Other than the story of Samson, there is probably no better known story and figure in the book of Judges than Gideon. Many people use the phrase “to lay out a fleece” when speaking about how they determine a course of action, without knowing what it means or where it came from. By the way, just because Gideon did lay out a fleece and God condescended, does not mean that we should be scattering our proverbial fleeces all over kingdom come in order to have God lead us. And that is one of the key points in the thoughts I share below.
Judges 6:14 – Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian. I am sending you. (CSB) The key point here in God’s choosing and commissioning Gideon was not his strength but the fact that the Lord was sending him. Gideon was well aware of his own weakness – My family is the weakest and I am the youngest – but God addresses Gideon’s inadequacies with his own presence: But I will be with you. Fear should not be a reason for disobedience. If God commands us to act, he will go before us. Our inadequacies are more than made up for by God’s strength and presence. For example, think about the Great Commission. Jesus tells us to go and then he reminds us that he will be with us always. It is never our strength that matters. It is the presence of God with us that makes all the difference.
Judges 7:10 – But if you are afraid to attack the camp, go down with Purah your servant. (CSB) We know that Gideon is held out to us as a man of faith (he is listed in Hebrews 11 as such), but he also demonstrated great weakness and doubt at times. When called by God, he quickly declared his lack of qualifications (Judges 6:15). When he wondered whether God would truly deliver Israel from the Midianites, he twice laid out a fleece. Each time, God answered Gideon that he would be with him and each time after being assured of the Lord’s presence, Gideon went out in obedience to God’s commands. Wasn’t God gracious and patient with Gideon? Yet, as I mentioned above, Gideon’s actions are not to be used by us as justification for seeking signs. As Spurgeon said, “I have known many persons like [Gideon]. Their repeated question is, ‘Is the Lord with me? Is Jesus mine and am I his?'” It really doesn’t matter if God gives us some special sign. The question is whether we see Jesus. Are we aware of God’s presence with us? Do we realize that the Holy Spirit is indwelling us? Can we see evidence of Christ being formed in us? Then we belong to him and this should encourage us to obey in faith when sent by God. For surely, his grace is sufficient and his strength is perfected in our own weakness.