Judges 6 to 8 reads easily enough. The Christian community has trouble agreeing on what it means.
Gideon’s test of “laying fleece” has been created into a by-word all its own. Good pastors have hailed Gideon for laying fleece, that is, for taking the extra time to know God’s will before venturing out on a risky path. Good pastors have criticized Gideon for laying fleece, that is, for already knowing God’s will and continuing to test Him. Still other good Pastors hail Gideon for having done it once, but criticize him for feeling the need to do it a second time.
Laying fleece is a fairly common modern-day prayer technique, and it can be effective, but it can also be unreliable. A man may be offered a job on Monday, and pray: “Lord, if this job is still open on Friday, I will know that it is your will that I take the job.” And I will not criticize that man. I will not necessarily endorse that technique (for God’s will on the matter should have been a topic of prayer as he interviewed). But as laying fleece goes, I will not criticize him either.
That said, my doubter will start to itch a bit if the man lays fleece a second time, and asks God to hold the job open for him until the next Friday as well.
Laying fleece should not be used to tempt God: “Lord, if it be your will that I decline the offer, select the correct numbers for me to play in tonight’s Lotto.” Giving God orders doesn’t go over very well either. You’re just as well off flipping a coin as you are telling God where to direct a lightning bolt.
Another abuse of laying fleece involves a decision that two people must make jointly, and one party lays fleece without the other party knowing. Man to wife: “I prayed to God that if it rains at any time this month, then I’ll know it is God’s will for us to move to Florida.” Chances are that God would also “tell” him to move to the North Pole if he had but laid the fleece that way. If God is really working on his heart, He is likewise working on her heart in some manner too. (This paragraph also works for couples deciding on an engagement, or whether to start a family.)
And if you do choose to lay fleece, be certain that you recognize God’s answer when He provides one. I suspect most of you have heard this story:
I have trouble taking sides on this particular debate. I am persuaded that a lot of ungodly procrastination is done in the name of laying fleece. Within boundaries, it has its place. I’m not writing anything today that dozens of other people you come in contact with each day couldn’t have written. The mature Christian should have some opinion about it, and at least be conscious of when he is laying fleece.
As far as real Bible commentary goes, Gideon is cited as a man of faith in Hebrews 11 – the first judge so cited. God co-operates both times, and never criticizes him. And this occurred when “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
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