Are you a Christian who puzzles over God's sovereignty and how it relates to salvation? It's easy to get lost in this labyrinth, especially as clever writers have been sharpening their pens about it for 500 years. But, even though it's a hard subject, I am convinced there are some Scriptural lines we should never cross. Below are a few of those lines.
Any system of doctrine that implies that God is untruthful, or makes God the ultimate Cause of sin, or gives us cause to doubt the reliability of God's promises in the Bible, or portrays God as play-acting in His interactions with people, is wrong. It doesn't matter if the system affirms election. The buzzer goes off, the red flag flies, and it's time to go back to the drawing-board. Hyper-Calvinism is as bad as semi-Pelagianism.
Christ has made it clear that we should not use force to retaliate against our enemies. Christ rebuked His disciples for suggesting they call down fire on a village that said "No" to them (Luke 9:53-56). God tells us not to take revenge, or raise our hands in violence. But that doesn't mean that we can't ask God to take action.
King David wrote a benedictory song for the people of Israel, to be performed by the tabernacle choir. First he calls for the Lord to bless the people:
1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
2 May He send you help from the sanctuary
And support you from Zion!
3 May He remember all your meal offerings
And find your burnt offering acceptable!
In a land surrounded by enemies, David calls down the Lord's aid. "On high" was the safest place a person could be in that terrain. How well David knew fighting in the wilderness. Gravity was on the fighter's side.
He prays for the Lord to place His people into the safest and most secure spot, whenever trouble came. He wanted the Lord to make it hard for their enemies to harm them. Their help would come from the heavenly Zion. Earthly Zion was of no help, but heavenly Zion could cure all ills. As long as the people worshiped the Lord in sincerity and truth, the Lord would not forget them.
4 May He grant you your heart’s desire
And fulfill all your counsel!
5 We will sing for joy over your victory,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.
Next, David calls on the Lord to fulfill their plans and wishes. Faith doesn't mean we don't plan. But we know that the wisdom to make a good plan comes from the Lord, and the power for that plan to succeed also comes from the Lord. Constant failure should not be the experience of God's people in the earth.
When one tribe in Israel was victorious, all the tribes were better off. When one part of the Christian Church succeeds, all parts of the Church benefit, and should rejoice. When the Supreme Court rules to protect Christian liberty, it benefits Christians in other places. When Christians succeed doing God's will on any continent, Christians on every continent should rejoice. None of us is an island. Our earthly fortunes are all tied together to one another.
6 Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
7 Some boast in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.
8 They have bowed down and fallen,
But we have risen and stood upright.
9 Save, O Lord;
May the King answer us in the day we call.
Although David in history spoke of the anointed king of Israel, such as himself, we know Jesus Christ is God's true anointed king. The Lord saved Christ from the grave. The Lord saves Christ's plan from failure. God has ordained that, though Christ suffered and was briefly crushed, His plan will ultimately prosper (Isaiah 53:10). As Christ prays for His people, God the Father answers.
David says that we will not place our ultimate faith in human weapons. Today, we might say that some boast in IT and ICBMs. But that is foolish. We should boast in the Lord.
David is comparing God to war-weapons. He is more powerful than the most sophisticated war-tech of that generation. God makes war (Exodus 15:3). God is peace-loving but He is not a pacifist. He made war on a world that hated it, and drowned everyone but eight. God blew up the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, killing every sexual rebel within it.
God once killed 185,000 soldiers in a single night, by sweeping over them with just one terrible angel (2 Kings 19:35). David had seen even mighty horses collapse and die from the battle. But God infused power into His own people, and, even though knocked down, they stood up again, bloody but unbowed and victorious.
Pray for God to destroy His enemies, and give His people the victory. Whether it's the murderous gangs of Los Angeles, homosexcual persecutors in Oregon, Russian assassins in Europe, or drug cartels in Mexico, pray for God to make His enemies fall.
Stop talking about the end-times, and pray for victory now instead. In this age, He has forbidden Christians the sword, except in self-defense. But He Himself still carries a mighty sword of His own. God is merciful to the ignorant, but He curses those who hate Him (1 Corinthians 16:22). Pray for God to give the victory to His people!
In Judges 6, God calls young Gideon to rise as a deliverer of Israel. The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon (6:11-12), and commissions him to fight and win (6:14-16). Gideon asks for a miraculous sign, as evidence that it truly is the Lord who speaks to him. God grants it (6:17-24).
That same night Gideon destroys his father's pagan altars, and offers two bulls unto the Lord. Surprisingly, his father Joash stands up for Gideon, and threatens anyone who would defend Baal, on the logical ground that Baal, if he's real, ought to be able to take care of himself (6:31).
Then a massive army of foreigners invade the land (6:33). God's Spirit comes upon Gideon, and he summons volunteers from the Abiezrite clan and three of the tribes of Israel. Then Gideon asks God for a second sign: he will put a wool fleece on the barn floor. If the fleece gets wet from the dew, but the ground all around is dry, then that will confirm the Lord's word. The Lord does it (6:38). Then, just to be extra-sure, Gideon asks the Lord to do the reverse. The Lord does that also (6:39-40).
Christians have sometimes sued this story as a reason for setting "fleeces" before the Lord. In other words, they propose that God do some distinct action that will confirm direction and future blessing from God. However, close consideration of the story tells us that what Christians present to God are seldom real fleeces; and nowhere in Scripture does the Lord tell us to do this.
First we see that the angel of the Lord had already appeared and audibly spoke to Gideon (6:11). This was not a case of inward impressions. Gideon saw a man-like figure. The man spoke words to him. The man touched the offering (meat, bread, and broth) with the tip of his staff, and a heavenly fire consumed it (6:20-21). One moment the broth, meat, and bread was there. the next moment, it was incinerated. So Gideon was not acting on inner impressions, or pious guesswork.
Second, Gideon was acting on the written word of God. This was early in God's plan, and Gideon would have only had the five books of Moses, and probably Joshua also. But they by themselves were sufficient to justify his actions that night. Naturally, the Scriptures he had wouldn't have said anything specific about him becoming a mighty deliverer of Israel. The Angel communicated that. But Gideon's forward actions were guided by the written word of God, not his own imagination.
Third, the fleece test was completely unnatural. It wasn't like some silly thing that young Christians, do, such as, "Lord, if you want me to marry that girl, have a robin fly past me today!" No, according to normal scientific laws, dew doesn't differentiate where it settles. Dew isn't going to soak the surrounding ground but leave a rug bone-dry. It won't soak the rug, but then leave the surrounding ground bone-dry. What Gideon asked for was impossible apart from divine manipulation.
Fourth, Gideon's request was spiritually suspect. His first request for a sign was reasonable. He wanted to make sure he wasn't being deceived (perhaps by an evil spirit), as he says in 6:17. He was testing the prophecy, as Moses taught (Deut. 18:20-22). But that first sign should have been enough. The second request came from fear. Even Gideon knew he might anger the Lord by asking (6:39). But God was gracious and patient.
There is a timeless principle in the fleece story, which is that the Lord verified His messengers with signs and wonders. The prophets could work wonders. Christ came with healing power. The apostles healed and worked wonders. Miraculous signs witness to the word of His grace (Acts 14:4). But Gideon's story doesn't authorize us to invent tests for God, especially lame, non-miraculous tests that could happen by coincidence.
Open doors are not a sure guide to God's will, either. Just because a door opens, doesn't mean God wants you to walk through it. Paul once had an open door to preach in Troas, but he traveled on to Macedonia to find his friend Titus, and there was nothing wrong with him doing that (2 Cor. 2:12-13). The New Testament tells us to test prophets, but it never tells us to set fleeces.
The fleece story shows us how patient the Lord is., especially with the faint-hearted. Gideon wanted to do the Lord's will, and in fact did do the Lord's will that first night. He wasn't a hypocrite or a coward. But his doubt of his own fitness (6:15, 36) led him to ask God for something very unusual.