God had commanded Gideon to save Israel from the hand of the Midianites” (Jud. 6:14). When Gideon doubted this divine call, he asked God for two signs of confirmation. In the first, Gideon asked God to make a dry fleece of wool damp while the earth around it stayed dry. In the second, Gideon asked for the fleece of wool to remain dry while the earth around it became wet.
While God graciously answered Gideon’s “fleeces,” there are reasons to believe it is dangerous to follow this pattern today in determining God’s will:
1. This is the only place in the Bible that we read about “throwing out a fleece” to test God’s will, and it is in the book of Judges in the midst of apostasy and spiritual weakness and confusion. Many strange things are recorded in Judges, but that does not mean that we should follow all of them. Consider, for example, the foolish vow of Jephthah (Jud. 11:30-31).
2. God had already spoken plainly to Gideon (Jud. 6:14), and he should have proceeded by faith. It is God’s will that we live by faith in His Word and not by signs.
“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas” (Mat. 12:39).
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29).
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.... But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:1, 6).
3. God has not promised to answer “fleeces,” and the devil can imitate them.
God answered Gideon’s fleece, but the Bible nowhere promises that God will answer other people’s fleeces.
Before I was saved I threw out some fleeces, but the answer was confusing, at best. For example, in the late summer of 1973 I was riding in my automobile with the Christian man who led me to Christ a couple of days later. I had studied Christian Science, Hinduism, and other religions, and I did not know what to believe, the Bible or something else. So as I was driving along in my automobile I prayed, “God, I am confused; I seek your help. If the Bible is true, let there be a bird on the second telephone pole after we go around the next curve in the road, and if the Bible is not true let there not be a bird.” Well, there was no bird, but that did not prove that the Bible is false!
Consider the case of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He was a Roman Catholic priest who rejected creation, the fall, the God of the Bible, and the Jesus of the Bible. He developed a theory of evolution whereby mankind is evolving toward perfection in a cosmic “christ.” But a few days before his death in 1955 he prayed, “If in my life I haven’t been wrong, I beg God to allow me to die on Eastern Sunday” (“Pierre Teilhard,” Wikipedia). Sure enough, he died on April 10, which was Easter Sunday. What does that prove? Nothing whatsoever!
Fleeces are not sure, but the Word of God is sure (2 Pet. 1:19-21; John 20:29-31).
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:29-31).
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21).
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