Certain people may not consider it that way, but I think some people are giving orders to God. Occasionally I’ve heard someone mention putting out a fleece for God. They had an important decision to make, and prayed that God would allow (or not allow) a specific thing to occur as a sign for what they should do. Really? Somehow, for me, my natural reaction to that is: presumption! Who do you think you are? It is above my personal pay grade to give orders to God.
It is one thing to pray for God to guide and direct you, or to pray for a particular need like employment or healing. I pray the same. But it is quite another thing, as I see it, to boss God around by telling Him to do something specific as a sign for you. I hope you see the difference. But besides my gut reaction to this, I wanted to share some specific reasons on why putting out fleeces for God is not wise.
- “Putting out a fleece” comes from the story of Gideon in the Old Testament (Judges 6-8). But just because a story is in the Bible does not mean it is prescriptive. Gideon specifically asked God for a sign (the fleece to be wet), which occurred. But then he realized it could have naturally happened, so he asked for a second sign (the fleece to be dry). In spite of this, Gideon still seemed to have doubts – as indicated in 7:10 where God tells him that if he is still afraid he could go listen outside the enemy camp. He goes to the camp and overhears a Midianite discussion that Gideon will defeat them. Finally, Gideon seems to believe that God will give them victory.
Don’t miss it. If you read the entire narrative, Gideon received much assurance from God! Yet he is filled with doubt in spite of it. The signs weren’t enough. Ironically he doubted God, and only seemed to believe when the enemy offered confirmation! Gideon seems an example of someone lacking faith. This doesn’t sound to me like an example to emulate. **
- The Scriptures teach us to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Right? But it seems that some people want to walk by sight, not by faith. When facing a decision – they seek an obvious sign or form of clear confirmation from God. But isn’t that walking by sight? They are seeking signs and certainty, instead of trusting. They will not move forward without a clear answer. This reveals a heart of doubt, not of faith. Doesn’t it? Remember that in the Gospels, Jesus warned against a sign dependent faith (John 2:23-25, John 12:37). Miracles or signs are not self-authenticating, and do not always convince. There must also be preparation of the heart.
- When Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, the third temptation involved asking God for a miracle. But Jesus replied “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Don’t misunderstand – it is not that we can never pray for a miracle. But what is the source or attitude behind our request? In this case, Satan was testing Jesus, and in essence treating God like a machine, guaranteed to perform. “Throw yourself off the temple, and God must send angels to catch you Jesus.” Tim Stafford states:
Ultimatums, fleeces, time limits – they may pose as earnest exercises in prayer, but they are often fueled by ego, not faith. ‘God, if you are real, heal my mother of cancer.’ Such a prayer may be an earnest plea for God to help a beloved parent. Very subtly, however, it may become a test of whether God is willing to perform in the way we demand. We set the test and expect God to meet it. This puts us in control of God rather than the other way around…
Judging by this third temptation, Satan enjoys this way of thinking. He wants people to make ultimatums to God. He knows that even if God answers the prayer…one ultimatum leads to another. Human beings quickly grow addicted to giving God orders. ‘God, you have got to…’ – Any time we pray those words, we make ourselves masters and God the servant…Any time we make up ‘tests’ for God to pass, we set the agenda for God.
So what should we do when we have an important decision to make?
Of course, pray about it…but without ultimatums for God. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and sensitivity to God’s leading. Search the Scriptures. The Bible will not tell you exactly what to do…You can’t open to a verse that says “marry Jim” or “move to Oklahoma.” But the Scriptures are filled with narratives and principles that relate to many types of life situations. Seek Godly counsel from mature Christian friends or your pastor, and be humble enough to accept the advice. Don’t forget to use the brain God gave you – think the decision through.
Perhaps God will make your path clear (sometime he does), but perhaps not. We may need to step out in faith, taking one step at a time. More often in my life, God guides me in little ways and nudges. I simply don’t get a crystal clear feeling or answer. Faith is hard. But taking that first small step often sheds light on my path, and I find over time that I end up where God intended…
Your thoughts welcome!!
Quote by Tim Stafford from the book: Surprised by Jesus, IVP, 2006.
** While I see Gideon as lacking faith or having a weak faith, he is mentioned in Hebrews 11 (verses 32-33). Hmmm? Not sure what to make of that. Maybe his faith finally became stronger after he saw God deliver Israel. Or maybe it shows how God can still use those with weak faith. Any thoughts?