[Mar 28]--“Putting Out The Fleece”

Judges 6:33-40

I'd like to think of myself as an amateur theologian, so bad hermeneutics, even in the service of a good cause, really irks me. In this case, when Scripture is used out of context and the end result is confusion among Christians, I have even less patience.

The phrase “putting out the fleece” is used by a lot of well-meaning believers, including some who are close to me. What they usually mean is this: I need to make a decision, and God’s word doesn’t give me clear direction. I’ve thought about it, and I still don’t know what he wants me to do. Therefore, I’m going to put out a little “fleece” for him. I’ll pray something like “Lord, if you want me to do X, then please do Y. If you don’t do Y, then I’ll take that as a sign that you want me to do Z instead.” Then they go forward based on this prayer and God’s “guidance.”

Remember what we said about narratives? They only tell us what happened, not what should've happened. Moses is one of the men I most respect in history, but just because he did something, that doesn't mean that God wants me to always follow his example. Even if Gideon was completely obeying the Lord when he did something, that still doesn't mean that God wants me to follow his example exactly. We must interpret narratives by didactic (teaching) portions of Scripture, such as Paul’s letters or general commands by Jesus in the Gospels.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at the context (there’s that word again!) of Gideon’s “fleece test.” An angel appeared to him, and this would be about as direct as the Lord could get. Not many people actually get direction from an angel of God himself, but this didn’t satisfy Gideon. He destroyed the local idols in his hometown, and this was good, but then the real test came. The Midianites actually noticed him, and the gathering armies of bloodthirsty killers (several times his numbers) caused him to panic. He asked for one more sign that the Lord was truly with him. Then that still wasn’t enough. He asked for just one more sign after that! “No really, God, if you just do this one more thing for me, then I’ll truly believe that you’ve sent me and that you’re going to do what the angel said.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I'm not saying that the modern pattern of “laying out the fleece” (in the second paragraph above) is necessarily anti-biblical. It might be that the Lord is gracious and will show someone a sign like that. But what modern people are doing is not the equivalent of what Gideon did. The equivalent of Gideon's actions would be something like “Lord, do you really want me to avoid having sex outside of marriage? Maybe you could show me a sign to show me what your will is on committing adultery.” I remember my dad talking about seeing a preacher on TV. This guy claimed that Jesus appeared at the foot of his bed and told him to “Make disciples of all nations!” My dad scoffed, “So how many times does he need to tell you?” I submit that Gideon’s “fleece” strategy showed a lack of faith, not a humble seeking of God’s will. I'm not implying that I'd do any better, but that doesn't excuse asking for a "fleece" when the Lord has already made it clear in his word what you're supposed to do.

When it comes to things he’s made clear in his word, we don’t need to ask again. That's sin masquerading as humility. But when it comes to questions that aren’t so cut and dried, then we can talk about other means of getting guidance. In fact, we can talk about that tomorrow.

Father, when your word is clear, may my obedience be resolute. I need understanding from your Holy Spirit, but more than that I need your power to obey the parts I understand perfectly. Please help me.

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