11 July 2022

Gideon's 'fleece test': Just once more, God

Bible study by Major Mal Davies

Major Mal Davies looks at Gideon’s testing and re-testing of God.

Key text

Chapter 6 of Judges starts with the calling of Gideon, a ‘mighty warrior’ (v12) tasked with leading his people who – once again – had turned their backs to God.

Gideon receives his first divine call to action and God asks him to tear down an altar to Baal (a foreign god) and an Asherah pole beside it. Asherah was the name of the wife of El, the chief Canaanite god and the pole would have been a wooden symbolic representation of her, akin to the totem poles used by many indigenous people in tribal worship.

Gideon did as he was requested and then built an altar to God where the altar and pole had been. This displeased the locals and they demanded of Gideon’s father, Joash, that he be presented to them and put to death.

Joash, however, defended his son: ‘Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? ... If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar’ (v31).

Pause and reflect

  • Despite being unsure of God’s calling on his life and afraid of the consequences of his actions, Gideon does act. Can you recall a time you stepped out in faith and did something for God?
  • What were you scared of?

Having survived that minor threat, Gideon faces a much larger one – a massive army is assembled from different regions that are antagonistic towards Israel, and they gather in the Jezreel Valley preparing to launch an attack.

The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon (see v34) and he assembles a fighting force to confront the attackers.

Pause and reflect

Despite that, and even with God assuring him of victory (see Judges 6:14 and 16), Gideon is still uncertain. In verse 36 we read that Gideon strikes a deal with God in which he – seeking assurance of God’s continued support – will lay a sheep’s fleece on the ground to see if, by the next morning, the fleece is wet with dew but the ground is dry.


Judges 6:37

I will place a wool fleece on the threshing-floor. If 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 said.

Read the passage

And that’s what happens.

At this stage, most of us would proclaim it a miracle and a sign from God and head off to assured victory, but not Gideon. He wants to be doubly sure. So he asks God to do it again, this time reversed: fleece dry, ground wet.

God – ever patient – does it.

That’s enough for Gideon, and he prepares his men for war.

Pause and reflect

  • If you have ever done your own equivalent of a fleece test, how did it turn out?
  • Did you do a second test?

In his book Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, US pastor Kevin DeYoung says that too many Christians are paralysed by indecision as they wait for God’s will to be revealed by a special sign. He suggests we should just love God fully and do what we want. Because that way, any decisions will be aligned with God’s will and pleasing to him.

DeYoung holds to Proverbs 3:5 and 6: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ The Message renders part of verse 6 as: ‘Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go.’

So the secret is not to seek God’s will on occasions, but to live within his will in everything and everywhere, trusting God with ‘all your heart’ and in ‘all your ways’.

Gideon seems to still be learning that, if he surrenders himself fully to God’s will and trusts him completely, all will be well.

Not my own, not my own,

Saviour, I belong to thee, belong to thee;

All I have and all I hope for,

Thine for all eternity.

(SASB 881)

Bible study by

Major Mal Davies

Major Mal Davies


Let's pray

Father God, I do believe what you say and what you are capable of, but my faith is mixed with uncertainty and doubt.

Forgive me and help me to take you at your word however unlikely or impossible your promise may appear.


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