Judges 6:36-40 and Throwing Out a Fleece

gideon-fleeceGideon gets a lot of disparagement for the throwing out of the fleece.  Perhaps it is justified, but perhaps it is not.  Here is the passage:

But then Gideon said to God, “To see if you really intend to rescue Israel through me as you have declared,  I’m now putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece but all the ground is dry, then I’ll know that you are going to rescue Israel through me, as you have declared.”  And that is what happened. When he got up early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung out enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.   Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me, but let me speak just one more time. Please let me make just one more test with the fleece: now let only the fleece be dry and let dew be on all the ground.”   And God did so that night. Only the fleece was dry, but there was dew on all the ground.

Most people see this as a lack of faith and the need for reassurance or confirmation.  This is quite possible, because Gideon asks for a sign prior to this when the Lord first comes to him, and he seeks reassurance when he finally goes to battle the Midianites.  Yet it seems that something else is going on here.

Earlier in the story, when we first meet Gideon, he is threshing wheat in a wine press because he was hiding it from the Midianites (6:11).  At this point in the story the Lord has already commissioned Gideon, he has already been protected after destroying the altar to Baal that his father made, and the Spirit of the Lord is already upon him.  Now there are warriors from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali around him.  This is when he puts the fleece out on the threshing floor.

This is a public act for all the warriors that have come together to see.  Rather than see this as a lack of faith on the part of Gideon or the need for a sign for himself, this is probably more a sign for the rest of the army to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Lord has called them together through Gideon for their deliverance.  This was for the benefit of others, not Gideon.

There are times when leaders, if they are going to have people follow them on a God-given mission that seems impossible, need to allow time for God to reveal this to the people.  If Gideon had not thrown out the fleece, the people would not have been as likely to follow him, especially as the army got thinned out to only three hundred men.  When we lead we need to make time and give opportunity for God to confirm what he is calling the community of faith to do not just to the leader, but to the community itself.  If the mission and assignment is from God, it will be recognized beyond the shadow of a doubt.

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