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Gideons Fleece: Discerning or Disobedient?

Gideon is a well-known biblical figure. During a time of oppression at the hand of Midian, the Lord calls Gideon to save Israel (Judg. 6:11). The angel of the Lord tells Gideon that he’s a mighty warrior and that the Lord is with him (6:12), but Gideon scoffs: if God is here, why are we experiencing such oppression (6:16, 13)? Gideons blames God, rather than acknowledging Israel’s disobedience (6:710). Though Gideon knows of God’s mighty works (Judg. 6:13), he cant see beyond his present crisis and personal weakness.

Gideon requests a sign of confirmationwhich is grantedand he presents an elaborate offering, which the angel then consumes with fire before disappearing (6:1721). Gideon, realizing who this figure was, fears (6:22), but God grants him peace (6:23).

Gideon, however, remains hesitant regarding his calling, seeking additional signs: a wet fleece surrounded by dry ground, and then the reverse (6:3640). Its tempting to paint this as Gideons attempt to discern God’s will, but the twice-repeated phrase as you have said (6:36, 37) makes clear that Gideon isn’t confused about his mission. He doesn’t lack discernment or direction. The problem is he doesn’t personally know the Lord or trust his character.

Understanding God’s Promises

God is faithful and trustworthy. He keeps his promises. If God has said something, we don’t need to seek signs or put him to the test. What God has said, he will do.

God promised Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would crush the head of the serpent, and it has happened.

He promised the eight who emerged from the ark that he would never flood the earth again in order to destroy all of creation, and he has not.

He promised a son to an elderly Abraham and Sarah, and they had Isaac.

If we know the Lord, we know him to be true to his word. We dont need to ask for more signs that hell do what he has promised to do.

He promised King David that one of his descendants would rule and reign over Gods people forever, and he has.

He promised that his Holy One wouldnt see corruption in the grave, and Jesus rose from the dead.

He has promised that those who look to Jesus the Messiah for salvation will join him in his eternal kingdom, and we will.

If we know the Lord, we know him to be true to his word. We dont need to ask for more signs that hell do what he’s promised. There are, however, two big words of caution when it comes to trusting God to do what he has said.

1. What God Really Said

First, we must know what he really said. The serpents question to Eve in the garden isnt always a bad one to ask: Did God really say?

Permit an illustration. At times in my years of teaching, students have come to me in distress because of relationship woes. Suzy was dating Johnny and she thought they’d get married, but he broke up with her. On more than one such occasion, in the course of our conversation the young lady before me would find her way to Jeremiah 29:11For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a futureand conclude she should hold to that promise that God would bring Johnny around and theyd get back together. But did God really say that? No. While God certainly had plans for this young ladys hope and future, there was no promise hed restore this romantic relationship!

We must take care not to create situations in which we make God seem like he has failed to keep his wordwhen instead we’ve not accurately heard his word. We need to be careful not to tell ourselves or others that God has promised something that, in fact, he hasnt.

We must take care to not create situations in which we make God seem like he has failed to keep his wordwhen instead we’ve not accurately heard his word.

2. Every Promise Mine?

There’s a popular statement that claims, Every promise in the Book is mine. One Bible I own has an appendix meant to guide people to a biblical promise to respond to their need. Need courage? Turn to Proverbs 3:56. Stressed? Psalm 55:22. Discouraged? Joshua 1:9.

Although claiming the promises of God sounds pious, it’s also potentially fraught with difficulty. After all, some of the promises in the Bible werent given directly to us. God promises Abraham that hell have descendants as numerous as the stars (Gen. 15:5), but when my husband and I were facing infertility issues and then seeking to grow our family through adoption, that didn’t mean I could claim that passage as Gods confirmation that hed give us a child. That was Abrahams promise, not mine. I can learn from it. It’s an inspired and profitable part of Scripture. But I can’t claim it as my own.

Promise-Keeping God

Lets learn and remember the promises God has really made, and lets discern to whom they actually apply.

But lets not test God by putting out any fleeces of our own. Rather, lets thank him for the promises that he has already kept, and lets trust him for the ones that havent yet come to pass.

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