Does Scripture condemn Gideon for questioning God with the fleece? Does Scripture command us not to do as he did? I know we are to use Scripture, prayer, and the counsel of godly people. If we are still unsure, are we forbidden to do as Gideon did?
Often people see what they want to see and not what is actually recorded.
Gideon was moved by God, not himself, to gather an army. "But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they came up to meet them" (Judges 6:34-35). While God had him gather the army, Gideon wanted to know if it was God's intention that he lead that army. More, he had a large group of Israelites who needed to be convinced that Gideon was not making this up. "So Gideon said to God, "If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said - look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said" (Judges 6:36-37). Gideon asked for verification to confirm the message given to him.
But when people cite the example of Gideon, they are trying to make a decision about a personal matter. "I wonder if I should move to another city to find a job." "I wonder if she is the girl I should marry." Thus, we are starting out with a question that comes from man and not a statement that came from God. Gideon was asking for confirmation of an order. People today are asking God to make a decision for them.
Gideon knew that the message came from God that he was to lead this army against the Midianites, but he wanted both assurances for himself and those who came in response to his call. He asked most humbly for a sign that went against the laws of nature. Yet, people who cite Gideon's example often make up coincidences to "confirm" their own question. "If the next call is from her, then I know God wants me to marry her." "If my home sells within a week, then I know God has a job waiting for me in another city." The "signs" requested are not signs. They are ordinary events. And since they are ordinary events, how can a person be certain that it was really God behind those events?
What is happening is that people are avoiding responsibility for making decisions. What happens if you marry someone and the marriage goes sour? Who do you hold responsible? "Well, God must have wanted to punish me." Instead of saying, "I wasn't a good husband." Or, "she wasn't a faithful wife." What happens when you move to a new city and are out of work for the next six months? Do you say God was responsible or that you made a poor choice?
God leaves many decisions to people. For example, in a father's decision whether to approve the marriage of his daughter: "But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better" (I Corinthians 7:36-38). One decision is considered better than the other, but either decision is called good and neither decision is a sin. So who makes the decision? The father.
What about a decision as to whether to marry in a time of distress? "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. ... But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you" (I Corinthians 7:8-9, 28). God expects individuals to decide whether they want to marry or not. Either choice is good in God's sight.
You can see this freedom of choice within limits all the way back to the beginning. God told Adam and Eve they could eat of any tree in the Garden except one (Genesis 2:16-17). It was their choice if they rather have a cherry or a pear. God didn't make the choices for them.
What people typically do today is when they are faced with a decision, they try to force God into giving them an answer. That is putting God to the test. "You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah" (Deuteronomy 6:16). We don't make demands of God.
Thank you so much for your response to my question. I so appreciate the time you put into such a complete answer. I understand so much better now. God bless you.