And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground (Judges 6:36-40).
The context of these verses reveals that Gideon was a man raised up by God to free Israel form the oppression of the Midianites. At this time, Israel had backslidden and God is dealing with Israel through the oppression of the Midianites. Gideon was approached by an angel, who encouraged him in all that God had asked him to do. What was it that God had asked him to do? Gideon was to overthrow the Midianites. Gideon’s army was around 32,000 men, while the army of the Midianites numbered about 135,000. They were outnumbered almost 4:1. But God asked Gideon one more thing before going to war against the enemy. God wanted Gideon to reduce his army to 300 men. Now, that would mean they were outnumbered approximately 450:1. When God called Gideon into service in Judges 6:7-16, God assured Gideon of victory.
Now there was some concern within Gideon at the moments before the battle. He did ask God for a sign. First, a wet fleece, and then, to make double sure the promise God had made to him, he asked for the second sign (a dry fleece), and they were both granted and God brought to pass His promise of victory in Judges 7. The Midianites, in confusion, began attacking each other and killing one another before fleeing. In the end, God fulfilled His promise to Gideon, and the Israelite Nation, and by the obedience of Gideon, Israel enjoyed a period of about 40 years of peace.
There are several things to look at regarding Gideon and the use of these fleeces, and we’ll see in a moment how some of Gideon’s characteristics make him a good study in the parenting and leading of our families. The first thing to look at, with regard to the use of the fleeces, is that Gideon wanted God’s assurance. He already believed God, and was making the necessary arrangements to do battle with the Midianites, but he still wanted assurance. Then, as God gave him that assurance, He was gracious enough to give him another dose of assurance. These assurances came prior to God reducing his armies in the first portion of Judges 7. So when Gideon, who was committed to God’s call already, reduced his armies to a number that would make victory seem impossible, he was able to be confident because of the assurance he had been given by God. So Gideon had faith, but it was a weak faith, but God blessed Gideon’s weak faith.
In today’s day and age, many of us either have a weak faith or no faith. God’s not always going to give us signs today to help us develop faith in Him. But that’s what people do these days. “God, if you’re real, make the phone ring right now!” Well, if the phone does or doesn’t ring, it means nothing. God is not required to prove Himself to you. He has already revealed Himself to us in His Word, and in the very nature of His creation (Romans 1:20). Anyone who says things like that are no better than Thomas who said he would not believe Christ had risen from the dead UNTIL he put his fingers in the nail marks in his hands and his hand in Christ’s side (John 20:25).
God will, however, give us assurance if we have a weak faith. Only today, it comes in the form of peace in our hearts from the indwelling Holy Spirit. The unsaved world does not have that capability and thus, seek signs for guidance and not reassurance. They are like the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 12:38 who asked Jesus for a sign. Jesus’ reply was simply, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matthew 12:39). Probably the reason God doesn’t want us to use signs to guide us today is because, like we saw when Moses and Aaron were before Pharoah, the devil has the ability to do similar things as God. So if you want to base your belief in God on whether the next car you see is blue, and the devil makes it so the next car you see is red, then you may incorrectly deduce that there is no God. Again, God doesn’t need to prove Himself to you according to your terms. He has already revealed Himself in many ways.
One way to throw a fleece today, and still be scriptural and not incur the ire of God for tempting Him is to quote God His own promise. Then, He may fulfill that promise in our lives and we can build our faith based on the past promises God brought to fruition. For example, once we are saved, we can begin to enjoy many of the blessings and benefits that we have as children of God. So, if we trust Christ as Savior, and we begin asking God to help us claim the benefits we have as His children, then with each blessing reserved only for the saved, comes ASSURANCE that we are indeed saved. Once we begin manifesting the fruits of the spirit and the testimony of a changed life, we again are given “signs” that will lead to ASSURANCE. Gideon believed God and obeyed Him in going to battle, but God gave his weak faith some much needed ASSURANCE. Gideon already believed God so God didn’t need to PROVE anything to Gideon…just give him ASSURANCE. Understand that point so far…it’s important as we go on to the next aspect of fleeces and faith.
Let’s take a verse in the Bible, such as one of my favorites, “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with the, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever” (Deuteronomy 4:40). We can see Israel’s history up through to the time of Gideon, as having not done all that God had commanded. They had gone off and committed spiritual adultery, among other sins, by eventually erecting an altar to Baal, which Gideon eventually destroyed prior to going into battle against the Midianites.
I say all that because we see the inverse, non-spoken promise that all will NOT be well with our children if we do not learn God’s statutes and commands for us as parents. But let’s suppose we have a little weak faith, like Gideon, and we believe God’s promise in this verse, what can God do? Well, if we do our best to learn what God would have us do in raising our children, He will give us wisdom and increase our knowledge in the areas we need to do better in. During that process, God can supernaturally intervene in our families and the lives of our children and strengthen our already existing faith thereby giving us ASSURANCE that He is able to deliver His conditional promise, if we do what we are to do.
What do you think would have happened if Gideon went into battle with his full army, and not the number that God required? My guess is that Gideon would have been defeated. God was worried that if Gideon went to battle with a full army, Israel would glory in itself (Judges 7:2). So too is it with our families. God said, “EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Proverbs 127:1). God can keep our families the way he kept Israel that day, but only because Gideon did it God’s way.
So now we see that Gideon had a weak faith that God happily strengthened by giving him assurance. But there were three characteristics of Gideon that were present throughout the battle, even after the assurance of success. First, he worshipped God. “And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (Judges 7:15). As the Lord laid out the details of the upcoming battle to Gideon through the interpretation of a dream told to him by another man (Judges 7:13), Gideon didn’t take God’s promise for granted. He still worshipped and gave God proper reverence and proper place in the grand scheme of things. We, as parents, have to understand that God has made promises like Deuteronomy 4:40, but they are conditional, and we have got to remain wholly focused on what God wants from us.
The next thing to see about Gideon is that he led by example: “And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do” (Judges 7:17). How many of us have a testimony and manner of conversation such that our children can follow our lead and do right? Can we tell our children not to engage in premarital sex, while we sit on the couch and watch Friends every night? Can we tell our children about the dangers of drinking, yet smoke a pack of cigarettes every day, slowly killing ourselves in ways other than drinking and drugging? How important will going to church be to our children if they see us not going now and then simply because we don’t “feel like it tonight.” Gideon got the victory from God because he had his armies following his every move. We need to be able to tell our children, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (First Corinthians 11:1) as Paul was able to exhort the Corinthians. Imagine a testimony and conversation so pure that we could tell our children to follow us AS we follow Christ. Paul didn’t say, “Follow Christ better than me.” No, Paul set himself as the standard for how others should follow Christ. Most of us parents have a long way to go before we can truthfully say such things.
Lastly, Gideon put the power of God as the true reason for the victory, of which Gideon realized he was only a small part. “When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon” (Judges 7:18). And this they yelled at the moment of attack in Judges 7:20. It’s God who will do what He has promised. He may use us, as parents, and He may choose to use other people in the process as well, but the ultimate fulfillment of the promises comes from God. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (First Thessalonians 5:24). God has called us to have godly families and raise godly children. Just like he called Gideon to deliver Israel, it was God who secured the victory. God will be the One responsible for our families being victorious in this present darkness we find ourselves living in.
Today, we have an enemy in Satan and the world, and this enemy is destroying our families and we need deliverance. Every parent has been given a charge to deliver their families and children from the oppression and bondage of sin. Oh, we have many tools at our disposal today. Many “experts” have written many books on the subject of parenting, but just as God whittled down Gideon’s army to do battle, so too, should we whittle down our arsenal to the Bible and the directions God gave us. Remember, if we read all the world’s books from all the world’s “experts”, we won’t be giving God any credit for the health of our families. And we need to learn and emulate the characteristics of Gideon to be good leaders in our homes.
God’s promises are to be taken on faith. Many of these promises are conditional. Gideon had the faith, but needed assurance. God gave it to him. We have to step out in faith to put into action verses like Deuteronomy 4:40, but along the way God will reward your obedience by fulfilling His promises from time to time, thus giving you the assurance to trust Him more with greater things. And there’s no greater thing than raising godly children and creating a legacy of faithfulness transferred from generation to generation.