Tag Archives: prayer

Knowing God’s Will: Is It Okay to “Put Out the Fleece”?

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 ).

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Should a Christian Pray for God’s Vengeance?

Jesus brought a deeper spiritual principle to bear upon the attitude of people towards revenge and retribution. In Matthew 5:38-42, He made three radical statements. First, He said that a person should turn the other cheek when someone strikes him. Second, He declared that His followers should give those who sue them more than they are asking. Third, He said that a person who is conscripted by a Roman officer to carry a load for one mile should offer to go two.

Does this mean that we cannot resist when somebody attacks us? Should we let everyone take advantage of us? This can’t be what Jesus meant. After all, Jesus denounced the Pharisees who attacked Him (Matthew 23) and objected when He was struck by one of the officers of the high priest (John 18:22). Further, He advised His disciples to take measures to defend themselves (Matthew 10:16), and He declared that they shouldn’t “meditate beforehand on what you will answer” to an enemy’s charges because He “will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:14-15 NKJV). Similarly, the apostle Paul aggressively defended himself against his enemies on occasion (Acts 23:1-3), asserting his rights as a Roman citizen and making it clear to his attackers that there could be consequences if he were unlawfully harmed (Acts 25:14-27).

What Jesus asks of His followers is not passivity but surrender of the right to personal revenge. His three radical examples make His point about the attitude we should have toward those who wrong us. Rather than getting even, we should be willing to go to the opposite extreme. We need to be ready to humble ourselves for the kingdom of God. We need to understand that vengeance isn’t ours, but the Lord’s (Romans 12:19).

The natural human tendency has been to seek the emotional satisfaction of revenge for perceived injury (Genesis 4:8). Our instinctive response to any kind of injury is hatred and desire for vengeance. This is why Jesus made it so clear in His Sermon on the Mount that not only outward murder, but also inward hatred is subject to God’s judgment (Matthew 5:22-23). Consequently, the Old Testament Law placed limitations on vengeance (Exodus 21:23-25). Although the “eye for an eye” provision of the Mosaic Law has often been misunderstood as requiring vengeance, its actual purpose was to place limitations upon it. The law wouldn’t permit murder out of revenge for an insult or a minor injury. If an eye were put out, only an eye could be taken; if a tooth, only a tooth.

Jesus went much farther than the law, making it clear that He wasn’t merely calling for more limitations on vengeance. In Matthew 5:38-39, He implies that we must give up personal vengeance altogether. But as illustrated above by Jesus and Paul’s examples, there is a difference between confronting evil and seeking personal revenge. It is possible to confront evil with a desire for the redemption of its perpetrator. We can love a sinner while confronting his sin, but when we seek vengeance we are (always) motivated by hatred.

If Matthew 5:38-42 were taken literally at all times, we would have to let everyone take advantage of us. Turning the other cheek would become an encouragement for evil. This isn’t what Jesus had in mind. His vivid examples illustrate His disciples’ need to give up any sense of entitlement to personal revenge, to be purged of the motivation of personal vengeance. By asking them to “turn the other cheek,” Jesus meant that His disciples should be motivated by love and a desire for the redemption and forgiveness of offenders—even when opposing their actions.

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Does God Ever Speak to Us in the Still Hours of the Night?

Who hasn’t awakened from troubling dreams in the dark silence of the early morning with what seems a supernatural perspective on the stream of time and one’s place in it. Reality is amplified. Vivid memories of past sins and lost opportunities unleash powerful, deeply repressed emotions. One’s sense of God’s presence and holiness is overwhelming. We feel the crushing weight of more truth than we think ourselves capable of bearing.

This kind of nocturnal encounter with God is described in the timeless words of Scripture:

“For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man; he keeps back his soul from the Pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (Job 33:14-18 RSV)

“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons.” (Psalm 16:7 NKJV)

“You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night” (Psalm 17:3 NKJV)

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” (Psalm 63:6 NKJV)

Experiences like these only come by God’s grace. We would never seek them on our own.

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