Judges 6, and the title this morning - I keep forgetting to give it to these boys at the back, but they're very gracious and patient with me - 'Gideon and the Fleece'. The first study in Gideon, as we are going through a study in the Judges entitled 'Men for the Hour', the first study that we looked at in Gideon was 'Gideon, The Fearful', and then last week we looked at 'Gideon, The Faithful', and this morning we're looking at this quite controversial passage of Scripture 'Gideon and the Fleece'.
Beginning to read chapter 6 and verse 36, and after all that transpired - and if you don't know what that is, you need to read the rest of the chapter: "Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, 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. And 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. And 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. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground".
Now if you don't know the background, God has called this fearful man Gideon to fight His battle. He has been called to fight the oppressors of the people of God in the land, the Midianites. Of course, the people were in this predicament because of their sin against the Lord, but in His grace, as we have found as we go round in a cycle time after time, again and again in this book, God raises up deliverers - 'Judges' is their name - to deliver His own people when they cried upon Him. So Gideon has been raised up as God's new deliverer to deliver the people from the hand of the Midianites, and God has called him to go and fight against these Midianites, but Gideon wants a pledge from the Lord that what He has said will happen, that he will have victory, that the Lord will be with him.
The first pledge that he seeks is that, as he puts out this fleece, a coat of a sheep, that dew would fall on the fleece of wool, but that in the morning there would be no dew roundabout on the ground - that all the dew that fell at dawn would just fall upon the fleece, none on the ground round it. Then we find that that isn't good enough initially for Gideon, and he asks a second pledge. The following night he asks that the dew would fall around on the ground, but that the fleece would be bone dry. So those are the two tests or signs that Gideon has asked God to give to him as a pledge: first of all the fleece is to be wet, the ground is to be dry; and then the next evening the fleece had to be dry, and the ground had to be wet.
Now this is a very difficult passage to understand - maybe you're sitting here thinking: 'How's he going to apply this passage to us this morning?'. Well, that is where the controversy enters in: how do you apply a passage such as this? There's a great divergence of opinion regarding what it means, and how you apply it to the present day in which we live. Of course, the reason for the controversy is because the underlying subject of these verses is the great subject of guidance, one many of us are confused about, a problematic issue that many of us haven't come to the secret of yet. So, it should be no surprise that there's a great variety of opinion on a text such as this.
Then this problem of guidance is added to when we read in the New Testament, in Ephesians 5:17, Paul says: 'So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is'. So it's not good enough to say: 'Look, I'm so confused about this issue of guidance, and there are so many different ways that seem to be set forth in scripture to find out God's will, that I've just come to the conclusion that we're not really meant to know God's will, we just walk as near to Christ as we can and everything that happens - Kay-sera-sera - is meant to be'. But Ephesians says: 'Don't be foolish, you need to understand what the will of the Lord is'. You can know God's will - that adds to this great problem of guidance, because so many of us don't know how to find it.
So how do you find it? Well, some people say you find it by putting out a fleece. Not literally! But asking a sign from God, asking a pledge from God. Now generally there are three views regarding this passage of Scripture, and I've tried to sum them up like this: first of all, there are advocates of putting out the fleece. These are people who say: 'Well this, what Gideon did, is a method of discerning God's will and we should practise it today'. Then the second interpretation is those who are opponents of putting out the fleece, and they say: 'No, it was a sin for Gideon to put out the fleece, because it betrayed his unbelief. He should have just taken God at His word, God had given him promises and he should have believed it, that should have been enough'. Then there's a third group of people, and this is the understanding approach: these folk recognise that Gideon did lack faith, and he did betray unbelief in a sense, and he should have just believed God. They also recognise that putting out a fleece, just as Gideon did, is not a pattern that we should be using today for discerning God's will. But these folk, the 'understanding approach', they also recognise that God graciously condescended and gave the signs to Gideon that he requested - in other words, God recognised Gideon's faith even though it was very weak, and He still gave what he needed in order to assure him.
Now, which am I? Well, I'm in number three, the understanding approach, and I'll show you why as we go through our study this morning. But let's deal with each of them individually - you might think this is a bit technical, and it certainly is very practical, but I hope of the end of this morning's lesson you will have gleaned a great deal that will help you in this area of guidance and knowing God's will. First of all, let's look at the advocates of putting out the fleece. They believe that what Gideon did, testing God in this way, looking for a sign, they believe and advise that we should do it today in order to discern the will of the Lord personally for us. Of course, it involves asking God to fulfil some condition that we lay down: 'Lord, You do this and let me see this if this is Your will - give me a sign'.
There was a lady in the United States on one occasion who wanted to go to the Holy Land, Israel, and one night she read about the trip in the brochure. She read down the whole itinerary, she looked at the guides and the places to visit, then she noticed that she would be flying, if she went out, on a Boeing 747. As she was going to sleep that night, just about to close her eyes, she prayed to the Lord and said: 'Lord, is it Your will that I should go to Israel?'. She committed herself to Him and then she went to sleep, and she woke when her alarm went off in the morning - and guess what the time was on the alarm clock? 7:47 - and right away she thought: 'Right! That God's will, I have to go to Israel!'. Many people seek God's will in the same way, and that could be said in a sense to be those who put out a fleece - but I'm not sure that it is, and I'll show you what I mean in a little moment or two.
Many people who advocate putting out a fleece, they lay down their own conditions before God for a sign like this: 'Lord, if Pastor Smith rings before midnight, I'll know that it's your will', or, 'If the weather changes by tea-time, if it rains or if it clears up, I'll take that as a sign from You'. Now maybe you're sitting here this morning, and you're saying: 'Well, can God not do that? Can God not make Pastor Smith ring before midnight? Can He not change the weather before tea-time?', and I say yes, of course He can, but the problem is: so can the devil, and so can Pastor Smith of his own volition ring you before tea-time, and the wind can change. It's not necessarily God changing the wind directly to show you His will, but it could just happen because of the weather. Hence a lot of this putting out of the fleece, or what people claim it to be, is a lot of hot air. The tragedy of it is that such practices have wrecked lives as people have made monumental decisions based on nothing more than the changing winds of circumstance.
Don't misunderstand me, you'll see a little bit later that circumstances are not unimportant when we discern God's will, but circumstances and signs must be interpreted always by the word of God, otherwise they are subjective, there's nothing to test them by. Now maybe you're objecting, and you're saying: 'But God did this for Gideon'. Well, I ask you: did He do that for Gideon? This is where many advocates of putting out the fleece fall down. What did God do for Gideon? Did He do what the advocates of putting out the fleece today claim is done for them? The answer I think is categorically 'No'.
Let me show you on two counts why that is the case. Gideon was not looking to his fleece for guidance, now please note that. He was not looking to the fleece for guidance, he was looking to the fleece for confirmation of guidance that had already been given to him by the word of the Lord. God had already told him through the scriptures, or through the spoken word in his day, what to do. So he was just seeking assurance of his success. So to pluck this out of the book of Judges, and misrepresent it and misapply it as a way to be guided by God today is doing despite to the word of God.
Secondly: Gideon asked, please note, for a supernatural sign, he asked for the miraculous - not a natural sign, but a supernatural one. What Gideon asked for would never have happened without the direct intervention of God. But today many advocates of putting out the fleece test God and ask God for a sign that could happen naturally, without any divine intervention - Pastor Smith ringing before midnight, the weather changing before tea. Hence they can often be misled. When you're being guided of God, you need to know somehow that it is unmistakably God that is speaking to you - and Gideon knew that because God did the impossible. So, be careful if you're one of these advocates: note that Gideon did not seek guidance, but confirmation; he did not seek for a natural sign, but a supernatural sign.
Now let's look for a moment at the opponents of putting out the fleece. Now, if you have a pen and paper it would be good for you to take some of these notes, because you'll never remember it - I couldn't remember it, so I'm sure that you'll not, but they will help you. Opponents of putting out the fleece go further than the two points I've already shared with you, and here's a number of them that I've tried to summarise from some of the commentaries that I've been studying this week. First of all they say that Gideon was sinning against God, because in verse 36 and verse 37 of the chapter God had revealed His will to Gideon. God had already told Gideon what His will was, so Gideon knew it. In verses 12, 14 and 16 we see that God gave a commission to Gideon, told him that He would be with him. In verse 21, if you look down at it, you remember that God had already given a miraculous sign to him - and the Angel, who we believe was the Lord Jesus Himself, calls out of this offering that Gideon had brought of food, fire to come out of it that devoured it, and that was a sign toward Gideon. Then in verse 34, you remember when he was called upon to pull down his own father's altars to Baal and Asherah, that the Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself with Gideon - what else would he need, they say, other than God to use him in such a great triumphant victory.
They move on from that, that God has revealed His will to Gideon, to say secondly: therefore fleece-setting is evidence of doubt and not faith. This showed that Gideon was doubting and was not exercising faith. They point us to verse 36, where Gideon says, if you look at it: 'If thou wilt' - 'If you're going to do this, God', Gideon says, 'show me a sign'. They say right away: 'Why would he say 'If you're going to do it', if he really believed that God was going to do it?'. Then when he asks for the second sign in verse 39, he approaches the Lord like this: 'Let not thine anger be hot against me', almost knowing that what he was doing was wrong. Saying, as we would say: 'Lord, I know what You've said, but I'm still doubting, just give me one more sign'. He's struggling with fear and unbelief, they say.
Of course, there are Scriptures that support this because if you turn to Matthew 12 and verse 39, the Lord Jesus said: 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas' - an evil and adulterous generation seek signs. Then in 1 Corinthians we read again in verses 22 and 23: 'The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness'. So the New Testament definitely doesn't authorise sign-seeking, in fact on the contrary.
Then a third objection that they have to putting out the fleece is: they believe that fleece-setting is dictating to God, telling God what to do on your terms - 'Lord, show me this, and then I'll believe'. Indeed, one author put it like this, and I quote: 'When you think about it, Gideon's request was both absurd and presumptuous. Why should God suspend the laws of nature because a man told Him to?'. Then fourthly, opponents of putting out the fleece say: 'Well, these signs did not solve the problem'. The first sign, incidentally, could have had a natural explanation, because the moisture of the dew would naturally be absorbed by the fleece and dry up quicker on the hard ground. Obviously wool retains moisture for longer. Maybe after that first sign, Gideon would say: 'Now, was that a coincidence? I mean that has a natural explanation, was that a coincidence?'. So that sign was not enough, he needed another sign, and the problem was that the next time he still needed to believe God in spite of the sign, he still had to take a step of faith. So what these opponents say is that signs don't present certainty and produce it in your heart. At the end of the day, you've got to believe God.
Yet, I have my own objections to it, and I believe everything that has been said there by those opponents, but here's a question for you all: do you never have spiritual victories and then doubt God? Are you never in the same position as Gideon was? Do we not all, no matter who we are or what our previous spiritual highlights have been, do we not always need assurances from the Lord, because we're so weak? Sometimes when we read the Scriptures we're so inhuman about the characters that we read about. I think when I get to heaven, certainly, and probably you too, I'll have to apologise to Jonah and to Peter and to Gideon - all these men that I've slated because of their unbelief! But the question is: where are you? Where am I? What would we have done in this particular situation? Where are we regarding faith, believing God? You have to remember, and put yourself in Gideon's shoes: here's a man from a pagan background. Though he was from the children of Israel, his father was the chief man in charge of the shrine of Baal and Asherah, he had been brought up in paganism even though he was a Jew. He was a fearful man, fearful of God's enemies, fearful of his own family and the people in his own town - and now God is calling him to do something that has seemingly impossible odds.
If you look at chapter 7 and verse 12 you see this, 'the Midianites and the Amalekites', who he was going to fight, 'and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude'. The number was 135,000 of these Midianites versus 32,000 of the Israelites, and we know and find out next week that that 32,000 Israelites was whittled down further and further and further as a test of their faith in the Lord. But be gentle with Gideon, that's my plea. Be human when you're thinking about him, put yourself in his own shoes and ask yourself: if you were going to do battle with 135,000 and you only had 32,000 on your side, what would you feel like, no matter what God had told you?
Then secondly, the Lord gave signs before in the Bible, and gave one to Gideon already. In verse 21, I spoke about it, this meal that the Angel of the Lord brought fire out of and consumed - the Lord knew that when He was calling Gideon, he needed a sign to assure him. Incidentally, note that on that occasion, or on this occasion, God did not rebuke Gideon. Whether it was right or wrong, God obliged Gideon, gave him what he felt he needed. Now Gideon wasn't the first, by the way, to ask a sign of God - when he was promised all blessing, Abraham, when he was promised to inherit the land Abraham replied to the Lord Jehovah: 'Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?'. 'How will I know?', and God wasn't offended in the slightest. The Bible records that God gave him a vision of a furnace and a flaming torch, and God confirmed it to him.
Thirdly, regarding what that writer who I quoted to you said, 'When you think about it, Gideon's request was both absurd and presumptuous. Why should God suspend the laws of nature because a man told Him to?' - well, God suspended the laws of nature in the past because a man told Him. Turn with me to Joshua chapter 10 for a moment, keep with me, Joshua chapter 10 and verse 12: 'Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel'. Now that doesn't mean God never answered a man's request before or after, but it means in that sense of holding the sun still, it never happened before and it never happened again.
Israel, God said to them, 'Prove me now'. God said to King Ahaz: 'Ask of me a sign'. Now, if it's so sinful, why would God ask a man to ask Him for one? This is why I belong to the third group, the understanding approach to putting out the fleece. I don't believe, as the opponents of putting out the fleece believe, that it is advisable to do it, I don't believe it's biblical to do it in the light, particularly, of all that we find in the New Testament regarding guidance. The ideal is to just believe God's word with all your heart, but please do not miss the point of this passage: regardless of the fact that Gideon had weak, imperfect, doubting faith; God stooped, God condescended to his request. That's the point! Though he may not have been perfectly right, God answered him. Let's face it: is every prayer request that you make perfect?
Can I let you into a secret, in case you don't already know it: there isn't one prayer that you have ever prayed that was perfect. That is why you need the Holy Spirit as an Advocate, that is why you need the Lord Jesus Christ as a Great High Priest on the right hand of the Father to present your prayers perfect, because they are so imperfect. But here's the lesson, don't miss it: we have a God who, even when we don't do things particularly correct, is gracious, He is patient, He is long-suffering, He has a desire that we should know His will even at times when we're not seeking it in the right way. Psalm 103 verse 13: 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust'. Thank God that Gideon didn't fall into the hands of some Bible commentators, but fell into the hands of the Lord! Amen? Isn't that what David said when he was being judged by God for numbering the people? He was given a choice how God should judge him: 'And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man'. It's better to fall into God's hand than man's.
Many of us, I know this morning, including myself, are trembling Gideons when it comes to doing God's will. If you read most of the stories of the giants of Scripture and the giants of church history, they were all the same, they all had their doubts, they all had their struggles and fears. Maybe this wasn't sin in the sense of complete unbelief, but maybe Gideon was just being hesitant regarding what God had said. Have you ever been hesitant? Are we anything else than hesitant at times?
One person has said: 'It was not the absence of faith, but the caution of faith that we see here'. He knew the great cost if this thing went wrong, and he was only human like you or me! One commentator says: ''God said it, I believe it, that settles it' may be a snazzy bumper-sticker theology, but it doesn't always neatly cover the struggles of believing experience'. That's the way it should be: 'God said it, I believe it, that settles it' - is that the way we always behave? But isn't it wonderful to know that even when we don't just get there all the time, God is a God who is gracious.
Am I telling you to put out the fleece? No, I'm not, this does not sanctify the process, but it does mean that the Lord at times honours our faith even when it is very weak. Isn't it lovely that our Lord, a bruised reed shall not break, a smoking flax shall He not quench? Isn't it wonderful that your God is a God who is not ashamed to stoop down and to reassure us in our fears and in our doubts? Imagine your three-year-old daughter or son, or niece or nephew, and they come in gurning their eyes out because the neighbour's dog nearly bit their head off - what would you say? 'You're a cissy! You're a chicken! Go back out there and face that Rottweiler, or whatever it was!'. Do you think God is like that with us? He is patient even in our weaknesses, and think of it: He doesn't mind humbling Himself in order to bolster our fragile faith. That's why God gave in, because this man we read of in Hebrews 11 became this mighty man of valour, this warrior, this man in the hall of faith. God recognised him, would he have got there if God hadn't condescended in this way regarding his wavering grip on His word?
One has said: 'God is so eager to do just that, that He has provided a table instead of a threshing floor, and bread and wine in place of a feast'. If you were with us this morning breaking bread and drinking the cup, do you know what those were? Signs. Why? Because we are weak and forgetful. The Lord knew that we need signs, and I believe that the purport of this passage is, like the wee man who said 'Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. I'm nearly there, but I'm not all the way' - praise God that our God is not one that says, closing the door behind you, 'Well, go away and come to me when you've got it'.
Let me leave with you in the last few moments the ideal method for knowing God's will, and if you want to know more of this see the study I did in 'Back to Basics' not so long ago, number 6 on 'Guidance' - but I'll leave you with an overview of all of this. Sidlow Baxter said: 'The faith which always needs supernatural signs and wonders is still in the kindergarten'. How do we get out of the kindergarten? John says in 1 John 5:4: 'Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith'. Romans 10:17 says: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' - if we're to have faith to believe in God's guidance, where do we get it? One: the principles and precepts of the word.
There are seven of these, here's the first - the principles and precepts of the word, even Gideon found out God's will from the word. Although he maybe doubted a little, he had an objective base for what God wanted him to do: 'Thy word is a lamp on to my feet, and a light unto my path to guide', the Psalmist said. Now this is done in two ways by God: first, specific commands, 'Thou shalt' and 'Thou shalt not'. Then secondly, general principles right throughout the whole of the Scriptures. Why not go out and drink yourself silly as a Christian? Because there are many weaker brothers who become alcoholics from it, if that's your problem there's the guidance this morning in two seconds, a principle in God's word that we're not only to look after ourselves but look after other brothers. We're to read both the commands, specific, and the principles, general; and prayerfully apply them to our lives - because God's word never contradicts itself.
A man on one occasion came to R.A. Torrey and said that God was leading him to marry a certain woman, she was a very devoted Christian he said, and they were greatly drawn to one another and began to love one another. He felt that God was leading them to be married. R.A. Torrey replied to the man, 'You're already married, you already have a wife!'. You see, obviously God's word does not contradict another part of God's word, no matter what the subjective leading that you feel might be. Sometimes I hear: 'Well, God showed me, or God told me' - well, if it's against this book, you're lying or you're being misled!
Secondly, peace of God in our hearts. Not only the principles and precepts of the word, therefore you need to study them not just in emergency matters, but in the small everyday things of life day by day. But secondly, you need to know the peace of God in your hearts - Colossians 3:15 says that the peace of God ought to rule our hearts. That Greek word for 'rule' is the verb form of the word for a judge in public games, or an umpire or referee in a sports match - someone who decides upon disputed matters. If you don't know what to do, then he will decide for you. Philippians 4 tells you about that - be anxious about nothing; all things by prayer and supplication, make your requests known unto God...and the peace of God will rule your hearts and minds - 'rule', the same word. The peace of God.
Thirdly, persuasion given by the Spirit. We find this in Psalm 37 and verse 4, the Psalmist says: 'Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of your heart'. God places, by His Spirit, specific desires in your heart so that you might, in the cycle of prayer, ask for what He has given you to desire. So the cycle goes round, and God gets His will done on earth as it is in heaven by these persuasions given by His Spirit. Psalm 145 speaks of the same, where we read in verse 19: 'He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them'. Now guard against sudden ideas that just flood into your mind, or impulses due to emotional tenseness you're going through - test all these subjective experiences by the objective word of God, and distrust anything that robs you of the peace of God.
So: one, the principles and precepts of the word; two, the peace of God in your heart; three, persuasion given by the Spirit - four, the providence of circumstances. Now, this is only when you have the word of God for something - number 2, number 3 and number 4 only apply when you've got God's objective word on the matter, the principles and precepts of the Scriptures agree. But when that happens, the Lord may arrange circumstances for you in such a way that it indicates an open door or closed door. So if God gives you leading through His word, and then He opens the door and there is this persuasion and peace in the heart, you can know that this is God's will.
Fifthly there is perspective of other believers. This is one that is often missed, perhaps because some people's perspective leaves a lot to be desired, but nevertheless in the scripture, in Proverbs chapter 11 verse 14, we read: 'Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety'. Now advice is only as good as the source that you're getting it from, so go to spiritual people, seek their counsel, those who have experienced guidance in their life, those who know the things of God - and remember: too many cooks spoil the broth. Don't go to everybody in the church!
Sixthly - and these next two, six and seven, are often missed, and I don't want you to miss them because these are the key to guidance, I believe. Personal surrender to God's will. First there are the precepts and principles of the word; the peace of God in your heart; persuasion given by the Spirit; the providence of circumstances; perspective of others - but all those five will mean nothing, in fact you'll probably not get any of them, until you have personal surrender to God's will. In other words, God is more concerned about what I am - the hangup often in this dilemma of guidance is: 'What should I do? Where should I be? Where should I go?', but God is wanting you to ask the question 'What should I be in the sense of my character, my person, as a spiritual entity?'. God is more interested in what you are - do you know that? Maybe someone says: 'Well, David, I've been trying for years to find God's guidance on this particular issue, and I just can't find God's will on it'. Maybe the problem is that there is another area in your life where you're very gladly not seeking any guidance from the Lord, and you're being disobedient? The question is, if you want to know God's will in your life: are you willing to be guided whatever the cost? The cost is that you give your whole life to Him! Maybe you've found out His will in a certain area of your life and you don't like it, and that's why you're not getting guidance in another area. You see, guidance is not just to enable us to fulfil God's will, it is to enable us to bend our own will - not bend His! To break us, and not just to be guided, but to be used by God. All things hang on complete surrender to the Lord.
On one occasion there was an ocean liner that sank off the Irish coast years ago. The maritime world was bewildered because the ship's captain was an excellent seaman, and no one could figure out what the cause was. Divers were sent down, and one of the items that was brought up was the ships compass box. As it was opened, they found a point of a penknife blade inside. Apparently, while cleaning the compass, and unwary sailor broke off the tip of his knife - it became lodged inside the device, and just one tiny piece of metal was enough to cause the compass to give a bad reading. The result was the ship took a wrong course and crashed, and people perished. Romans 12 says: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and then you shall know what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God'. Tozer said: 'The man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ can't make a wrong choice, any choice will be the right one'.
Then seventh, not only personal surrender to God's will, but private communion with the Lord Jesus. God doesn't just want to give you guidance, He wants to give you the Guide - that's what the whole Christian life is about! The Lord said: 'My sheep hear my voice', and they follow Him - do you hear the voice of the Shepherd? Do you spend time with Him? Are you alone to listen to Him? That's what happened to Gideon: he was alone that night, and he encountered Christ. That's the key to guidance: if you know the Shepherd, and your life is completely surrendered to Him, you'll be guided - you can't go wrong! As Luther said: 'I know not the way He leads me, but well do I know my Guide' - do you know Him?
Ancient sailors of the seven seas, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, all fixed their sights on the heavens, on the polars and on the Pole Star - in particular the North Star, which is the brightest star in the sky, and indeed the most reliable of all guides because it sits still, it does not move. On one occasion an artist drew a picture, and it represented a night scene. There was one solitary man rowing a little skiff across a lake. The wind is high and the storm blows and billows the white and crested waves, they rage around this little frail bark. There's not a star in the sky, it's all bleak and dark except one: one shines through the dark above the angry sky. There that voyager is pictured in the painting fixing his eyes, and he keeps rowing on and on and on through the midnight storm, and written beneath the picture are these words: 'If I lose that, I'm lost'. If I lose that, I'm lost.
You need to be guided through the principles and precepts of the word, through the peace of God in your heart, persuasion given by the Spirit, providence of circumstances, the perspective of others, personal surrender to God's will - but if you lose sight of Jesus, communion with the Lord Jesus, you'll be lost. There's a hymn I love, most people don't know it today - don't worry, we're not going to sing it! - but it goes like this:
'O pilgrim bound for the heavenly land,
Never lose sight of Jesus'.
If you keep your eye on Him, you'll not need to put out any fleeces - He'll lead the way if you will follow.
Our Father, we're ashamed that at times we criticise men like Gideon. We know that he maybe didn't believe as he should, in the way that is required; but yet, our Father, which of us have done that? We pray that we will learn how to do it more, the ideal way to seek Your will, but those of us who are so weak - all of us Lord - we thank You for signs of Your grace that You've given to us that were not required. But teach us to fix our eyes on the Saviour, and to give our lives and will completely over to Him, that we may know what it is to acknowledge Him in all our ways, trusting in the Lord with all our heart, not leaning to our own understanding, and then He shall guide our paths. Lord, draw us nearer to Him, and then we'll know that we are in the centre of Your will. Hear our prayer, and bless us as we go our separate way - and we do pray: lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us, Amen.
Don't miss part 9 of 'Men For The Hour': 'Gideon, The Fighter'
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighth recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "Gideon And The Fleece" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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