Gideon. The man who laid out the fleece to test the will of God. The man who defeated an army with just 300 men bearing trumpets and torches. But what does all this mean ? And what is behind Gideon’s success ?
Firstly the fleece. Gideon wanted to know if he had heard God rightly. He doubted and he wanted to check on the will of God. Now today, there are believers who put out their own form of fleece before God to determine his will. The thinking is this: If you make such and such happen, God, then I’ll know it is your will. This is problematic and indeed wrong headed.
Invariably, people have their own ideas about what they want to do and look for God’s sanction. They set the agenda and they set the terms of the test. That is quite wrong. We don’t set out tests for God and we certainly do not set the agenda for him. The attitude giving rise to this is a false understanding of this particular scripture; it also reveals a very warped understanding of the way God deals with us, and how we should deal with him. Yet we have all done it !
Looking for guidance is the wrong way to approach God. We should be looking to live according to his moral teaching, trusting that God will take care of the future. We should not be looking to get God’s sanction for something we secretly want for ourselves, or something we think is a good idea. Let God rule your circumstances, and you mind your own moral behaviour. It will all work as God wants it to work, then. Don’t get in God’s way !
Looking for a sign is usually a sign that we are in a bad place spiritually and not looking at our situation in the right way.
In fact, God had already spoken to Gideon. Gideon was doubting and looking for reassurance. Doubt itself is a sin, of course – Romans 14,23 and James 1
Now to the story of the great military victory. This doubting Thomas called Gideon was sore proven by God as he prepared to march against the enemy army. Gideon started with 32,000 men. But God told him there were too many. And God gave the reason:
LEST ISRAEL VAUNT THEMSELVES AGAINST ME SAYING, “MY OWN HAND HATH SAVED ME !”
Gideon’s army was therefore reduced to less than one tenth of the original number, to just 300. The glory was to go to God. And the victory was to be won by God, and not by men. And they were to win that victory by
- doing what God says
- the way God says it was to be done
- when it was to be done
- where it was to be done
You see God is in charge of the agenda, and God is in charge of the method by which spiritual victory is to be won.
We see the same principle of God’s means and God’s glory as in other miracles, such as the loaves and the fishes feeding the 5,000. And note here the difference between the miraculous in the Old and New Testament ! While the Old was an illustration in terms of how man behaves, the New is an illustration of how God behaves. Jesus fed the people, and he always preached the very opposite of hate and destruction: he taught love and salvation.
God tells us to love our enemies and to go preach the gospel that others might be saved, not killed !
Can you imagine the fear Gideon had in taking on such powerful enemies ?
The fear he had to overcome when he cast down the statue of Baal ?
The fear he had to overcome when he reduced his army to just 300 ?
But in all this he was learning about how great and powerful God is, and how God can be trusted – if only we will trust him when he points out sin in our lives, sin such as fear. He learnt that hearing God, then obeying God, in the way God said, he learnt that that brought success.
He had to unlearn self reliance – reliance on his own judgement, his own plans, his own ideas about what to do. He had to learn to trust God in very real situations with very real consequences.
And that is what we must do. Trust God in very real situations with very real consequences. Trust God to give us the grace to endure in trial and to overcome temptation. Trust God to vindicate our reputation when we are falsely accused. Trust God for the future of our lives when his teaching to do what is right and proper conflicts with what appear to be our interests in this life – at work or wherever. Temptation to deny God or to deny him by forsaking his teaching and doing as the sinful world about us does.
No, we are to overcome the enemy of sin in our hearts and to live out the teaching of Jesus Christ regardless of the short term consequences in this world’s terms such as the impact on our career.
Never compromise your testimony as a Christian by adopting the world’s opt-outs like lying, cheating, or distorting. Better to lose your job than to betray your saviour. He will always be with you. The job won’t. And the regret of failing Jesus will debilitate you and bring you down anyway. Do realise that. Realise that regret can destroy us.
The Christian cannot live the Christian life except on God’s terms, knowing that God will defend us come what may !
Trust God – trust the moral teaching Jesus gave us.