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.” [Judges 6:39 (NLT)]
In Judges 6, we find the people crying out to the Lord after being oppressed by the Midianites for seven years. When we meet Gideon, he is hiding from the marauders in a wine press while threshing wheat. When an angel of the Lord appears, the angel addresses the frightened man as, “Mighty hero.” Instead of kneeling before the Lord’s messenger in awe, Gideon boldly questions him about the nation’s difficulties and protests being handed over to the Midianites. Instead of answering Gideon’s questions, the angel tells him that he is the one who will rescue Israel. Continuing to question the angel, Gideon immediately points out the difficulty of such an insignificant person as he ever gathering an army. After being reassured of both God’s presence and the army’s victory, Gideon asks for proof that he really is speaking with God. When his offering is miraculously consumed by fire at the angel’s touch, the doubtful man realizes he is speaking with the Lord and erects an altar to Him. At the Lord’s command, Gideon then destroys the town’s altar of Baal, cuts down their Asherah pole, and erects another altar dedicated to the Lord.
As the Midianites gathered for battle in Jezreel, the man who was sure that he couldn’t gather an army recruited 32,000 willing warriors. Nevertheless, Gideon’s faith continued to waver. He again doubted the Lord’s promise that he would lead Israel to victory and even had the audacity to demand that God again prove Himself by passing two more tests. In the first, Gideon put out a dry fleece and demanded that in the morning it be wet with dew while the ground remained dry. The next day, unsatisfied with dry fleece and wet ground, Gideon then demanded that the dry fleece remain dry when the ground became wet.
At this point, had I been God, I might have struck Gideon dead and found someone else to lead Israel to victory. Instead, God acceded to Gideon’s demand. That He did so says more about His incredible patience and love for Israel than His approval of Gideon’s impudence. That God didn’t rebuke Gideon, however, doesn’t mean He endorses this practice. In fact, Gideon knew he was treading on dangerous ground with his demands when he asked God not to be angry with him.
Remember, Gideon wasn’t asking God for a sign of what he should do—God had given him clear instructions as to his assignment. Filled with doubt, Gideon wanted a guarantee that the Lord was stronger than the pagan god Baal. God, however, proved His power when Baal couldn’t destroy Gideon for destroying both pagan altar and pole!
Whether Gideon was hoping to reassure himself of divine support or merely hoping the demanded miracles couldn’t occur so he wouldn’t have to go to battle, we’ll never know. Either way, what he did was wrong. Deuteronomy 6:16 tells us we are not to test the Lord—a command Jesus repeated when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. Moreover, Deuteronomy 18:9-11 warned the Israelites about imitating the customs of the pagans with such things as fortune-telling or interpreting omens and Gideon’s demands did both!
Just because Gideon put out the fleece doesn’t mean we should follow his example when making decisions. After all, Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Him, Jacob deceived his father, David committed adultery and murder, neither Eli nor Samuel disciplined their boys, Samson broke his vows, and Jonah fled from God. No pastor ever says we should follow their examples! Nevertheless, there are some Christians who, like Gideon, “put out the fleece” by testing God’s will. Having made a decision, they demand a sign from God to confirm it. Be it a phone call, job offer, letter, opening the Bible to a random verse, or something else entirely, that’s putting God to a test and seeking omens! Neither is how we are supposed to determine God’s will.
We don’t need to put out a fleece to give us the answers only God can provide. Instead of looking for signs, we should be looking to the Giver of Signs and His word for our answers and reassurance!