Don’t get fleeced by Gideon’s guidance!

We’re in the middle of a short doctrinal sermon series on that perennial topic of Guidance here at St Michael’s. I follow the Guidance of the Voice of God line.
Some people critique without reading carefully enough, because I don’t think it is cessationist per se as some claim. It’s essence is not cessanionism or not, but understanding:
  1. The difference the coming of Jesus makes in biblical theological terms for the doctrine revelation, as well as
  2.  The sufficiency of Scripture.
But this post is really about something I did not have time to develop in my sermon last Sunday, because we had to keep everything tight and brief for the sake of the National Church Life Survey (taking place in Australia this year).
So I am using this blog, to let people from church know about the bit they missed out on! I’m sorry if this is already common-sense for you.
But that something I skipped over is the the practice known as ‘laying a fleece before God’ – named after what Gideon did in Judges 6.
Gideon wanted guidance. Judges 6:36 says he wished to know if God would save Israel by his hand. So, vv. 37-38, he asked God to arrange circumstances to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what it was God wanted him to do.
37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. (NIV84)
But he wanted extra certainty, vv. 39-40.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Finally, Gideon decided that it was God’s will for him to act.

Gideon’s fleeces have been taken as an example of how we might seek guidance, by asking God to arrange circumstances to send us confirmation or otherwise of an intended direction.

For example, “God, if you really want me to change jobs, please make the phone ring at 9:10 am.” Or, “God, if you really want me to ask that pretty girl out, then make me see a Holden Commodore run a red light today.”

There are many problems with such a view. (Can’t recall now if this comes from Jensen and Payne’s book, or Friesen’s earlier Decision-Making and the Will of God). But what happens if the phone rings at 9:15 am? What about 8:59? What happens if you see a Commodore rush an intersection, but from the distance you’re at, you can’t tell if the light was red or still orange?

And we are not in Gideon’s situation as military judges in Old Testament Israel. And even if we were, then to be consistent with Gideon’s method, we should ask for a miracle, like snow in Wollongong Mall on a summer day, instead of just a coincidence.

Either way such a ‘fleece’ is really testing God. Gideon’s request for God not to be angry with him in v. 39 shows he really knew that. And the Bible discourages such testing of God.

In fact, Gideon was doubting guidance already given. That’s why we read an earlier part of Judges 6 in our Bible reading last Sunday: to give us context…

In Judges 6:14, God commanded Gideon to save his people.

In Judges 6:16, God over-ruled Gideon’s claim of weakness, and promised to be with him.

And in Judges 6:17-21, God gave Gideon the sign he requested with his animal sacrifice to confirm God’s command. There really should have been no more doubt at that stage. He already had a direct command and a confirming sign.

The later request for guidance via the fleece actually expressed lack of faith in guidance already given. Even then, it took a second miracle to convince Gideon.

You see, the attitude which seeks signs for guidance is often the attitude which seeks to explain the sign away as a coincidence.

Gideon’s fleece is not an example to follow.

P.S. I’ve got a couple of other things to share about his sermon series in the next few days.

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