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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Judges 6

Verses 36-40

DISCOURSE: 266
GIDEON’S FLEECE

Judges 6:36-40. And 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.

IT is a comfort to know, that, however afflicted and apparently desperate our state may be in this world, there is no just ground for despondency. God can never want instruments for effecting our deliverance; or fail in effecting it, however weak and inadequate those instruments may be.
We can scarcely conceive a more hopeless condition than that to which the nation of Israel was reduced at this time by “the Midianites and Amalekites and the children of the east.” These enemies “came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their cattle were without number; and annually, for seven years, they entered into the land to destroy it; whilst the children of Israel hid themselves in dens and caves and strong-holds in the mountains, destitute of any sustenance [Note: ver. 2–6.],” and incapable of resisting their invaders.

But, in this extremity, God was pleased to visit them in mercy, and to raise up for them a deliverer, “even Gideon, whilst he was threshing out some wheat, to hide it from the Midianites [Note: ver. 11, 12.].” To satisfy the mind of Gideon, who pleaded his utter incapacity for the office devolved upon him, God gave him a sign: he accepted an offering of a kid, prepared as for food with unleavened cakes, and caused “fire to rise up out of the rock, on which the flesh and cakes were placed, to consume them: and then departed out of his sight [Note: ver. 17–21. It is clear that “the Angel” was no other than Jehovah himself. See ver. 14 and ver. 22–24.].” But still, though further encouraged by the success of his endeavour to destroy idolatry in his father’s house [Note: ver. 25–32.] and by the willingness which several of the tribes manifested to enlist under his banners, he yet needed to have his faith strengthened; and for that end, he desired a further sign from the Lord, that so he might be assured that the promise made to him should be fulfilled.

In this circumstance we see displayed before our eyes,

I.

The weakness of man—

Gideon could not give full credit to the word of God—
[It had been declared to him by the Lord, “Thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee [Note: ver. 14.]?” On his expressing a doubt how this could possibly be effected by so weak an instrument as he, God had confirmed his word, as with an oath, “Surely I will be with thee; and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man [Note: ver. 15, 16.].” To remove all doubt from his mind, a sign had been given him, similar to that which had been given at the consecration of Aaron to the priestly office [Note: Leviticus 9:24.]. Yet still he wanted fresh signs, to convince him that God would indeed fulfil his word; and even prescribed to God the signs that should be given, desiring that a fleece might be wet with dew, whilst all was dry around; and again, that the fleece might be dry, whilst on all around it the dew should rest.]

Do we not see in this the weakness of all mankind?
[Abraham repeatedly resorted to a base subterfuge in denying his wife, because he could not trust in God for his protection from Pharaoh [Note: Genesis 12:12-13.], and Abimelech [Note: Genesis 20:13.]. Sarah, too, though commended for her faith, could not believe that, at her advanced period of life, she should bear to Abraham a son [Note: Genesis 18:11-12.]. When Moses was commissioned to bring Israel out of Egypt, no less than three successive signs were given to him, for the conviction of his own mind, and of the minds of those to whom he was sent: his rod was turned into a serpent, and restored from a living serpent to a rod again; his hand was rendered both leprous, and whole again; and the water which he poured out was converted into blood [Note: Exodus 4:1-9.]. David also, under circumstances of great trial, found doubts arise in his mind; but confessed, upon reflection, “This is mine infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-10.].” And who amongst us has not, on many occasions, “staggered at the promises through unbelief?” The disciples themselves, when a storm arose, were fearful that they should perish, notwithstanding their Lord and Master was embarked with them in the vessel [Note: Mark 4:38.]: and the intrepid Peter’s heart began to fail him, when walking on the sea, because the wind became more boisterous than when he first descended from the ship [Note: Matthew 14:28-31.]. So, in seasons of trial, we have found it exceeding difficult to place such confidence in God, as to dismiss all fear, and commit our cause to him without any anxiety about the issue of it. We can know but little of the workings of our own hearts, if we have not discovered, that “there is in us an evil heart of unbelief,” and that to place perfect confidence in God is the highest of all attainments. To say under such accumulated trials as Job sustained, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him [Note: Job 13:15.],” is little short of absolute perfection.]

But this weakness of Gideon was the means of displaying,

II.

The condescension of God—

God, instead of being offended with his servant, acceded to his request—
[A fellow-creature, who had given such solemn promises, would have been quite indignant at finding his veracity called in question. How offensive was the request, “If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, and do 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.” Nor did even this suffice: no: he must “prove” God a second time by reversing this request, before he can believe “that God will do as he has said.” Yet, astonishing to behold! God, instead of being offended with him, gives him the satisfaction he desires, and accommodates himself to the wishes of his yet doubting servant.

A similar instance of condescension we behold in Jesus towards his unbelieving disciple. All the disciples had seen our Lord, except Thomas; and all bare the most decided testimony to his resurrection. But Thomas would not believe: no: the testimony of all his brethren was of no avail: he would not even believe his own eyes, if he should see his Lord: he would not believe, unless he should put his fingers into the print of the nails made in the hands and feet of his Lord, and thrust his hand into the side that had been pierced by the spear. How justly might he have been left to the perverseness of his own mind, and to all the bitter consequences of his unbelief! But no: the Saviour appears to him also, and gives him the very evidence he desired.]
And the same condescension may we also expect—
[It is true, we are not authorized to specify the terms on which we will credit the divine testimony, or to expect any visible signs in confirmation of God’s word: yet are we not a whit less assured of his condescension and grace, than Gideon and Thomas were. We shall find, in his very covenant which he has made with us, the very same condescension to our weakness, and the very same desire to satisfy our minds: for “he has confirmed his covenant with an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have the stronger consolation [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.].” And, if we look at the promises, we shall find that they are made in a way purposely to counteract and sustain the weakness of our minds. Mark the repetitions: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness [Note: Isaiah 41:10.].” “Fear not, thou worm Jacob: thou shalt thresh the mountains [Note: Isaiah 41:14-16.].” Mark his answers to the objections arising in our minds: “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? Yes; thus saith the Lord: The captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children [Note: Isaiah 49:24-25.].” We see, then, that at this day God is the same as in the days of old; and that still, as formerly, “he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till he bring forth judgment unto victory [Note: Matthew 12:20.].”]

In all this, however, we discern,

III.

The efficacy of prayer—

It was prayer that prevailed in the instance before us—
[Gideon, with much humility and tenderness of spirit, besought the Lord; even as the Prophet Isaiah afterwards did in behalf of Hezekiah. God promised to Hezekiah that his disorder should be healed, and that he should “on the third day go up to the house of the Lord.” A sign was then offered to him, and a choice was given him in relation to it: and he, thinking it a much harder thing for the shadow on the sun-dial to go back, than to advance, ten degrees, fixed upon that which he conceived to be the more difficult: and “the Prophet Isaiah,” who in God’s name had offered him the sign, “cried unto the Lord; and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz [Note: 2 Kings 20:8-11.].”]

To us, also, will God vouchsafe his mercies, in answer to our prayers—
[We are told that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And in this respect Elijah is held forth to us as an example: for he, “though a man subject to like passions as we are, prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain; and the earth brought forth her fruit [Note: James 5:16-18.].” Thus also shall it be with us, under circumstances of peculiar trial. I mean not to say, that we shall have any miraculous answers to our prayers; for the age of miracles is past: but I must say, that, even in relation to temporal matters, our prayers shall not go forth in vain; and, in reference to spiritual mercies, they shall descend almost in visible answers on our souls. Let us suppose the whole neighbourhood where we dwell, to be in a state of barrenness, so far as it respects the blessings of salvation: if a man cry earnestly to God, the dew of his blessing shall descend upon him in the richest abundance; (a whole bowl-full shall, if I may so speak, be wrung out from his contracted fleece:) on the other hand, if God’s judgments are poured forth on all around him, a merciful exemption shall be given to him; even as it is said, “A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee [Note: Psalms 91:7.].” No man can conceive to what an extent God will magnify his condescension and grace towards an humble suppliant, till he has himself besought the Lord, and obtained an answer of peace unto his soul. “We may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us.”]

What now shall I further say to you? This only would I add—

Let your faith in God’s blessed word be firm and uniform

[Think not of difficulties: “There is nothing too hard for the Lord.” Were your enemies as numerous as the Midianites, and you had nothing wherewith to combat them but a pitcher and a lamp, they should all fall before you. Only be strong in faith: and you shall find, that “all things are possible to him that believeth.”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 6". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/judges-6.html. 1832.