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Responding to God | The Call of Gideon

by Stephen Davey

If you had told Albert Einstein’s elementary school teachers that one day he would be a brilliant scientist (the "Person of the Year" as named by TIME Magazine), they would have laughed at the idea. Einstein was considered a slow, lazy child who couldn’t communicate well until he was four years old. Once he finally learned how to speak and began asking questions in school, his classmates and teachers were confused by his abstract questions that seemed to make no sense. It would take time for the world to catch up to Albert Einstein. 

The famous evangelist D. L. Moody created similar reactions of concern and doubt from his church leaders. As a young convert, when he applied for church membership, he was rejected by the board of deacons. They were convinced that Moody didn’t know enough about the Bible to be admitted as a church member. So, they demanded from him a year of biblical instruction, to which he agreed. The following year, Moody applied again and— the church records noted—he was admitted “with reservation.” 

God often uses people who surprise us. He fulfills His purposes through the lives of people we would never expect to make much difference. Look no further than the resumes of twelve disciples. The truth remains today: God doesn’t use those who are enabled, He enables those whom He wants to use for His glory. 

No one seemed less equipped to serve as a judge for the nation Israel than Gideon. When we meet Gideon for the first time in Scripture, he isn’t undergoing training in sword fighting or studying the battle tactics of General Joshua. Gideon “was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). 

That doesn’t sound very courageous to me. Gideon is fearful of the oppressive Midianites. He’s evidently attempting to hide his contraband wheat, and to do so, he’s threshing the wheat in a place normally used to make wine. And it’s here, where Gideon evidently is operating a black-market wheat business, that he’s met by God’s call. The angel appears to him, saying, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). 

Valor? What valor? The angel isn’t using this term to refer to some past acts of courage, he’s informing Gideon that he has been called to become a man of valor in the future. And it will be nothing less than the divine enabling of his God. 

Gideon made himself available to God’s call. Do you? Does fear and doubt about your qualifications or personality or ability prevent you from obeying God’s will for you? As my grandmother often told me, “The best ability in service to God is availability.” 

With this call from God, Gideon acts courageously as he obeys God and tears down the altar of Baal in his town—an altar that belonged to his own father. Now that Gideon has followed God’s call and committed himself to courageously destroy an altar to a false god, is he now that valiant warrior for God? Far from it. Gideon’s courage doesn’t even last to the end of this chapter! You likely know the story of the fleece—how Gideon puts God to the test by asking God to wet a wool fleece on the ground while keeping the ground dry, and then the next night to do the opposite, wetting the ground while keeping the fleece dry. He does this to test whether God has really called him to be the deliverer of Israel. Now beloved, some people think that God approved of this test because He fulfilled the request of Gideon. That’s not true. Gideon was not trusting God; he was testing God. And it didn’t strengthen his faith at all. He remained faithless and in need of even more encouragement from the Lord to move ahead in faith. I’ve heard pastors lead their congregation astray by telling them to have their own fleece and test the certainty of God’s promises. What a tragedy! Testing God never develops our faith, it distracts our faith. We don’t need miraculous signs to know that God’s promises are sure, we have the promise of His Word, and His Word is much better than a fleece of wool. 

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Patricia Small Simpson says:
I agree testing God and His promises by using a fleece is not a good idea. In my ignorance and early days of learning to walk by faith I put out some extremely specific fleeces regarding whether it was God’s will I marry a particular person and the “fleece” were miraculously answered. “How could it had not been God,” I thought. I actually did this twice over the years with two different individuals. Almost every fleece I presented was supernaturally answered. Holding onto the evidences of these fleeces cost me years of my life and much heartache as I held onto what I believed to be God’s promises to me regarding a mate.
Well, the end of the story was neither of these individuals were to be my husband and I praise God they weren’t. I have to think of how Satan likes to imitate God’s miracles as he did through Pharaoh’s magicians for his purposes of confusion and destruction. And the answering of these fleece certainly created confusion in my life and in my relationship with God.
Again, it is best to stay away from fleeces and just let God direct us in His way and in His time.