The Still Small Voice

The Power of Discernment: Fleeces and Decision Making


Chapter Six, Part Eight


Fleeces and Decision Making

‘If You will save Israel by my hand as You have promised, look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.’ (Judges 6:35-37)

The Lord never intended decision-making to be our responsibility alone. At the same time, we should be cautious of trying to devolve all responsibility onto the Lord by laying arbitrary fleeces, such as, ‘If such and such happens, then it must be right.’ Neither should we try to cut deals with the Lord along the lines that ‘if You do this, then I will do that.’

Although it is arguably acceptable as a Scriptural model to lay fleeces, there is one potential danger. If circumstances do line up with the terms laid down in the fleece, we may assume our quest for guidance to be at an end. The fact that Gideon asked for two signs suggests it might be wiser to regard fleeces, like other strands, as representing just one part of the confirmation we are looking for.

How about those occasions when other people bring us ‘directive’ guidance? We should certainly be careful about acting on such words. We can recall a number of occasions, however, when people have brought us words that have launched us in entirely new directions – usually when something was too far outside our experience (or faith levels) for us to have thought of it for ourselves.

Tragically, insecure and under-affirmed people often end up ‘using’ prophecies and revelations as a means of boosting their ego, or even to tighten their control over others. It is as though they feel their ability to get words for other people in some way ‘proves’ their ministry. When off-beam prophecies are forcefully presented, rather than lovingly offered, people have no choice but to accept them at face value, or to discard them altogether. This can cause much hurt and confusion, and lead to many complications – not least the people who ‘see through them’ becoming disillusioned with the whole concept of listening.

Perhaps it was for reasons such as this that Paul Tillich argues in favour of keeping reason and spiritual experiences rigidly apart from each other. I do not agree with him. It is surely a far better sign of how well integrated listening to the Lord is in our lives if we are able to satisfy both sets of criteria along the lines of Acts 15:18: ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’

For Reflection and Prayer

Father, help us to know which decisions are ours,
and which are only Yours to take –
and never to impose our will on others.