Putting Out the Fleece? (Part 1)

The story of Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40) has often intrigued me.  I’ve faced plenty of decisions in my life where I found myself wishing for divine guidance. When both choice “A” and choice “B” seem equally attractive, how do you figure out which path is God’s path for you? That crossroad is a place where many people feel paralyzed with indecision. What if you choose the wrong path and everything goes haywire?

Gideon was paralyzed at one of those crossroads. Having recently learned that he was God’s choice to deliver the oppressed Israelites from the Midianite desert raiders, he was having a hard time believing it (Judges 6:1-24). His choice was either to believe the angel of the Lord’s confident prediction and suit up for battle (“But I will be with you, and you will strike the Midianites as one man,” 6:16) or stay in the safety of the winepress threshing out his pathetic little pile of grain.

So he devises, apparently off the top of his head, the fleece test. To help Gideon make the decision, God was to cause dew to fall on the fleece, but not on the ground surrounding it. The second night God was to do the opposite. And God came through for Gideon both times!

So, is this a pattern for how to make difficult decisions in life? I’ve never used a physical fleece, but I’ve prayed similar prayers. “Lord, if you want me to ______________ ,then please cause _____________  to happen.” Ever prayed one of those? (Of course you have!) But should you have?

Let me suggest several reasons to you why this story is not a pattern for determining God’s will for our lives.

  1. Gideon already knew what God’s will was, quite clearly: he was to go and fight the Midianites by faith (6:14).
  2. Gideon’s request was born of doubt, not faith. “If you will save Israel by my hand. . .” (6:36)
  3. Gideon’s request was mystical and subjective, similar to pagans manipulating their gods (6:37-38).
  4. Gideon’s request was insincere – after God performed the miracle he asked for once, it wasn’t enough to convince him (6:39).
  5. Gideon clearly knew he was doing something wrong by testing God (6:39). Whose faith was on trial here anyway?!

So why did God grant the request that evidenced a wavering faith? God is gracious, that’s why. Even when our faith is weak and wavering, when we view God like a magic charm we rub for good luck – even then He is gracious to us.  Aren’t you thankful for the grace and patience of God with us when we’re struggling?

So how does one determine God’s will for difficult decisions? Keep your fleece folded and out of sight. I’ll tell you more in the next post.

About Sam Harbin
I am the President of Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA as well as the Chair and Professor of Pastoral Theology.

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