This is the third l blog about the story of how God rescued Gideon in Judges, Chapter 6. We left off with Gideon telling God how he cannot be the person to save Israel and with God letting him know that, indeed, even though Gideon may not be enough, Yashuea was most certainly up for a rescue.
Even after God confirms that he wants Gideon to do this thing, Gideon is still uncertain, so he sets up a couple of fleeces to make sure. Now, a fleece, by the dictionary definition, is the coat of a sheep. But in Biblical text, a fleece becomes something of a test you do and pray over to God that will confirm that what you are “hearing” from God is actually from him.
This concept actually comes from this story about Gideon. Gideon wanted to be sure he was getting direction from God. So many lives at stake; it is not difficult to understand that he wanted to be sure God was in it.
So he tells God he wants a sign (v. 17). He gets an offering for God that consists of goat meat, bread without yeast, and broth from the meat. Remember, the angel is still there waiting for him, and he tells Gideon to place the meat and bread on a rock. The angel touches the meat and bread with his staff and the rock lights on fire, consuming the bread and meat. It is at this point that Gideon finally realizes the man with the staff is, in fact, an angel, and he becomes terrified with the realization.
I have to pause here, because at this point we see Gideon’s cause for hesitation. All this time he does not know who the stranger talking to him is. He could be some kind of nut job. He could be the enemy. Who knows?! So, Gideon realizes, finally, who the stranger is, and that shifts his reality a bit. I know it would mine! He is terrified with the realization.
The angel tells him not to be afraid and then gives him direction on tearing down the alter to Baal Gideon’s father has, and when Gideon has torn down their idol, Israel, or what I like to call “the villagers” send out a lynch mob to kill Gideon. You can read further about that part of the story in verses 15-31.
Meanwhile, the Midianites, Amaelekites, and other eastern peoples join forces and head over the Jordan to the Valley of Jezreel, no doubt preparing for mischief. Now, remember there were so many of them they are described as “thick as locusts,” And this is where things start to get interesting.
The term “fleece” takes on a new meaning, because Gideon is still not sure that it is God wanting him to do this big thing, so he puts a wool fleece on the threshing floor and says, “if the dew is only on the fleece and all the ground is dry [in the morning], then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but at this point in the story I’m thinking, “Buddy, God has been pretty patient with you. Think maybe you should just SHUT UP, and do?” I mean, God’s patience MUST be running a little thin, right?
Nope. God does the thing Gideon proposes, and the next morning the dew is only on the fleece while the ground around it is dry. STILL, Gideon is not sure, so he says in verse 30, “Do not be angry with me. let me make just one more request…This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” No surprise there that he is asking God’s patience. Even he knows he is pushing it, but he is obviously driven by his need for certainty, and I have to admire his tenacity. How many times do we give up rather than make sure? How many times do we go with what is easiest rather than persevering with really knowing for sure what Abba wants us to do before we act?
Next morning the fleece is dry while all the ground around it is covered in dew. At this point, Gideon locks and loads on this whole concept, and he steps out to do what God wants him to do. So we have a new definition and process for making sure direction comes from God, and we have a new leader. But what else is present here?
God is imminently more patient with us than we are with ourselves and with others. He is willing to do whatever it takes to convince us that we are truly the ones he has chosen for whatever task he has asked us to take on.
He is so gracious about it. He will let US ask HIM to perform components of a fleece that will show us that he is speaking or that the direction we need to go is, in fact, the direction he wants us to go. Now there are some things about fleeces that can cause us problems. First of all, we do not really need them, because if we are God’s children in relationship with him, we have the Holy Spirit to direct us. Gideon did not have the Holy Spirit, because Jesus had not come yet, paid the price for our sins with his life, the resurrection had not occurred, nor the ascension, and Jesus had not yet sent the Holy Spirit.
We have the Holly Spirit IN us as his children, so we can speak directly to him and our spirit can “hear” him speak to us. In throwing out fleeces, we run the risk of not relying on his “voice” in our lives and in not trusting him to show us and walk us through our uncertainties. This is fundamental to our growth and our journey. We must learn to consult God and then listen for his direction. That is something a fleece can negate.
Also, it is important if you feel you are hearing the Holy Spirit speak to you and you want to confirm with a fleece, that you are not biasing a fleece. In doing the fleeces he did, Gideon had nothing to gain by the actual fleece process. So he ran a test on something completely unrelated to the situation he was in. The dew on the wool or on the ground had absolutely nothing to do with him taking on Israel’s enemies. Sometimes when we do fleeces we run the risk of stacking the deck, so to speak, so that we benefit somehow in the process and the outcome of the fleece becomes not about confirmation, but us gaining something.
Finally, I think that this part of the story is impactful, at least for me, because it shows me yet another part of God’s nature. I can see his love for Gideon in this section and his understanding of Gideon’s hesitation. I didn’t mention in the above, but in the scripture, which I encourage you to go read for yourself to get every morsel, Gideon asks the stranger to wait while he goes and get the meat and bread. So the angel is standing for a long time.
Gideon has to go get the goat, kill it. Make bread, cook it. All this time the angel is standing there waiting to indulge Gideon’s battle with his inadequacies and misgivings. There was a time when I would have struggled with god doing such a thing, but I have seen him do it for me over and over. I’m often rather obtuse, and so often though I see my cup runneth over, I still question him on whether or not anything is in it.
We are human beings. God knows this. He made us. We are finite. He knows this, so he knows what we have to start with and what he has to work with. The thing that we need to remember is that God is not human. We cannot understand his thoughts or ways unless he gives us that understanding. He is not finite. He is infinite, and we must work to not forget that. We only need know he is the beginning and the end, so we will never out tap his resources.