Gideon Asks for Signs - Part 2 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Now, looking back at verses 234 and 335, we see that the men that volunteered for his army had come to him from everywhere. When a trumpet is blown in Israel, it means war. And frankly, friend, he was the last man you would want to gather around. He certainly was not a man prepared to lead them into battle. So God begins to move in this man’s life in a definite way, as we shall see in chapter 7.

And Gideon said unto God, “Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.”

On the ground —the second trial went more against nature than the former did because if there was any moisture at all, such things as fleeces of wool are likely to drink it up.

And Gideon said unto God; in the same way as before, and on the morning when he had been favored with the sight of the above miracle: let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once; he was conscious of the fact that it showed him to be very presumptuous, after he had been indulged with such an indisputable sign to confirm his faith; but as it was not so much on his own account as others, and promising to ask no more favors of this kind, he hoped his boldness would not be resented:

let me prove, l pray thee, but this once with the fleece; one more time with it, and not to try the power of God, of which he had no doubt, but the will of God, whether it was the good pleasure of God to save Israel by his hand, and whether now was the time for it:

let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew; which might seem to be a greater miracle, and a more acceptable miracle than the former, and less liable to result in quibbling and objections; since it might be argued, that a fleece of wool naturally attracts and drinks up moisture; therefore, for the fleece to be dry, and the ground all around it wet, would be a sure sign and ample evidence of the wonderful imposition of the power and providence of God, in directing the fall of the dew on the one, and not on the other.
2(Judges 6.34; NKJV) "But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him." The Spirit of theLord came upon Gideon—He was endued with preternatural courage and wisdom—Adam Clarke's Commentary
3(Judges 6.35; NKJV) "And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they came up to meet them."
40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.--Judges 6:40 (NKJV)
40 During the night, God did what Gideon asked. The wool was dry, but all the ground was covered with dew.--Judges 6:40 (GW)

Before Gideon went into battle, he desired a pledge of victory from God. The first pledge came when the dew fell on his fleece of wool but not on the ground around it. The second came the following night when the dew fell on ... the ground but not on the fleece.

And God did so that night: the night following Gideon’s request, during the season in which the dew falls. See how tender God is, even with the weak; and how ready to condescend to their infirmities! These signs were very expressive. They are going to engage the Midianites. Could God distinguish between a small fleece of Israel and the vast floor of Midian? Yes, by this token it appears that he can. Is Gideon desirous, that the dew of divine grace might descend on himself in particular? He sees the fleece wet with dew, to assure him of it. Does he desire, that God will be as the dew to all Israel? Behold all the ground is wet.

for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground; and this might signify, that not only Gideon, would partake of the divine favor, but all the Israelites, would share in the salvation fashioned by him. Many Bible scholars observe, that all this is a symbol of the different status of the Jews and Gentiles under the different dispensations; that under the former dispensation only the Jews partook of the divine favor, and of the blessings of grace, and enjoyed the words and ordinances with which they were watered, when the Gentiles all around them were like a barren wilderness; so, under the Gospel dispensation, the Gentiles share the above benefits to a greater degree, while the Jews are entirely deprived of them.

Gideon’s fleece is often misunderstood by Christians. There are two things about this incident that we should keep in mind: Gideon was not looking to the fleece for guidance but for confirmation. God had already told him what he was to do. Gideon was just seeking assurance of success. People who talk about putting out a fleece (See Article 6.5) to find the will of the Lord in a certain matter are misapplying the passage. Secondly, Gideon had asked for a supernatural sign, not a natural one. Naturally speaking, what Gideon asked for would never have happened without the direct intervention of God. Today people use things as a “fleece” that could happen naturally, without divine intervention. This, too, is a wrong way to use the story. What we see here is God condescending to a man of weak faith to assure him of victory. God can, and does, give such assurances today in answer to prayer

This has often raised the question of the use of fleeces. The context of the entire story indicates that the fleece incident would have been unnecessary if Gideon had fully trusted the Lord. There is nothing in the New Testament to indicate that Christian believers ought to use signs and circumstances in attempting to discern the will of God (e.g., if it rains today I will know that I am not to go to church). Such dependence on signs is the exact opposite of a clear exercise of true faith. God wants us to believe His Word and clearly act upon it.

The divine patience and condescension were wonderfully manifested in reversing the form of the miracle. Gideon himself seems to have been conscious of incurring the displeasure of God by his hesitancy and doubts, but He bears with the infirmities of His people.

Article 6.5: Putting Out the Fleece
The phrase Putting Out the Fleece is a familiar one in religious circles. It means asking God to guide us in making a decision by fulfilling some condition we lay down.
Putting Out the Fleece is not a biblical method for determining God’s will. Rather, it is an approach used by people like Gideon who lack the faith to trust God to do what He said He would do. Twice Gideon reminded God of what He had said (6.36-37). And twice Gideon asked God to reaffirm His promises with a miracle. The fact that God stooped to Gideon’s weakness only proves that He is a gracious God who understands how we are made—“Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Ps. 103.14). Who are we to tell God what conditions He must meet, especially when He has already spoken to us with His Word? Putting Out the Fleece is not only evidence of our unbelief, but it is also evidence of our pride. "God has to do what I will tell Him to do before I will do what he tells me to do!"

There is nothing left for Gideon to do but to confront the enemy and trust God for the victory. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5.4, NKJV).

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