By David B. Smith
Have you ever noticed how some Bible expressions have crept into the secular vocabulary? “I can see the handwriting on the wall.” I imagine people at Enron used that sad expression—and never heard of a Babylonian king named Belshazzar or read about the drunken feast where Daniel was called in to read the mysterious encryption: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres. “The end is upon us.” Today we use it for such mundane things as noticing when the Dodgers no longer have any chance in the NL West, which sometimes happens as early as mid-June.
This biblical line is equally well-known: Putting out a fleece. You’ll hear someone say: “I don’t know what God wants me to do here, so I’m going to put out a fleece.” The original wad of wool comes from Judges 6 where Gideon was afraid to attack Midian until heaven “proved” its support, not once but twice. A wet fleece, then dry. But is this good faith when we ask God to buttress His promises with magic tricks?
Larry Spargimino tells a cute story about a farmer who saw two clouds in the sky one day. They spelled out perfectly the letters “P” and “C.” He didn’t immediately go out and buy a new computer, but he couldn’t get those incredible cloud formations out of his mind. “PC. PC.” Did God want him to be more “politically correct” in his dealings with the ducks and chickens? No, very clearly heaven was giving him a new directive: “Preach Christ.”
So the guy sold his farm. He auctioned off the cows. He enrolled in a faraway Bible college and, speaking of fleeces and sheepskins, got a degree in theology to hang on his wall. First thing out of the box, he began to do like the clouds said: “Preach Christ.”
Within ten minutes it was clear that the cows were better at preaching Christ than this guy. He was terrible! People were going out to the parking lot shaking their heads. Those who had put offerings in the collection plate began to feel like they had been “fleeced,” to torture a metaphor. It was really bad.
And the ex-farmer-soon-to-be-ex-preacher was baffled and discouraged. “I don’t understand it,” he said to a friend (maybe his last one). “The Lord showed me the letters ‘PC,’ and I thought He was telling me to preach Christ, but things just aren’t working out.”
His friend swallowed hard before delivering the bad news. “Uh, do you think it might be possible God was trying to tell you to ‘Plant Corn’? Or cucumbers or cauliflower? Because one thing’s for sure, Fred; the ‘P’ in your ‘PC’ doesn’t stand for ‘preach’!”
For sure, it’s a mistake to ask God for a sign in an area where His Word already plainly reveals His will to us. It’s all right to “put out a fleece” or carefully study the providential clues that might reveal what specifically God might have you do about some looming decision, but not where there’s already a plain “Thus saith the Lord” recorded in Scripture. For sure there’s no clearer sign than what’s legibly printed on an inspired black book with a two-word title on it. And just case that farmer’s still out there, “HB” doesn’t stand for “harvest barley.”
David B. Smith pastored the Upper Rom Fellowship in Temple City, California when this article was written. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.