Every now and then I overhear somebody at church talking about "setting out a fleece." I don't charge across the room and interrupt the conversation--that's not quite my style.
What Gideon did (Judges 6-8) was try to verify the authenticity of a huge demand. He was a minor son of a minor tribe, and he'd just been told to dispose of his father's idol and rally the Jews to throw out the Midianites. The first job was going to get his neighbors mad at him and the second was going to draw unwanted attention from powerful armies. If his neighbors didn't kill him the Midianites would likely massacre anybody who tried to follow him.
Gideon had to make sure the call was real.
I'm not persuaded this has much to do with telling God "If you want me to take the job at the dentist's have their office call me by Tuesday." I'm not sure how often it matters which job you take. Generally just using your best judgment solves the question well enough. It doesn't seem really necessary to say something like "God, if you want me to marry Jennie have her wear a red blouse tomorrow." If you know the lady well enough to contemplate marriage, you probably already have enough information to know--and if you don't, ask a few friends. (If you're one of those people who pray such things at first meeting, may the Lord have mercy on you and protect the rest of us from you.)
There's another kind of "fleece"--and it seems much more logical and obvious. Why doesn't He free me from this besetting sin? If He really wants me to be sober, or pure, or not so violent-tempered, why not make my temptations smaller? I've heard of people who were instantly freed from a drug addiction--why not do the same sort of thing for me?
Maybe if I pray harder.
And it doesn't help. It seems God isn't interested in solving our temptation problems the easy ways.
If my bargain was "Do this if you want me to stop sinning," then if God won't do was I say my unilateral contract lets me go on as I was--but despairing.
It seems so logical, and yet it doesn't work--almost as though we didn't have all the facts at our disposal. Why doesn't God liberate us from besetting sins? I don't know--but with many other things it turned out that He seems to know what He's doing. I guess it is best to keep on slogging, returning again and again for forgiveness and a fresh start in the same old battles. And to try to fill mind and time with the true and good, and not leave the room empty and dusted for the old enemy's return.