Yesterday in church I was blessed to have the Holy Spirit use me to give a short encouraging word to the congregation. It followed the normal pattern for me, from when the Spirit is moving and wants to speak…..until the end. As I neared what turned out to be the end of the message my heart began a slow burn within me. When I paused to await the remainder of the message, the burning increased to such an intensity I thought I would burst into flame – a PHYSICAL BURNING as if it were on fire. And when I say ‘heart’ I mean the center of my body at the bottom of and directly beneath the breastbone. As pastor began to speak and move the service onward with more worship, I wasn’t sure the Spirit was finished. Nevertheless, I let it go, and as the program of service continued the burning ceased. In hindsight I believe it was supposed to be a time of laying-on of hands, but I will never know in this life.
I didn’t really think much more about it yesterday except when my grandson – who had been standing beside me — asked me about the experience on our drive home – he often experiences things spiritually yet doesn’t discuss it. Yet this morning, it is picking at me, and tugging at me, as a seamstress tugs and picks on a seam trying to open it. And knowing after all these years how the Holy Spirit nudges and tugs and pulls and woos me into walking with Him instead of around Him, I delved into different commentaries on the story of the Emmaus Road. Here’s what I found, centering my study around Luke 24:32.
According to Ellicott, the tense used implied a continuous burning and not a momentary state or act.
MacLaren couldn’t contain himself to looking at the one verse and expounds on the entire story, with a mini-sermon that completely ignores the ‘burning hearts’.
Benson counts the burning as a ‘glow within us, with love to God and our Divine Instructor’.
Henry says that ‘Scriptures which speak of Christ will warm the hearts of his true disciples’.
Barnes also believes that the hearts burning expression denotes ‘the deep interest and pleasure which they felt in his discourse’.
Poole counts the travelers as disciples who had not yet had the fire [of evangelism] kindled in their hearts, but once Christ departed they were alight and had to go spread the word.
Gill concludes that the words that Christ shared with them ‘caused their hearts to be warmed and glow as they became fervent in spirit and their affections were raised and fired; they found the word to be as burning fire within them, and they now knew somewhat what it was to be baptized with fire.’
Meyer transcribes the verse to read ‘Was not our heart in an extraordinarily fervent commotion?’
Bengel acknowledges that it was an ‘actual continuance of the burning sensation’.
So….which was it?
Well, having been the one having the actual experience it was, as Bengel acknowledges, an actual burning sensation. Was it a continuous burning? YES. Was my heart warmed as in an emotional experience? NO. Was I quoting Scriptures? NO – at least I don’t think so. Was I meditating on my love for God and my Divine Instructor? NO. Was it my interest and pleasure in the discourse? Given that I don’t remember what was said, a resounding NO. Do I now feel different as if I have been changed with a light to run and spread the word; a light greater than I already had? NO. Was my heart in an extraordinarily fervent commotion? NO. And, finally, was I baptized with fire? I DON’T KNOW.
Here’s what I do know: I want to be all that God has called me to be. When He uses me, I am blessed. When He uses me like He did yesterday, with a new experience, I want to know what it means, and if there is something more I need to do for Him or with Him. And, in the case of a new experience, I want to find other believers who have had similar experiences so we can compare notes and, iron sharpening iron, keep one another headed in the right direction – toward the finish line.
Here’s what I think: It was the truth of God which lit my heart on fire. What do you think?
If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d love to hear from you.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20.