The practice of putting down fleeces is common evangelical-speak and practice, but is it appropriate? “God if you do… x, y or z I’ll know that is your will for me.” Reading Gideon’s story in Judges… well I don’t think God wants this to be the model for our lives.
Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return,” (Judges 6:11-18, ESV).
He asked for a sign, and then he puts out the fleece.
Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then 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. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew, (Judges 6:36-40, ESV)
Isn’t sometimes the practice of putting out a fleece really disobedience in disguise? We know what God wants us to do generally – be disciplemakers, worship, seek reconciliation, have fellowship, etc and yet we find ways around that by asking for a sign. I don’t believe this account is mentioned in Judges because it is a model to follow, but instead to show us God’s patience toward Gideon for his lack of faith. I’m not judging him in that I think we’d all be leery if placed in the same situation.
God in His patience will sometimes honor our desire to put out a fleece, but wouldn’t it be better to step out in faithful obedience?