Gideon was a man who lived in Israel before the time of kings when the nation was guided by judges. He was a timid man, who, in his own words, was a member of the weakest tribe in Israel, as well as the least member of his family. He was so afraid of the invading Midianites and the ravaging destruction they left in their wake that he threshed his wheat under the cover of the winepress.
One day his work was observed by a Man who sat down under a nearby oak tree. Just watching. Then the Man remarked to this timid farmer, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” I expect Gideon looked around to see who the Man was speaking to because surely no one would address him in that way. But the Man was speaking to Gideon. The Man was the Lord.
The Lord told Gideon He had chosen him to deliver Israel from the Midianites. That was not only astounding, I find it encouraging. God saw Gideon’s potential — and yours and mine — when no one else sees it, including ourselves. God knew that if Gideon depended on Him alone and went forth in His power, he would indeed be a mighty, victorious warrior.
Gideon thought this would be a good time to pray. Specifically. I don’t think the way that Gideon prayed indicated he lacked faith. Instead, he obviously needed assurance from God that he had accurately understood what to him must have been a shocking assignment. Which is very legitimate when obedience to what he understood would require not only risking his own life, but the lives of many others as well as putting his entire nation in a vulnerable position. So Gideon prayed specifically by laying out a fleece. Literally. He told God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have promised — look, 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”… And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew, which filled a bowl with water.
Still needing reassurance of what to him must have been an unbelievable commission, he put out a second fleece, only, “This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” The next morning when Gideon checked, the fleece was dry and the ground all around it was wet. So Gideon knew he had rightly understood the Word of the Lord. He went out in God’s supernatural power and defeated the Midianites.1
While I have not made a habit of putting out a fleece, and don’t encourage others to do so, Gideon’s example reminds us to be specific in our prayer requests.
by Anne Graham Lotz