Friday, April 5, 2024

Describing My Heart

 By: Lauren Thomas 

If you’ve read much of the Bible, you know there are some confusing parts. The confusion only increases when you ask yourself what to do with the passages you’re reading. One helpful clue is that when reading the Bible, it is important to make a distinction between prescriptive and descriptive passages. For example, if I read the whole Bible as prescriptive – telling me how to live – I have no way of distinguishing between good characters and bad ones to emulate! Do I act like Joseph, Judas, or Jesus? All of them? Similarly, if I see the whole Bible as descriptive, it is merely a history book with very few implications for how I should live my life. But the Bible contains both: description and prescription. 

The book of Judges is an example of a descriptive section of the Bible. The accounts we read there become increasingly disturbing. This creates a stark contrast to previous sections that contained “prescriptive” law for the Israelites. From Exodus through Deuteronomy, we read about the Law and Covenant given by God and mediated by Moses to the Israelites. But we see an unsettling shift in the beginning of Judges. In chapter 1 we see the failure of various tribes to take the Promised Land that God had given them. In chapter 2 the Angel of the Lord speaks and says, “But you have not obeyed my voice” (Judges 2:2). Judges 2:11 tells us that the people did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. The history of events through the book shows increasing moral degeneration. Toward the end of these accounts, we see this identical phrase in Judges 17:6 and 21:25:


In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 and 21:25 (ESV)


As the book of Judges describes a portion of Israel’s history, it gives us a hint about the human condition. As we distance ourselves from God, doing what is “right” in our own eyes will be doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Our evaluations of right and wrong are different from God’s judgements. Our conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit are not always synonymous. 


The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)


Not only does Judges describe Israel’s apostasy and moral degeneration, it also describes the condition of my heart, of the human heart. And it describes our need for a Savior who can give us a new heart.


26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (ESV)



1.)   I encourage you to examine your life right now for things you are doing which are “right in your own eyes.” Ask the Lord to give you a new heart and spirit, and to move you to follow His ways. 

2.)   What are you reading in the Bible right now? Try to identity what parts are prescriptive and/or descriptive. If this is challenging, seek out free online commentary or look at the footnotes in a study Bible. 

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