In the book of Judges, chapter 6 introduces Gideon, known as the fifth judge of Israel. At this time, the Midianites were taking over the land of the Israelites as promised by the Lord for forsaking him. They had eaten and destroyed all of the crops the Israelites had planted and brought in their own animals and tents to settle into the land. The Israelites had little to no food and did not have the manpower to take over the Midianites by themselves. They then called onto God; and he then sent a judge to deliver them. This man was Gideon.
The day an angel of God appeared to Gideon while he was in the field separating crops and was told of him what he thought was the impossible. Just as the other Israelites had done, he was hiding from the Midianites himself and the angel recognized him as the “mighty man of valor.” The angel told Gideon that he was called to save Israel. Gideon questioned the angel that if God was on the Israelites side then why was he not there when the Medianites took over their land.
“Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”13 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord,[a] if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles, which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
God’s first task for Gideon was to destroy the Altar of Baal that the Israelites had created and build an altar of God. The unfaithfulness of the Israelites to their God was the main reason that the people in Israel were faced up against the Midianites. However, Gideon decided that he needed to be reassured that it was truly him that God sent for to do his works.
“So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— 37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.
What was the significance of Gideon “putting out a fleece?”
When God directed him to gather the Israelite troops to defeat the Midianite invaders, Gideon wanted to be sure it was really God’s voice he was hearing and that he understood His directions. He asked God for a sign to prove that this was truly His will. So he put out a piece of wool overnight and asked God to make it wet while keeping the surrounding dirt dry. God graciously did as Gideon asked, and in the morning the fleece was wet enough to produce a bowl of water when it was wrung out.
I recognized that we basically liken this today with the phrase “Lord, give me a sign!”
What is fleece known as today and is it acceptable?
If you’ve ever heard of the phrase laying out a fleece, it originated from this story. Some people lead it to make decisions as some miraculous sign from God.
“I wanted some doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, but the hot light wasn’t on so I figured that was God’s way of saying I didn’t need them.”
Or the one that everyone has done,
“I’m going to close my eyes and whichever one I point to is the one I should choose”
Here is a website I found on divine signs: http://www.signsandwonders.org/archives/frontpage_sermons/divinesigns.html
In this article, it stated that we must avoid making fleeces like Gideon did. Even though he knew God’s will he still questioned it and needed to see not one but two miracles in order to follow what the Lord commanded him to do. Often times, we put out fleeces without even knowing it, for example “If I see this Sonic commercial one more time tonight then that’s a sign that I need to go get this milkshake.”
A fleece today would be looked at as a weakness of faith. We shouldn’t base our needs or callings in life waiting on signs and symbols to pop up in order to make decisions.
Even though Gideon asked for a sign from God he eventually showed his faith. God did ask him to take down an entire tribe after all.