Is it okay to “put out the fleece” to know God’s will, like Gideon did in Judges 6:36-40?
Gideon is listed as one of the heroes of the faith ( Hebrews 11:32 ), and he “put out the fleece,” not only once, but twice! However, before we follow Gideon’s example, we should take a closer look at some of the specific circumstances in his case, and then consider what other Scripture passages say about looking for a sign from the Lord.
Considering the dangerous and frightening nature of the angel’s instructions, it is easy to understand Gideon’s weakness of faith and his desire for further confirmation. But, even though we can sympathize with his fears, Gideon himself realized that he was risking God’s anger when he asked for further signs ( Judges 6:39 ). In light of Gideon’s trepidation in the face of such a seemingly impossible task, God graciously granted him the further signs he requested. However, this shouldn’t be taken as an indication that God normally approves of such a method for confirming His will ( James 1:5-8 ).
Scripture elsewhere clearly warns against asking for such signs. The Old Testament law itself prohibited putting God to the test ( Deuteronomy 6:16 ), and this specific principle was confirmed by Jesus when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness ( Luke 4:12 ). In 1 Corinthians 10:9, the apostle Paul pointed to severe consequences that resulted from such doubt ( Numbers 21:6 ), and Luke describes how the father of John the Baptist was struck mute ( Luke 1:18-20 ) for doubting the message of an angel.
Of course, it is important to define what a person means when they say that they are “putting out the fleece.” If they mean that they are carefully studying their situation for general indications of God’s leading, they are doing what they should. But if they are demanding, like Gideon, that God give them immediate guidance by fulfilling a specific “sign” that they impose on Him, they are putting God to the test in a way that is forbidden.
Like sorcerers and occultists who try to control supernatural forces through spells and incantations, we may think we can control God with such demands. But our heavenly Father has no interest in making His supernatural power accessible to our whims. His goal is for us to know Him personally, in a relationship founded and dependent upon faith ( Proverbs 3:5-8 ).