Text: Judges 6:33-40
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” —Philippians 1:6
Maybe you’ve heard the expression “putting out a fleece” before the Lord. It comes from Judges chapter 6 when Gideon puts God to the test in order to guarantee an improbable victory. Was it commendable, or was it the desperate act of a weak and insecure faith?
When I was very new to the Christian faith in my late teens, seeking a physical sign of God’s guaranteed presence proved to be too tempting. One day when I was on a riding lawn mower, I approached a bush only to realize that it had a hornet’s nest inside. A few of the hornets were visibly agitated but I was determined to “test” the Lord’s protection over my life! So I threw caution to the wind and began circling the bush over and over again like a rowdy redneck at a NASCAR short track. Let’s just say that the Lord was very gracious to my foolery that day.
I’m not one to suggest that it is never appropriate to put out a “fleece” before the Lord, but there is a great contextual lesson we can learn from Gideon’s actions. Gideon is not seeking to find God’s will as he already has a clear instruction from the Lord. It’s important to note that God had already promised to lead Gideon in victory over the Midianites (Judges 6:16), and had provided the timid leader a clear sign of His favor (Judges 6:20-22). But Gideon still asked God to do a second miracle to confirm His word, and then a third miracle to confirm it again.
Gideon reveals a weak and imperfect faith. Yet let’s not be too critical of the young man. We should consider the mammoth challenge he had to face. It was a bold, life-endangering mission. Many of us would’ve conveniently written off such a call as too much Mexican food in our system, not even earnestly seeking confirmation. Gideon’s weak faith was still greater than no faith. That’s why his example is recorded in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:32.
Nonetheless, this entire episode is about a lack of faith or trust in God’s promise and presence. It’s unbelief at the root. Gideon must’ve been subconscious of this when he asks, “Do not be angry with me… allow me one more test…” (Judges 6:39). God had fulfilled the sign once, and Gideon said that would be enough for him. But then he went back on his word, requesting another sign from the Lord. Herein we see the graciousness and mercy of our God. Or as one scholar humorously observed: “This is an outstanding example of God’s gracious patience with a troubled child.”
At the very heart of the problem, Gideon lacks a willingness to trust the Lord and take him at his word. Hence the fleece incidents are about his unbelief and timid response to God’s call on his life. God is never duty-bound to answer such “fleece” petitions, and if He does, it is solely in relationship to His grace and patience with us.
The real lesson in this passage is about learning how to trust God and to live by faith and not by sight. Rather than being driven by signs and visible confirmations, God longs for us to grow up in a childlike faith that trusts in His steadfast love and enduring presence in our lives. We should also not overlook the real hero in this story, which is not Gideon, but the Lord himself. God is faithful to a faithless Israel, a constant guide to the fearful and unbelieving Gideon, and merciful to those who often find themselves falling short of a perfect faith.
Consider that we should marvel at the enormity of God’s mercy as He pursues the timid, heals the broken, remains patient with the double-minded, and carries the weak in faithfulness and love. We may stagger and stumble, yet He always remains constant. It’s WHO HE IS. Let this God be your overarching Hero as you seek to abide in Him this week.
Dear God, remind us of your timeless truths and your precious promises to us. You have already confirmed to us over and over again, your steadfast love and faithfulness. May we resist the temptation to question your goodness when it is luring us through a lens of unbelief. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for personal reflection, small group discussion, or dinner table conversations:
- Have you ever wanted or sought a visible sign from the Lord? How did that turn out?
- What further tests did Gideon put before the Lord? Why? (Judges 6:36-40)
- How did the Lord show His patience and love to Gideon? (vv. 38, 40)
- What should we do when we are not sure whether God is leading us to go a certain way? What step do you need to take while feeling hesitant to move forward?
- What can you learn from this story about God’s patience and love for you? In what practical ways can you abide in this patience and love?
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