God can and does speak through signs. Sometimes we just need to know if we are on the right track, so we ask the Lord to confirm His will be giving us a sign.
Did you ever lack direction for your life and just didn’t know what to do, so you picked up your Bible, flipped it open and pointed at a verse? This is an example of attempting to heat God’s voice by asking for a special message or sign from Him.
Or, if you are having trouble hearing from God, we may attempt to put God to the test, so to speak, to make sure that God is speaking to us. This kind of attempt to hear God’s voice by asking for a specific sign is often called “laying out a fleece.” We get this term from Gideon’s experience in the Bible.
In Judges we read the story about Gideon desiring a sign and leaving out a fleece before the Lord for confirmation and direction. Gideon wanted to be doubly sure that what God said was really what God wanted him to go. Gideon said to God,
“ “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew” (Judges 6:36-40).
Notice that Gideon sill wasn’t sure about the first sign and asked the Lord to do the reverse of the sign to confirm it. He wanted to be sure it was really God speaking to him. I believe this shows that if we resort to fleeces, we should receive confirmation in other ways to be sure we are receiving clear direction from the Lord.
Without a doubt, God used signs to speak dramatically throughout the history of humankind. In Genesis, He sent a well-known sign that took the form of a rainbow. This sign was a promise of God’s covenant between Himself and every living creature on earth.
“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:12-15a).
On another occasion, God sent a supernatural sign that stopped time. The sun stood still for a day so the Israelites could fight and win a battle. Only God could manage such a feat, causing the Israelites to recognize that God was on their side.
“At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel (Joshua 10:12-14).
We should use caution and not become dependant on those kinds of signs to hear from God, because they are rather unusual ways to conform His will. Additionally, we should probably not depend on a sign to be the sole factor in making a decision; however, it is clear that the Lord will sometimes honour and answer our request for a sign.
Someone once said that our goal should “not be to improve our testing of God’s will, but to improve our relationship with God.” God really wants a relationship with you and me that is strong enough so we can understand what He is saying without “testing” Him. We can become spiritually lazy in looking for signs, when we should be learning to listen to and discern God’s voice. If we learn to hear His Spirit’s voice, we will not need to set up a complicated test to see if it is really Him.
There are times that God does not allow Himself to be tested. I believe He understand there are times when we need and desire proof. God recognized this need in Gideon. He knew that in order for Gideon to overcome his fear he needed proof so that he could go to the next level. And God answered Gideon twice with supernatural intrusion into the laws of nature!
The care we have to take in using “fleeces” is that they may consist of varying circumstances that could just as easily take place without any input from God at all! We may say to ourselves, “If this light turns green before I reach the intercession … of if a certain song comes on the radio, God is speaking this or that to me.” We really should accompany this kind of a fleece by Scriptural confirmation and further guidance through prayer.
Nevertheless, sometimes it is appropriate to ask for a sign and God will answer. God responded to Gideon’s lack of faith because He knew Gideon’s heart wanted to obey. If the Lord knows we want to obey, there are times He will strengthen our faith by giving us a sign.
Seeking a sign is certainly a valid way to ask God to speak to us in certain instances, but it should not be used exclusively for hearing from God. God does not always give us the solution to our dilemmas with instant answers, nor should we require Him to. God primarily wants a relationship with us. He invites us to get to know Him and have a close relationship with Him, so we will recognize His voice in the many, many different ways He speaks.