What is ‘Using Fleece’ to Determine God’s Will?

Speaking of Gideon

The passage relating to the use of a fleece to determine God’s will is found in the story of Gideon as recorded in Judges 6:36-40. By way of introduction, the person, Gideon, is first noted in the Scriptures in Judges 6:11. Gideon was a worker in his father’s wheat field when he was contacted by an angel of the Lord. While it cannot be denied that Gideon became a man of great faith who led his people-to victory, it should be noted that the idea of fear runs like a red thread throughout the story of Gideon’s life (Judges 6:11, 22, 27; 7:3, 10; 8:20). Gideon started out being afraid of the Midianites; he doubted the promise of the angel of the Lord, he constantly asked for signs, and eventually a fleece (Judges 6:37).

Upon the incident involving the fleece of wool, Gideon revealed his personal hesitation to trust God to lead in his life. His question as to whether or not God would save Israel by his hand (Judges 6:36) clearly implies that he was afraid to fully trust God’s promise. Thus, we find Gideon prayed that the fleece would be wet and the ground would be dry. Then he reversed the condition, asking that the ground be wet and the fleece be dry. As an encouragement to the faithful leader, God answered both of his requests (Judges 6:38, 40).

The question is often raised by Christians today as to the validity of the use of “fleeces” in determining God’s will for their lives. The context of the entire story indicates that the fleece incident would have been unnecessary if Gideon had fully trusted the Lord. There is nothing in the New Testament to indicate that Christian believers ought to use signs and circumstances in attempting to discern the will of God (e.g., if it rains today I will know that I am not to go to church). Such a dependence on signs is the exact opposite of a clear exercise of true faith living. God wants us to believe His Word and clearly act thereupon. (Liberty Bible Commentary, Vol. I, pages 472, 474)

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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