart and my life?
Here’s the story behind the concept of the “burning heart” that I am referring to. It comes out of Luke 24, shortly after Jesus was crucified, buried, and now the word of His tomb being empty is circulating among the disciples. We know the story well, but have we ever thought about the emotions of the people involved in the story? These men and women had truly believed that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel, the Messiah that all Scripture had spoken of. Yet in a matter of a week after they entered Jerusalem, their Savior was dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Undoubtedly they felt betrayed, disappointed, confused, fearful, and hopeless.
Here we find two of them, walking the road to a nearby village, conversing and reasoning as to why all of this happened. How did everything unravel so quickly? In that moment of confusion, Jesus draws near to them on the road, unrecognizable to their eyes. He asks them what they are talking about and why they are so sad (v. 17). Isn’t that just sort of comical, yet so tender? He knows all things, but He asks them a question, inviting them to engage with Him – the very One who is the Word and the Truth.
Jesus’ reaction to their response is even better – “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself…” (Luke 24:25-27; NKJV; emphasis added).
What I would have given to have heard that conversation. Jesus Himself, going through the Scriptures to reveal how it was all pointing to Him the entire time. Later when Jesus vanished from their sight and they realized who they had been talking to, the two said, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32; emphasis added).
Scripture can cause my heart to burn within me when I read it, if I’m reading it with the right perspective – that Jesus is the key to rightly understanding the Bible.
As I’ve been starting out in Genesis and the Old Testament again, it’s no longer about how I can speed-read my way through Leviticus or Numbers (let’s be real, sometimes those genealogies can be like instant Tylenol PM). It’s a story, and I’m sitting in the midst of it. It’s about a God who desires fellowship with His creation, an unbroken communion with men and women. He wants to dwell with us.
Yet that fellowship was broken when humankind did not trust in His Words.
And so begins the grand story of redemption. In Genesis 3:15, God foretells of a Seed, one that would come from the woman and although the ancient serpent of old would bruise His heel, He would ultimately bruise his head. The rest of the story follows the coming of this Seed, tracing it through God’s choice of one family – Abraham’s – in bringing about this Seed that would bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).
It’s oddly comforting to see the fragility of it all, how God’s divine story is carried out through the lives of broken men and women. God takes one of the most dysfunctional families – Jacob’s – and creates the 12 tribes of Israel. He takes the context of slavery and a deliverer found in an eighty-year-old man to portray a picture of how we all ultimately come out of sin and into salvation. He has His chosen people wander for forty years in the wilderness, outside the gates of the Promised Land, to show them how to take “Egypt” and slavery out from within themselves. He uses the love story of a Moabite woman, a gentile, to reveal how He grafts in those who say, “Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God…” (Ruth 1:16b). He uses a little shepherd boy, singing on the backsides of Bethlehem to demonstrate what it means to be a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Each one of them, so completely human. Yet their lives become a part of the grand story in bringing about God’s redemptive plan – the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of the Seed, His Son in the flesh. Jesus.
As I read His Word, as I think about Him, and as I follow His leading throughout the mundane, everyday things of life, I want to walk that “road to Emmaus.” I know that path is going to lead me towards a burning heart, and through that fire, I trust that I’ll be refined.