Awe and wonder held my weary, dry eyes open until my foggy contact lenses forced me to blink for a clearer view out the bus window. With every blink, I felt like I was missing a moment of the miracle. Although I had the next nine months to fully immerse myself in the land and the culture, I didn’t want to miss even one split second. Giddy thoughts flooded my mind, “This is it! Israel—the land of the Bible! Wait—wha—was that ‘Jerusalem’ on a road sign?! Gaaaaaaa!”
Maybe you’ve heard it said that visiting the Holy Land splashes color on the pages of your Bible. Well, it’s true!
If you have ever visited Israel, you know what I’m talking about. There’s just something about seeing it with your own eyes and not just a two-dimensional flannel-graph representation of it. I’m talking about that surreal moment when faith becomes sight. That focusing of the mind’s blurry lens from imagination’s story to tangible, historical fact. The shift in my mind’s perspective of the Bible was like switching from an old black-and-white silent film to a live action movie in 4D. Maybe you’ve heard it said that visiting the Holy Land splashes color on the pages of your Bible. Well, it’s true!
My faith journey began among the rolling hills of Amish country, Pennsylvania, where my parents raised my three brothers and me with a love for God, God’s Word, and the souls of mankind. Every time the doors were open at our Bible Church and Academy, the Meissner family was there. My mother was a nurse, so we couldn’t even fake “sick days.” As an adult, I’m increasingly thankful for my parents’ dedication to providing us with an education centered on a biblical worldview.
Young Becky enjoyed hearing Bible stories, and my imagination always managed to put me right in the middle of all the action. If daydreaming was an Olympic sport, I’d make my country proud. Bedtime prayers often turned into some imaginative story where I was saving friends from a burning school building or something dramatic like that. Every night, I asked God to save me because I knew I was a sinner that needed to be saved. But I couldn’t really convince myself that the God of this universe heard me, or that I prayed with the right words, as though it all somehow depended on me. One night, in the middle of my bedtime prayer, I focused on Jesus as my Hero, the true Savior. In my mind’s eye, I pictured the perfect Son of God hanging on the cross in my place, and a tremendous sense of my own unworthiness overwhelmed my tender heart. His own perfect love moved Him to take the penalty for my sin against God’s holiness. It’s what He did for me, not anything that I can do to save myself. I will forever cherish that moment in prayer before drifting off to sleep. My 9-year-old heart placed my trust wholly in Jesus for salvation from my sin and I received full forgiveness and peace with God. This first step of faith started me on a pursuit of knowing God, a journey of faith and adventure beyond my wildest imagination.
One distinct mark of maturity and growth in any area of life is the ability to see beyond oneself. My natural self-centered approach to Bible study as a young believer proved to be my greatest hindrance to understanding God’s Word and knowing Him according to His own description of Himself and not my own forced, two-dimensional version. I loved God’s Word. I studied God’s Word. I memorized verses and learned how to apply them to my life. But as a whole, I didn’t really see or appreciate the big picture. I didn’t see how it all fit together. It was somewhat vague and disjointed in my mind—partly because I was still trying to make it all about me.
My university experience built upon this love of Scripture as my studies focused on biblical counseling. The relevancy of God’s Word to everyday life drew my heart even closer in relationship with the God of the Bible, but I was still trying to make Him fit into my box. Oftentimes, when practicing my “practical theology,” I would sometimes read and apply verses out of their context, thus leaving me and others with an incomplete or worse, a distorted picture of God’s plan, God’s purpose, and God’s glory.
How to Study the Word
I will be the first to admit that even as I now approach the 40-year milestone of life, I still have quite a bit of maturing to do. Israelis have a saying, “Le’at, le’at” (Slowly, slowly). This seems to be my mantra towards maturity. Likewise, my growth in knowing God is gradual. Part of the joy and excitement in this faith relationship is the process of seeking God through the regular study of His Word and prayer. Studying God’s Word in its historical, geographical, and cultural context only deepened my understanding, humility, and joy in this relationship. HIS story is truly incredible!
In my faith journey, understanding God’s unique relationship with Israel was key in unlocking a fuller understanding of God’s great plan, purpose, and glory.
Studying the Bible in the land of the Bible through a dispensational lens was a game-changer for me. For the first time, I began to see how all the parts of Scripture work together to reveal the great metanarrative of the one true glorious God and His glorious work in creating and then redeeming and restoring His now broken, sin-cursed world. In my faith journey, understanding God’s unique relationship with Israel was key in unlocking a fuller understanding of God’s great plan, purpose, and glory.
While hopping on a plane and visiting the land of Israel certainly helps with this contextual understanding of Scripture, it’s not absolutely necessary for understanding God’s plan, purpose, and glory. We have everything we need to grow in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
If I could go back and offer young believer Becky a bit of advice, first I’d say, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!” Then, I would buy her a chocolate milkshake and I would show her how to read Scripture through a dispensational lens (following a chronological reading plan) and train her how to look for God’s plan, purpose, and glory in each reading… for this is life eternal! (John 17:3)