Dave Doran: Follow the Fleece?

JP: Dave Doran comments on the well known and often abused account of Gideon and his fleece. Additional comments below the quote.

Follow the Fleece?


My Bible reading this morning brought me across the well known account of Gideon and his fleece. This is an action that has been interpreted both positively and negatively. Some think that Gideon’s example is something that we should imitate when we need to know the Lord’s will or need confirmation of what we believe is the Lord’s will. Gideon’s “fleece” becomes a symbol for something that the Lord does to prove His intentions and direction. The basic pattern is like this, “Lord, if you want us to do X, then do Y so that we can know it.” Of course, for Y to really prove the point, it has to be something quite extraordinary like Gideon’s fleece being wet while surrounded by dry, then dry when surrounded by wet. If the “fleece” is easily explainable, then it really doesn’t do much for you.

Others, including me, think that Gideon serves as an example here, but it is not a good one! Gideon was not trying to determine what God’s will was—he already knew. Gideon’s action was really the expression of doubt. His own words, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken” (v. 36), show that he already knew not only what God’s will was, but also what God had promised to him. This was not anything like asking the Lord to open doors in front of you if He wants you to proceed in a direction of which you aren’t quite sure. This was asking God to do something to prove that He will keep His promise. Gideon knew God’s will and had a promise from God about his success in accomplishing the task, but Gideon wanted reassurance. That may be natural, but it is not commendable.

Although God graciously accommodates Gideon, what Gideon did really amounts to a violation of Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.” Moses is referring to what happened in Exodus 17 when the people of Israel demanded that God provide water for them in the wilderness. Specifically, verse 7 described their sin in this way, “they tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us, or not?’” The parallel with Gideon’s request seems clear. Israel did not need a sign that the LORD was among them, nor did Gideon need this fleece test. God had already revealed Himself and made promises that were to be trusted, not tested.

Back in the late 60’s and early ’70s when I was a new Christian, I heard about this quite a bit. Examples:

  • “I will ask __________ out after I lay a fleece before the Lord”. (Another frustrated lovelorn Brother!) (JUST ASK HER OUT! IF SHE DOESN’T WANT TO GO OUT WITH YOU SHE WILL SAY NO!)
  • “I will witness to _________ after I lay a fleece before the Lord”. (JUST WITNESS TO THE PERSON!)

I never got it then and I still don’t! Don’t misuse this passage to try to discern God’s will!