I can feel the collective empathy of Jumpstart readers this morning as we go through the account of Gideon and the testing of the fleece. How many of you, when facing a daunting decision, wish it was as simple as putting a piece of carpet and asking God to make sure that dew falls on it? But even though there is much to learn from this passage, not all of it is positive.
With Gideon asking for signs, you actually see his reluctance to accepting God at His word. Looking at verses 16 & 17 of chapter 6:
And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me.”
God had already told Gideon that he would be with him, but God’s presence and blessing was not enough confirmation for Gideon! Then we see in verses 36 & 37 that Gideon acknowledges that God had said that he would save them, but still wanted more confirmation. Why is that the case? Why is the promise of God not enough for Gideon? When you think about it, this is not only a challenging question, but a convicting one. Ultimately, this speaks to a desire for visible proof instead of a lack of faith and trust in God.
You even see Gideon acknowledge the craziness of the 2nd request in verse 39: “Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” The ESV Study Bible says:
Ironically, this is the same word (Hb. nasah) used of God earlier, when he “tested” Israel (2:22; 3:1). Gideon’s desire to test God was in direct violation of the Mosaic law, which prohibited humans from testing God (Deut. 6:16). Gideon himself was aware that he was doing something unwise, if not sinful, since he asked God not to be angry with him (Judg. 6:39). Gideon already knew God’s will (cf. vv. 14–16, 36)—calling him to service on behalf of God’s people—so Gideon’s requests reveal his weak faith. Despite this lack of faith, God accommodated both of Gideon’s requests (vv. 38, 40). More constructive examples of responses to God’s call are Isaiah (Isa. 6:8) and Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 4:20; Mark 1:18–20).
The question that might arise is: if his request showed his lack of faith and was even borderline sinful, why did God answer his request? Why didn’t He just leave him with the other answers to his prayers? I’m not sure there is a great answer for this other than that God’s answering is a sign of his grace.
We have to remember that grace often doesn’t make sense. We can be hung up on why God would answer, or we can be amazed that God is so good to provide anything for us at all.
By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice