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.
Discouraged and pathetic, Israel needed a champion. God had chosen His man. The angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon, a mighty man of valor, and encouraged him with the promise of God's presence and power. Gideon had broken down the altar to Baal. Idolatry throughout the land of Israel was pounded with a heavy blow. Jehovah alone was now worshipped in Ophrah, and the fame of Gideon spread throughout the land. It was apparent that Gideon was the man behind whom all Israel could rally.
Once again the Midianite Bedouins swarmed across the land. Gideon knew that the time for battle had come, but this time he was ready. Judges 6:34 says, "The Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon." Literally the Spirit of Jehovah clothed Gideon like a garment. The once discouraged and despondent young farmer of Ophrah was now suited up for battle in the armor of the Spirit of God. When he sounded the mustering trumpet, immediately all of the clan of Abiezer gathered around him. Messengers were sent throughout all the land. From Naphtali, Zebulun, Asher, and Manasseh they came, prepared to fight under the leadership of Gideon.
All was ready for the mighty battle, but one thing more troubled Gideon. Again he asked a sign from the Lord. Seeking a sign from God was characteristic of Jewish behavior (1 Corinthians 1:22). With troops arrayed for battle, Gideon spread a fleece of wool on the ground and said to the Lord God, "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." A heavy dew is very common in the highlands of Palestine. Even today clothes left outdoors overnight must be wrung out in the morning. Although energized for battle, the entire camp of Israel waited throughout the night for the sign from God.
The Scripture records that Gideon rose up early on the next morning and wrung enough dew out of the fleece to fill a bowl full of water (Judges 6:38). Miracle accomplished! However, Gideon entreated the grace and patience of the Lord again and asked Jehovah to reverse the sign. One more night the Israelites waited before entering battle. In the morning the ground was saturated with dew but the fleece was entirely dry. This was proof positive that God was in this battle and that Gideon was His chosen leader.
Frequently much indecision and lack of courage is camouflaged under the guise of "putting out the fleece." Such a practice is not always an admirable one, nor does it always produce admirable results.
When John Wesley was a 32-year-old missionary in Georgia, he fell deeply in love with a young woman he wanted to marry. Some of his friends suggested that perhaps God would have the evangelist remain unmarried and devote his life to his work. One even suggested they draw lots in order to discern God's will for Wesley. The evangelist agreed. Three small slips of paper were prepared: one said, "Marry"; the second, "Think not of it this year"; and the third, "Think of it no more." Wesley drew a slip and with much sadness read, "Think of it no more." Heartbroken, he ended his courtship. Fifteen years later Wesley married a wealthy widow who became a hindrance to his ministry. After 20 years of mutual misery, she left him. He had allowed a fleece to determine his fortune.
When God sets up the parameters, encourages us in a given situation, and calls us to action, let's not be guilty of "fleecing" Him. How much better if Gideon had been remembered for his faith, as was Abraham, than for his fleece. For what will you be remembered?
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus
Trusting only Thee;
Trusting Thee for full salvation, Great and free.
I am trusting Thee to guide me,
Thou alone shalt lead,
Ev'ry day and hour supplying All my need.