Is It Acceptable To “Lay Out A Fleece” Before God?
In the book of Judges, the Bible tells of a man named Gideon who was chosen by God to deliver the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites.
On the eve of one of the battles, Gideon sought divine reassurance about whether or not he would be successful, and he prayed the following prayer: “YHWH, if you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—behold, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If in the morning 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 have said” (Jdg. 6:36).
YHWH honors Gideon’s request: the man awakens to find his fleece covered in dew, and this serves as a sign of his imminent success in battle. On the basis of this story, some believers have argued that we too can inquire of God by “laying out a fleece,” following the example of Gideon. In actual practice, this usually means praying for an answer to a question, and then appointing something to serve as a sign of God’s “yes” or “no.”
There are a number of reasons why this is not a good application of this passage. The first is that it goes beyond what the Scriptures actually say: to be sure, Gideon laid out a fleece, but nowhere is it suggested that this is to be generalized as a means for making inquiries of God. In the second place, the situation of the average believer is not parallel to that of Gideon: he was not making inquiries about just anything, but about a specific task that had already been assigned to him by God. And finally, it is well to remember that he was not really asking a question he did not already know the answer to: as the passage cited above indicates, he had already been promised that God would save Israel by his hand. And therefore, his inquiry was not really about getting information he didn’t already have, but about propping up the weakness of his faith (cf. YHWH’s call to Moses in the book of Exodus).
For these reasons, I would not encourage believers to “lay out a fleece” before God.
Pastor Chad LewisJuly 1, 2014