Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”
And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew. (Judges 6:36-40 NLT)
Most Bible scholars criticize Gideon for ‘putting out the fleece’ in order to determine God’s will. Indeed Gideon could have and should have gone forward without any additional conformation; however, it’s not always easy to be certain of God’s will. We read something in God’s Word and then we question whether or not that promise pertains to us. We say that God has spoken to us but then we wonder if it was truly God’s voice. We see an open door but then we doubt whether God opened it or we opened it ourselves. At least I do. Maybe you’re different.
I personally don’t criticize Gideon that heavily and here’s why – God didn’t criticize him. We must keep in mind that Gideon had been living in a time of idolatry and therefore he knew little about the living God. Why just hours before, Gideon had been hiding in a wine-press. For him every step of faith was something new and major. It should also encourage us to know that Hebrews 11 lists him as one of the heroes of faith.
What do we mean when we say that he ‘put out the fleece?’ Gideon asked for a miraculous sign that would assure him that God was with him. That night he laid the skin of a lamb out on the threshing floor and requested that in the morning, the fleece would be wet with dew and the ground would be dry. Sure enough it happened even as he had asked. But still he wasn’t certain. What if it was just a coincidence or a freak act of nature? So again he laid out the skin, only this time he reversed the situation and asked that the ground would be wet and the fleece be kept dry. Scripture says, “So that night God did as Gideon asked.”
Most of the ones who criticize Gideon have themselves at one time or another done something very similar. Maybe they didn’t use the fleece of a lamb, but perhaps they asked a question and sought a sign that would assure them of God’s will. Let me make some suggestions regarding ‘laying out the fleece.’
- The basis for all guidance should be the Bible. God will never instruct His children to do something that is contrary to His Word. For me personally, the sign I most often seek from the Lord is a verse or passage of scripture that undeniably reveals His perfect will to me.
- We should be willing to accept God’s will and guidance regardless of whether it means sacrifice or celebration. If we have to have a ‘certain’ answer from the Lord, that is probably a good indication that we are not honestly seeking His guidance.
- Most often, God’s guidance will require us to take a step of faith.
I close with this portion of scripture from the book of James –
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. (James 1:5-8 NLT)