Prescriptive Vs. Descriptive
I used to be pretty much completely boy crazy. I always had a guy I was crushing on. I was always dreaming about my future wedding. I was always obsessing over whether the guy I liked felt the same way about me. I also used to never talk to boys… Yeah figure that one out. Recently I was reading through my old middle school diaries (oh the angst!) and rediscovered an interesting thing I used to do… I’m sure a lot of us know the story of Gideon in the Bible but, if not, here’s the gist – Gideon’s a warrior and was supposed to save Israel. He was a little skeptical so he prayed, asking God to give him a sign that it would really happen. The first night he prayed that he’d wake up and a piece of fleece would be wet with dew while the ground around it would be dry. It happened. The next night he prayed that he’d wake up and a piece of fleece would be dry but the ground around it would be wet with dew. Once again, it happened. Gideon, secure in the fact that God was calling him to fight, then went to battle and defeated the Midianites. (Read the whole account here) Well, I thought that if God answers prayers that way for Gideon then He would for me too. So, I got to praying. I asked God to tell me if a specific boy liked me and if we’d end up falling in love and getting married. I prayed that if that was going to happen God would have a friend of mine that I rode the bus with greet me with a specific phrase. If she greeted me with a different phrase then the boy didn’t like me. (Remember, I never actually talked to the boy himself. That would have been silly.) Low and behold, she DID greet me with the phrase I had prayed for (it was probably “hi, Susannah” or something just as ridiculously common) and I was convinced that meant this guy was secretly in love with me. Sure enough, that guy was Nate and we ended up falling in love, getting married, and making a baby. Wait… No. That’s not how the story went. In reality that guy and I still never talked, I started going to another church, and we never saw one another again. (Here’s Nate’s and my REAL love story!)
Looking at this story one could easily say that God is inconsistent with His promises. He allowed Gideon to ask for a sign and then He fulfilled that sign. He didn’t do the same for me. Boo! Back up! God never promised that he would interact with His people in that way. In fact, the story of Gideon is the exception to the rule! Most of the time a situation like this wouldn’t happen. God doesn’t typically interact with His people in this way. People do this all the time! It doesn’t matter if it’s an author, a blogger, or a pastor – too often a story in the Bible will be pulled out and an application will be made that isn’t there! Remember the book The Prayer of Jabez? Yeah, great example of that – a prayer that one man prayed became the guideline for how we all should pray. I feel like to goes back to the post I wrote about bloggers being teachers – we need to be making sure that we’re teaching what the Bible is actually saying, not what we want the Bible to be saying. The difference lies in whether the passage is Prescriptive or Descriptive. Is the passage telling what you should do (prescribing an action) or telling you what someone did (describing an event)? The story of Gideon is descriptive. It is telling us what Gideon did and how God responded. It was not prescribing how we should pray or how we should interact with God. We need to be intentional about how we read and teach the Bible. We need to be careful to know if a passage is prescribing a truth or describing an event. Our lives should never be guided by descriptive passages but, instead, we should look toward the prescriptive passages for truth.