Gideon and the Fleece
“Gideon said to God, ‘Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece’ ” (v. 39).- Judges 6:33–40
Gideon tore down the altar to Baal and the sacred pole dedicated to Asherah according to God’s command to purge the idols from Israel (Judg. 6:1–32). Having dealt with the idolatry of God’s people—though, as we will see, it was only a superficial end to the worship of idols among the Israelites (8:22–28)—it was time to raise an army to fight the Midianites who were oppressing Israel. As today’s passage tells us, when the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, he sent a call to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to join him against the foes of Israel, and these tribes sent men to fight in Gideon’s army (6:33–35).
And yet, Gideon remained hesitant in following the Lord against the Midianites. Although God did a miracle to convince Gideon that he was to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and then even kept him safe from the townspeople who wanted to punish Gideon in response (vv. 1–32), he still needed more convincing to lead the army into war with Midian. He asked for another sign, the famous sign of the fleece that we read about in Judges 6:36–40. The supernatural nature of the sign is easy enough to discern. Ordinarily, whatever is left outside when dew is present will be wet like the ground around it. If there is no dew, what we leave outside will be dry. Gideon asked for—and God gave him—the opposite. The fleece was wet but the ground was dry, and then the fleece was dry but the ground was wet. Only divine intervention could make this happen.
The sign of the fleece convinced Gideon to go into battle, as we see in the succeeding chapters. But Gideon’s request for the sign evidences his half-hearted faith. To be sure, Gideon was not like the atheist who says, “God, I will only believe You exist if You show me a sign.” After all, Gideon knew there was a God in Israel. His problem was not that he thought God did not exist or that God could not help him. His problem was that he was uncertain that the Lord actually would help him. God’s word of promise was insufficient for Gideon, but the Lord graciously condescended to alleviate Gideon’s doubts. We should not think, however, that the Lord will send us extrabiblical signs as a matter of course. Defeating the Midianites was essential for the safety of Israel and the preservation of the Israelites so that one day the Messiah could come (Gen. 22:17–18; Gal. 3:15–16). We will never have to do something so consequential. Thus, we must be content with the direction God gives us in Scripture.
We are tempted to ask God for a sign when we must make important life decisions. However, to think that a sign is necessary is to misunderstand how God guides us. The Lord has given us the principles in His Word for how we should make decisions, and we are to apply those principles with wisdom. Thus, we are free to choose any option that does not violate Scripture and know that we are not outside of the will of God.
Passages for Further Study
2 Timothy 3:16–17