“And Gideon said to God, ‘Do not let your nose burn against me and I will speak only one more time. Please permit me to make a test one more time; please let the fleece be dry — the fleece alone — and all the ground around it be dewy. And God did so that night and the fleece alone was dry and all of the ground was dewy.”
Once again we see the test with the fleece and once again we see God faithfully giving Gideon and those watching a sign to confirm that Gideon is his chosen vessel to deliver the people from the oppression of the Midianites. Yet, this time, God works the reverse of the miracle, instead of the fleece being wet and the ground being dry, the ground is wet but the fleece is dry. Why is this so important? By reversing the miracle it prevents any accusation that Gideon’s fleece was really absorbing water out of the air so that dew would not lay on the surrounding territory…or any other “pseudo-scientific” explanation that folks might want to suggest.
Does this second request betray some doubt on behalf of Gideon? Though we see Gideon coming in a humble way, pleading with God, this indeed is the right way to approach the God of the heavens with such a request. Further, as the chosen deliverer and Judge, Gideon becomes a Mediator between God and his people, thus here, as Gideon approaches God with his request, he does so on behalf of the Israelites.
Often I get asked, based on Gideon’s account, “Is it okay to ‘put out a fleece’ as I struggle with God’s calling in life?” One must remember that our Lord plainly stated that we were not to put the Lord to a test (Matthew 4:7, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16). Often, when I have been asked a question like this, the ulterior motive is that someone knows that God expects them to do something they don’t want to do, and the idea of a fleece is meant to give them an excuse to be disobedient. And, in a case such as this, a fleece would be sin.
Gideon’s case is a little different. He knows what God is calling him to do. This test is to prove to a doubting people that God has indeed called him to lead the Israelites in battle against Midian. The people need assurance and God is giving the people that assurance through the fleece. Yet, God does not tend to work through fleeces any longer. He doesn’t need to as he has given us something that is “more sure,” and that is the completed Scripture. Gideon did not have the full scriptures to rely on to seek the wisdom of God. We do. And since we have a clearer testimony of God, why would we even desire the less-clear miracles as proofs?
Sometimes, though, when people are genuinely struggling to discern God’s calling, they ask the above question about a fleece as well. And in a case like this, I think that the fleece that God gives us, the tool of discernment to assist us is also the Church. Are you struggling with a call to the ministry or to the mission field? Ask the Elders whether they see God’s call in your life and in your gifts. You will be surprised at just how clearly that God communicates through the wisdom of godly Elders and other mature, Bible-searching Christians in your midst. And thus, again, if you have voices such as theirs, why would we desire a miracle?