Deliverance Provided
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Judges, that portion of the Word of God which we are studying together. It might be well for us to refresh our minds about the general theme of the book of Judges so that we will all be thinking along the same lines.

You will recall that we have learned thus far that the book of Judges is made up of disobediences on the part of the nation of Israel, disciplines at the hand of God, and deliverances when the people were ready to judge their sin. We might add that this is the way that God deals with us as believers. When there are disobediences in our lives, fellowship is broken, and God has to discipline us. When He disciplines us, we recognize our sin, we cry unto the Lord, and there is deliverance; or, as we would use the term found in I John, chapter 1, verse 9, there is restoration of fellowship.

This is one of the reasons the book of Judges holds the interest that it does for us. It enables us to recognize our own faults and our own failings, God's wonderful mercy and God's wonderful grace.

We told you in our early studies of the book of Judges that there were two key phrases in the book. You will see them repeated over and over again, and each time you see them repeated, you recognize a division in the book which will help you to know exactly where you are.

One of the phrases is, “and the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.” When the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, as we have already pointed out to you, God disciplined them and permitted them to be carried into captivity by some foreign nation where they suffered much at the hand of that nation. When they had suffered sufficiently, they uttered another key phrase which you find mentioned over and over again, “and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord.” When the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord immediately prepared for them the deliverance and a deliverer.

It is important for us to keep in mind that when we read, “the children of Israel cried unto the Lord,” we're talking about more than just saying, “Lord, help us.” They were ready to judge their sin, as we have seen in our other studies. They were repenting of their sins. They were having a change of mind and a change of heart. They were turning to the Lord in real repentance.

A Review of the Disobedience

We listed for you at the very beginning of our study the various disobediences and disciplines by which God provided for the nation of Israel during this time, and it might be wise for us to review what we have already been over.

The children of Israel sinned against God, first, and He permitted Mesopotamia to rule over them for eight years. When they cried unto the Lord, then He raised up Othniel who delivered them from the hands of the Mesopotamians. They had rest for quite some time after that; then they sinned again, and He permitted Moab to take them under discipline. They were under the disciplining hand of Moab for eighteen years, and then when they cried unto the Lord, God raised up a judge by the name of Ehud. Peace followed for a while, and then the Philistines brought up against them. How long they were under the hand of the Philistines, we do not know. It is very possible that they were not under their control very long at all, merely that God was warning them that if things were not straightened out, trouble was going to come. So, much like individuals see a storm on the horizon and put up the storm windows, the Israelites recognized trouble when they saw the Philistines approaching; and God raised up a man by the name of Shamgar, who turned against the Philistines and delivered the children of Israel.

We have discovered that in the instance of Ehud, a double-edged knife was used before deliverance. In the instance of Shamgar, the ox goad was used. They were very simple instruments, all indicating that everything was in the power of God.

They sinned again, and God gave them over into the hands of the Canaanites, King Jabin being the responsible leader. They were under the control of the Canaanites for twenty years when they cried unto the Lord. He raised up two deliverers, Deborah and Barak, who worked together for the deliverance of the children of Israel. Then they sinned again, and this time God gave them over into the hand of the Midianites. As we shall see in our study, they were seven years in the captivity of the Midianites, and they cried unto the Lord. God raised up Gideon for their deliverer.

The other disciplines were as follows: Tola was a judge who followed Gideon, and we know not the disciplinarians or the period of time, for it isn't stated. Jair followed Tola, with the same thought in mind. Jephthah followed Jair. When the children of Israel sinned this time, God turned them over to the Ammonites and they were under the disciplining hand of the Ammonites for eighteen years. Then at their cry, God raised up Jephthah, the man who made a unique vow, you will recall, and God provided their deliverance. Jephthah was followed by a judge by the name of Ibzan; he was followed by a judge by the name of Elon; he was followed by a judge by the name of Abdon.

The last time the children of Israel were disciplined, as far as being recorded in the book of Judges is concerned, is when they sinned against God, He turned them over to the Philistines, and they were in the hands of the Philistines for forty years. When they cried unto the Lord, God raised up for them the deliverer, Samson, and provided the deliverance as He always had.

We are continuing our discussion of the discipline they suffered under the hand of the Midianites which, we repeat, lasted seven years and for which Gideon was raised up at the hand of God to provide the deliverance they needed and which they were not able to provide for themselves.

A Review of Two General Lessons

The story of Gideon and his deliverance of the children of Israel from the Midianites, as you have already learned, is found in chapters 6-8 of the book of Judges. We have not followed our usual procedure in our study of this particular discipline. Rather, we began the study of this particular disciplinary action by suggesting to you that there were three outstanding lessons related to this story, three outstanding truths with which we need to become familiar, or else we will miss the real import of the story itself.

For example, for the first time in detailed discussion, we presented to you what the Word of God teaches concerning the Angel of the Lord. We will not repeat everything that we learned, but we did learn that when the phrase, “the Angel of the Lord,” is used in the Old Testament, it is always a reference to deity. It is a reference to some member of the deity taking on human form and making His appearance on the earth. In most instances it would be the Lord Jesus Christ. Here in chapter 6 of the book of Judges, we read the story of how the Angel of the Lord, in verse 11 of chapter 6, came and sat down with Gideon under the oak tree.

Another lesson that we learned was related to the compound names of God. In the Old Testament, there are three names of God which are constantly used. One of them is Jehovah ; another is Adoni ; another is Elohim or El . Elohim is the plural of El , and most of the time it is ElohimJehovah, Adoni, Elohim . You may say, “I don't recall seeing those in my Bible often.” Perhaps, you are saying, “I remember seeing the word Jehovah , but I don't remember seeing these other names.” We pointed out to you that in our King James translation, translators have endeavored to indicate to you which name of God is being used by the way they spelled “Lord.” When you find every letter capitalized, then you know it is the translation of the Hebrew name Jehovah . When you find the word “Lord,” with only the first letter capitalized, you know it is the translation of the Hebrew word, Adoni ; and when you find the three letter word God mentioned, it is the translation of the Hebrew word El or Elohim , whichever the case may be.

Our study was related to the compound names of God. The Holy Spirit was pleased to take the word Jehovah and put with it another word to describe some characteristic of God, and these names have come down to us in the Old Testament as the compound names of Jehovah. The one that is brought to our attention in our story, is found in verse 24 of the chapter 6, where we read:

Judges 6

24Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

We learned that Jehovah-Shalom means “Jehovah, our Peace.” This is what God wants to be to every individual.

Putting Out the Fleece

We now want to look at the third general lesson which is taken out of the story of Gideon and his deliverance of the Israelites from the hand of Midian. We have termed it “putting out the fleece.” This is not a lesson that will be new to a great many of you because we have brought messages along this line before, but we need to have something on it if we are going to have a complete story of the book of Judges. We are all human, and we are prone to forget. We need to stir up our pure minds by way of remembrance. Also, the Lord is good to send new people into our fellowship from time to time who were not here when we were thinking along these lines, and it is good to repeat these lessons. Of course, that is God's way of teaching anyway–line upon line, precept upon precept. So will you notice in your Bibles, please, Judges, chapter 6, the paragraph which begins with verse 36:

Judges 6

36And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
37Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
38And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
39And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
40And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

We will stop our reading there because that is the Scripture that deals with the subject of putting out the fleece. We would like to get fixed in our minds exactly what we read. Gideon had been called of God to do a certain task, and he said, “God, I'm human. I am the weakest of all of my brethren. I'm the youngest in the whole family, and it just seems illogical to me that you would ask me to do this, but I heard Your voice. I want to be sure. Now, Lord, so that I can be sure, I want You to do something for me. I want You to give me a sign that will prove to me beyond all doubt that You have really called me. I'm going to take a fleece.”

This fleece was really a sweat cloth. It was a cloth about the size of a good-sized napkin, made out of sheepskin, and it was used for exactly what the name of it indicates. It was a sweat cloth to mop up the sweat when he was busy tending the sheep or threshing at the threshing floor, as we find him introduced to us here in this chapter. “Now, I am going to take this fleece, and I'm going to lay it on the ground, and when I wake up in the morning, You let this fleece be wet with dew and all the ground all around be dry.” Of course, you realize from the very outset that this would have to be something that God would do. God said, “All right, I'll do this thing for you.” Gideon went to bed, and the next morning when he woke up, he took a bowl out with him, picked up the fleece, put it together, and it was wet. He wrung it out, and wrung a whole bowl full of water out of it. God had heard him. God had honored his request.

Gideon was a cautious man, and I hope you will understand what I am saying about him. He wasn't a doubtful man. He was a cautious man, and he said, “Now Lord, don't be angry with me; I just want to be sure.” So he said, “Will you do something else for me? Tonight I am going to put the fleece out on the ground, and what I would like for You to do is let all of the ground around be wet with dew, but let the fleece be dry.” And the next morning when he awakened, that's the way it was. The fleece was dry and all the ground around was wet. Of course, if you don't believe in the miraculous, then you're not going to believe this story we have reviewed.

Someone may say, “Well, what is the purpose of all of this study, other than just being informed about it?” Let me suggest to you, first, that there is a controversy among good, Bible-believing people as to whether or not Christians today should put out the fleece. There is even a controversy among good Bible believing-people as to whether or not Gideon had a right to put out the fleece, and many good Bible scholars have been rather mean about Gideon. They say, “Why, he didn't have any faith. If he had had any faith, he would have gone on and done what God wanted him to do.” But, I beg of you, before you accuse Gideon of not having any faith, read what is written about him in chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, and you will discover that he was a man of faith. He was a man of cautious spirit, not a man of weak faith, and there is a big difference.

I'm not going to go into details about all of the reasons people say that you and I, in this Age of Grace, should not put out the fleece, that we should not seek for a sign, that a wicked and adulterous generation seek after a sign. We're not going to consider all those things, but we are going to consider why Gideon put out the fleece and why it is all right for believers today to put out the fleece, as we examine God's Word together.

The Reason for the Fleece

The thing that we need to settle in our minds at once is the reason Gideon put out the fleece. Did Gideon put out the fleece in order to learn the will of God? On the surface, you might say yes, but really he didn't. He put out the fleece to be sure that he was headed in the right direction, and the reason that we say that is suggested by two words in our text. One of them is the word “know,” in verse 37:

Judges 6

37Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, [notice] as thou hast said.

You see, he wasn't seeking God's will. God had already had a session with him, and God had said to him, “You are going to deliver my people.” Gideon said, “But, I am the least of all of my brethren. How could I do it?” If he had attempted, as we shall see, to deliver the children of Israel in his own strength and his own power, there would have been catastrophe that would have been bad indeed. So being a cautious man, “I want to know that I haven't misread the signals. I want to know that I have heard the right voice. I want to know.”

Then, if you look down to verse 39, you read:

Judges 6

39And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece…

Why was Gideon putting out the fleece? To find out what God's will was? No! He had already been told what God's will was. He was seeking assurance that he was headed in the right direction. He was proving–not proving God and not proving himself, but proving that he was headed in the right direction. He wanted to be sure that he had read the signals right.

I want to say to you that in spite of all the discussion about whether believers ought to put out a fleece in this Age of Grace, I would far rather put out a fleece and be sure that I had read the signals correctly than to jump off the deep end just because I got an idea that something ought to be done. Many times people will get an idea that God wants them to do something, and before you know it, they are right in the middle of it, and then it doesn't work, and then they blame God. Well, it might be wise for them, when they feel God is leading them to do a certain thing, to say, “All right, I'm ready; I'm willing; now let me double check this; let me be sure that this is the thing that needs to be done.”

Compatible With Divine Revelation

I'm going to suggest to you several reasons I believe that it is good for believers in this hour in which we live, in this Age of Grace, to put out the fleece, figuratively speaking. The first thing that I want to suggest to you is that the matter of putting out the fleece is compatible with divine revelation. That is, it does not contradict the principle of the Word of God.

Look with me at some of the Scriptures that we have suggested to you for the divine revelation concerning the will of God because when I speak of divine revelation, I am speaking of the Word of God. This is divine revelation. Notice the first Scripture reference, please: James, chapter 4, verses 13-17:

James 4

13Go to now, ye that say,…

This “go to now” is a favorite phrase of James'. It's as though he was saying, “Wait a minute, you fellows who are quick to speak out, you people who say, 'Well tomorrow, I am going down to Dallas and do a little selling and make a little money'.” Anything wrong with going to Dallas and doing a little selling, making a little money? Nothing wrong with that. But before you make your appointment too definite, you might keep in mind that nobody knows for sure what is going to happen tomorrow.

James 4

14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow…

You don't know whether you will be able to go to Dallas tomorrow or not. Haven't some of you made plans that you were unable to keep? Then he adds:

James 4

14…for what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Well, what are we supposed to do, just sit down and do nothing, because we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, because we don't know if we will be here tomorrow? No, in verse 15:

James 4

15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

If the Lord wills. The Lord has a will about you. The Lord has a will about you, and He has a will about you specifically. The Lord has a general will for all believers, and then He has a will for you as an individual believer. To be more specific, He has a will for you as an individual believer about individual things and individual times. For example, I believe that I am in the will of God ministering the Word of God. I believe that's God will for me. I believe He led me in it. No question about that. I believe it's His will for me to minister the Word of God, but I believe He has a will about where I minister, when I minister, how I minister. Just because I know that I am in the will of God in ministering the Word of God does not mean that I should not seek His will about where and when to minister. Now notice verse 16:

James 4

16But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

That is, if you are going around saying, “Tomorrow I'm going to do thus and so without saying if it's God's will, then you are boasting and you are a vain boaster.” Rather you should seek the mind of the Lord. If you don't, you are sinning. Look at verse 17:

James 4

17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Verse 17 has been used to apply to many different situations. It is true and can apply to very many different situations, but basically, Beloved, it is referring to the fact that God has a will for you; and if you do not seek God's will, then you are sinning. And God has a specific will about tomorrow. Before you make any definite plans, you should consult the Lord, and if you don't consult the Lord about it, you are sinning.

Knowing God's Will

Turn now in your Bibles to the second reference to which we wish to call your attention, John, chapter 7. You may be saying, if you are not used to seeking the will of the Lord in individual matters, “When will I know, and how will I know that I am doing the right thing?” Notice verse 11. The Lord Jesus Christ was talking to the Pharisees, and we will not take the time to read the whole paragraph, but skip down to verse 14:

John 7

14Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
16Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Don't let this word “doctrine” throw you. Usually we use the word “doctrine” to refer to a specific system of truth. Theologians call it “Systematic Theology.” But it simply means “the truth,” “teaching.” And what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying here is, “If any man wills to do His will, he shall know.” If you are willing to do God's will, then you will know what God's will is for you. And as we are going to see in a moment that is a specific requirement for knowing what the will of God is. We have called your attention to this verse to emphasize that you can know God's will. You should seek it, and you can be encouraged by the fact that you can know it.

The other passage of Scripture that we would like for you to notice is in Ephesians, chapter 5, and you will notice with me, please, verse 10. The Apostle is speaking to the Ephesians and reminding them that they have been born again. He said, for example, in verse 8:

Ephesians 5

8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

For clarity, let's skip verse 9.

Ephesians 5

8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

If you will notice what the obligation of the children of Light is; it is to prove what is acceptable unto the Lord. You and I have no right as individuals to say, “Well, I will do this or I will do that.” We need to say, “Lord, is this thing going to please You? I want to be sure.” So you see, it isn't a matter of finding out what God's will is, necessarily; it is a matter of being sure that the things you have in mind are what God wants you to do.

The Practice of the Saints

So we say to you that such a position to seek to know the will of the Lord in the manner of which I am speaking is compatible with divine revelation. Then I would like to suggest to you that it is compatible with the practice of the saints of God. The saints of God, always down through the ages, acted with caution and wanted to know that what they were thinking about doing was the thing to do.

There are many illustrations, but we are going to look at three of them today, because they are rather human. I mean by that that they are something that you and I would probably do. The miraculous, in the very strictest sense of the word, though it is evident, is not so glaring that you would say, “Well, I don't know whether God would perform a miracle like that for me or not.”

Turn in your Bibles, please, to I Samuel, chapter 14. We are not going to take the time to read this whole story, but the Israelites were fighting again against the enemy, the Philistines. Jonathan, son of Saul, was led of the Lord to do something that his father didn't do anything about, and very few others knew anything about. He was led to win the victory over the enemy, just Jonathan and his armor-bearer. He felt that God wanted him to do this, but he wanted to be absolutely sure that God would have him do it, so he said, beginning in verse 4 of chapter 14:

I Samuel 14

4And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.
5The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.
6And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: [notice carefully now] it may be that the LORD will work for us: [now God is going to give us the victory. It may be that the LORD will work for us] for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few [now the whole army is over yonder, but God doesn't have to use the whole army. He can use just the two of us, if it is His will] .
7And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart [How can we know? Just the two of us] .
8Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.
9If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.
10But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us.

And the story goes on to say that they did exactly that. Get the picture: Here is Jonathan with his armor-bearer. They wanted to win the victory over the Philistines. They didn't know whether they could. They knew they should; there wasn't any question about that. But they didn't know whether it was God's particular way of doing it or not, so Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “We will go up there where the camp is, and we will make some kind of noise. We will let them know we are there, and if they say, 'All right, you stay right there until we come to investigate,' we'll stay, because that will be the safe thing to do. We will know that we are no match for them, but if they say, 'You come on up here,' we will go up, because we'll know this unusual procedure on their part will be an indication that God is going to do what we know already He is going to do–deliver them into our hands.”

You see, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were double-checking. There is nothing wrong with believers double-checking to know that it is really God who has spoken. There is nothing wrong with believers double-checking to know that God has encouraged their faith.

The Healing of Hezekiah

For example, turn to II Kings, chapter 20. Here again is a long story which we don't have time to read. It's the story of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was sick with blood poisoning. He was about to die. He asked that God let him live, and God sent Isaiah the prophet to him and said, “You give Hezekiah the message: 'I have seen your tears, and I am going to extend your days fifteen years'.” And then He told Isaiah how to do it. He didn't heal (I would like for you to keep this in mind) Hezekiah miraculously, though He could have because He had healed many other folk miraculously. But He said to Isaiah, “You take a poultice of figs [which was the best known cure at that time for blood poisoning] and you put it on the boil that Hezekiah has, and it will take care of it.” You see, here God takes the credit for healing, but He uses human effort. So remember that. When you are praying for healing, if you are praying for God to heal without the aid of human effort, the Lord bless you. God is able to do it; I have seen Him do it, but if you are praying for healing, don't rule out human effort. God uses it as He did in this case, but in verse 8:

II Kings 20

8And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?

Notice that when Jonathan put out the fleece, God didn't rebuke him for it. When Gideon put out the fleece, God didn't rebuke him for it. When Hezekiah put out the fleece, God didn't rebuke him for it. If there is something wrong with putting out the fleece, why didn't God rebuke these people for it? Why didn't He say, “Why don't you trust Me? Don't be putting out the fleece.” He didn't, did He?

In verse 9:

II Kings 20

9And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?

“There is the sun dial right outside your window, Hezekiah. God will give you a sign on that sun dial. You want the shadow on the sun dial to move forward ten degrees, or do you want it to move back ten degrees?” Hezekiah was a pretty practical fellow and he said, “Well, it's going to go forward anyway. God knew that. Time moves on, so I never would know for sure if it moved on. I might think that the sun moved in a hurry or the cloud came by; I don't know, but I tell you what I do think ought to happen. Let it go back ten degrees.” And Isaiah said, “All right, if that is what you want.” Back the shadow went ten degrees–a sundial, now, that you do not wind, a sundial that is not automatic like our watches. You know our clocks lose time; they gain time, but a sundial is always accurate. But to go back ten degrees was unheard of, and he said to let it go back ten degrees, and it did, and Hezekiah rejoiced in his faith.

Now someone might say, “Well all of these examples are in the Old Testament. That is what they did in the Old Testament, but today we have the Word of God. Today we have the Holy Spirit. Today we don't need to use signs. We don't need to put out the fleece; we don't need to use methods like this.” Well there could not be any greater exponent of the grace of God than the Apostle Paul. He lived in this Age of Grace, and I beg to suggest to you, he was one of the saints that followed the practice of putting out the fleece.

The Fleece of Paul and Timothy

Turn to the book of Acts. We do not have time to read the whole story, but let me just say that Paul and Timothy were on a missionary journey. You see, they knew that it was the will of God for them to preach the Word, but they didn't know exactly where. Well, they weren't going to learn anything by staying at home, so they started out on a journey; and in verse 6 of chapter 16, they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia and had successful ministries. They decided they would go over into Asia and preach the Word of God. Was there anything wrong with that? Not at all. Asia needed to hear the Word of God, but you read there in verse 6, that the Holy Spirit forbade them to go. He prevented them from going. He wouldn't let them go. You say, “How did He keep them from it?” If you read the story as it is recorded in the book of Galatians, you will find that Paul got sick and wasn't able to go. That's how the Holy Spirit stopped him. He let him get sick. He didn't want him to go into Asia. You say, “Didn't God want the people in Asia to hear the Word of God?” Yes, He did, but at this particular time, He did not want Paul and Timothy to take the Word of God to them. Why? I don't know, except God has an individual will for people. Now in verse 7:

Acts 16

7After they were come to Mysia [God permitted them to go there] , they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

I want you to notice this word “assayed.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this is the word they used in Judges, chapter 6, for the word “proved.” You see, Paul and Timothy, said, “Well, where shall we go next. We don't know.” And they said, “Well, let's put out the fleece. Let's try to go to Bithynia, and if God doesn't let us go to Bithynia, we will know that we are not supposed to go.” So they made an effort to go to Bithynia, and we read here, “And the Spirit suffered them not.”

In verse 8, they went to Troas. God let them do that, and while they were at Troas, they found out the reason they were not allowed to go to Asia, for at Troas there appeared to them the Macedonian Vision, a man from Greece, from Europe, saying, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” And in verse 10:

Acts 16

10And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, [notice this phrase. It's so important] assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

“Assuredly gathering.” What does that mean? We put all the facts together, we read the fleece. We squeezed the dew out. We said, “We want to go to Asia, but God wouldn't let us. It must be His will for us to go into Europe.” I want to suggest to you, Beloved, that they did not know at the time why God did not want them to go to Asia. They found out later that it was because He wanted them to go to Europe.

I might say in passing, for what it is worth, that I am so glad that He led them into Europe. You know, we might not have the Gospel today if Paul had not gone to Europe. It is a hypothetical suggestion, but it is worth thinking about.

The Open Door Policy

Now, here is something I would like to emphasize about the putting out of the fleece. It is a very practical thing. You don't need something miraculous or something unusual; you do not need something that you have never heard of. For example, Hezekiah's fleece was his sundial. It was out there in the yard. It wasn't something that he conjured up. He looked at it every day. God's directions will not necessarily come to you in some unusual, mysterious, uncanny way. They sometimes come to you in a very ordinary way. Jonathan's fleece was a question. He said, “We will ask this question. If they answer it this way, we will know one thing, if they answer another way, we will know another thing.” Now Paul's fleece was what I have been pleased to call “open doors.” He rested on what I rest on so often, though it wasn't written at the time. In Revelation, chapter 3, verse 7, the Lord Jesus Christ said:

Revelation 3

7..these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

The “open door policy,” I call it. God opens the door, and in faith, you can enter it. Gideon used his fleece, which I have already told you was a sweat cloth, something that he had handy with him. He didn't have to have some unusual strange amulet of some kind, but a very ordinary thing.

God's Acceptance of Gideon's Sacrifice

Now, I would like to suggest to you that Gideon did not just prove God by putting out the fleece. This seemed to be a habit with him, to be a cautious man. There were three ways that Gideon proved the Lord, three ways that he wanted to be absolutely sure that what he was doing was what God wanted him to do. One thing was in relation to the sacrifice. You remember when the Angel of the Lord came to see him, and he said to the Angel of the Lord, “Before you go, let me do something.” He ran in the house, and he got a young goat. He hurriedly prepared it. He brought out the kid and a bowl of broth, and he took a ephah of flour and made some unleavened bread. He said to the Angel of the Lord, “Here.” Now if the Angel of the Lord had been an ordinary person, Gideon would have known what he would have done. He would have eaten the kid and the bread and drunk the broth, but the Angel of the Lord said, “All right, Gideon, thank you. You are very kind. Put it there on the rock.” So he put it on the rock, and what did the Angel of the Lord do? He stretched forth his staff, and fire came down out of Heaven and devoured everything that was on the rock. Fire burning up the sacrifice, from the beginning of God's dealing with the nation of Israel, was proof that God had accepted the sacrifice. When Gideon saw that, he said, “That's God.” You see, he proved God. He proved God with the sacrifice; he proved God with wet fleece; he proved God with dry fleece. I emphasize, don't be afraid of overdoing it. Don't be afraid of proving the Lord, in spite of everything you may have heard or probably will hear that Christians in this Age of Grace do not need to prove the Lord.

Requirements for Putting Out the Fleece

The reason that I am emphasizing this so much is you may say, “You know, I heard Joe Temple talk about putting out the fleece.” And someone may say, “Well how dumb can you get? Don't you know that you are not supposed to do that today?” You say, “Well, yes, he knows that folk say you are not supposed to do it, but he hasn't found it in the Bible.” There is nothing wrong with putting out the fleece, but there are certain requirements to be met.

There first must be a consciousness that God is ruling already in the case. You see, Gideon said, “As Thou hast said, God, I know you are in this thing. I just want to be sure, I am heading in the right direction.”

Let me give you a very extravagant illustration. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” You don't need to put out a fleece to find out whether you ought to kill your wife because you are mad at her. You see, the Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” If you put out a fleece to find out if God wants you to kill your wife, you're forgetting this first requirement. God isn't ruling, because God has already set down the precedent.

Submission to God's Will

Then there must be submission to the will of God. You see, God had already said to Gideon, “Gideon, thou mighty man of valor, I want you to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites.” And Gideon didn't say, “I won't do it.” All he did was say, “Tell me how.” You see, he was submissive. God is not going to talk to you, deal with you about leadership, unless you are willing to do what He wants you to do. That's the reason that in James, He said,

James 1

5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering…

As we have pointed out to you, the emphasis should be on the “nothing wavering.” It is not a matter of whether you have faith that God will give wisdom; of course, He will, but it is that you are going to do what He tells you to do after He tells you. We sometimes say about people, “Has so and so come to you for advice?” And you say, “Yes, he has.” “What did you tell him?” “Well I didn't tell him anything, because he is going to do what he wants to anyway. No point in wasting your breath.” Sometimes God thinks that way about us, you know. He knows our hearts. He knows we're not going to do what He wants us to do, and so He said, “Don't bother telling him. He is not going to do it.” You must be submissive to the will of God at the very start.

Desire for Certainty

The third requirement is that the purpose of the fleece is a desire for certainty. It isn't a desire on your part for God to bolster your faith.

Hebrews 11

6…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

You are not going to get anywhere, unless you have already fulfilled that. But the reason for the fleece is a desire for certainty.

And then there must be an actual putting out of the fleece, too. You can say, “Oh, I wish I knew what God's will was. I wish I knew whether I should do this, or whether I should do that,” but until you put out the fleece, you're not going to know. There has got to be an actual putting out of the fleece. Take, for example, Paul and Timothy. They knew that God wanted them to preach, but they didn't know exactly where. They didn't sit home, and say, “I wish we knew where we are supposed to preach.” Paul said, “Let's get started.” So they went to one place, and they had a good meeting all through the territory of Phrygia and Galatia. Then they said, “Let's try it over here in Mysia,” and they couldn't get there. They said, “Well, let's try somewhere else.” You see they were putting out the fleece. That's important.

The Practical Aspect of the Fleece

Another thing we would like to emphasize, what we have touched upon already, is that you need to be practical about the fleece that you put out. For example, if you are wanting to know for sure that God wants you to do something, don't you say to God, “God, you let the sun turn dark at twelve o'clock noon tomorrow.” Who are you for God to do some tremendous, miraculous thing like that? There are a lot of folk like the Apostle Paul, about salvation. They are expecting some shaft of light to come down out of Heaven and a voice to say something to them. Well you are a little pygmy. You're not Paul. God had to deal with Paul because he was Paul. He deals with me and with you in practical ways, and so make your fleece a practical one, but don't forget to include the miraculous along with it. You see, the practical part of Gideon's fleece was the sweat cloth that we have talked about. The miraculous part was the dew. Micah 5, verse 7, says that God is the only one who can send dew on the earth. God regulates it whether you think He does or not, and God regulated it, putting it on the fleece first, then on the ground.

There is another thing you need to keep in mind. That is the consideration of time. You can't order God about, you see. Gideon put the fleece out, and it took till morning for the fleece to get wet, because dew comes in the early morning hours. If you are putting a fleece out, be practical; give God time to work. For example, some people say, “Lord, if it's your will for me to go to New York today, let me get a letter in the mail today to go to New York.” Well, it can happen. God could have already worked and moved upon someone's heart to write the letter you got on this day, but it could be impractical too. It takes a while for the mail to get delivered, you know. So be practical about your fleece, and keep in mind the consideration of time.

Reliance Upon God

And then the last thing that I would suggest to you is your reliance upon God. When you put out the fleece, rely on God, will you? How did Gideon rely on the Lord when he put out the fleece? He went to bed, went to sleep. That night he put out the fleece, and he didn't stand by the fleece all night long to see the first drops of dew. He went to bed and went to sleep. He was relying on God. And the next morning, what did he do? He didn't run out to see if the fleece was wet; he took a bowl with him to catch the water. Remember, there was a famine in the land. The Israelites were living like animals. The drought had been terrible, and Gideon was prepared. He took a bowl and rung the water out of the fleece. He relied upon God.

Sometimes people put out a fleece, and they don't put it out for certainty. They put it out because they haven't any faith, and that is the reason the criticism comes. Like the little boy I have mentioned to you often, who planted a bean and dug it up every day to see how much it had grown, it just won't grow. A lot of people are like that about a fleece. They put out the fleece, and they won't wait until God has time to verify what they have done.

This is the important lesson about the story of Gideon, along with the Angel of the Lord and the compound names of Jehovah, that I wanted you to get. In the next study, God willing, we are going to follow this story, like we have all of the others. We told you that there was an outline that was true of every story. There was a disobedience, there was a discipline, and there was a deliverance. We will be talking about that next time.

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