After Judas’ betrayal and death, another disciple needed to be named to keep the number at twelve. In the Acts lesson appointed for today (Acts 1:15-26), Peter suggests to the faithful believers assembled after Jesus’ ascension that they be the ones who choose the twelfth disciple. “They cast lots, and the lot fell on Matthias.”
We hear this phrase, “they cast lots” and might think–are they simply rolling dice, tossing a coin, waiting to see who draws the short straw? Shouldn’t they take this more seriously?
But as an ancient and revered tradition, casting lots is the serious way. In Leviticus, the method is used to separate the scapegoat from the goat being sacrificed. In the book of Numbers, it’s used to divide the Promised Land among the Israelites. Even the sailors on Jonah’s boat cast lots to figure out who was responsible for the storm at sea. In I Chronicles, lots were used to determine who was to receive which temple service.
The biblical example with which we are probably most familiar is when the soldiers at the foot of the cross cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. This is one of many examples though; lots were also drawn for musicians, gatekeepers and all sorts of household chores.
My five-year-old daughter casts lots to decide nearly everything–what book to read at bedtime, which shoes to wear to school and what drink she’ll enjoy at dinner. Her preferred method? The timeless “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.”
My seven-year-old son is always quick to suggest “Rock Paper Scissors” when I ask the two of them to set the table, fold napkins or choose a movie to watch on Netflix. Both children fully believe in this process. To them, there is no chance involved.
The Israelites didn’t see casting lots as a game of chance either. They saw it as a revelation of God’s will. Per the book of Proverbs, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Casting of lots was considered totally impartial–completely untouched by politics, favoritism or nepotism.
Throughout the Bible we see people of faith casting lots as outward and visible signs of God’s will. Casting lots was sacramental. Today people are quick to attribute things to luck, chance or coincidence, but what if it’s instead God’s hand at work?
How would trusting in the casting of lots change your decision making process? Would it allow you to more easily see God at work in your life? Or would it veer too much into pre-destination and the abdication of your own freedom to choose?
As someone who struggles with over-functioning, over-thinking and over-rationalizing, the idea of casting lots to make decisions feels liberating to me. Perhaps I’ll ask my son to play a round of “Rock Paper Scissors” to help me decide when to use it next.
Have you ever cast lots to make choices?
Jenny Makula says
Shall we also be like Gideon, and ask God to turn the wool wet and keep the floor dry as a sign.
And when God complies, ask Him again to turn the wool dry, and the floor wet? Otherwise we will not believe?
Pretty sure this would be considered unfaithful in our days.
We are surrounded by a greater cloud of witness, we are capable of walking by faith and not by sight.
To those who have more, more will be expected.
To cast lots nowadays verges on spiritualism, it’s regressing backwards, who’s to say it was God who answered and not Satan?
Seek not quick answers, but a trusting relationship with God
I truly believe that it is a matter of the heart and sincerity. Rules, religion, laws, and traditions are a slippery slope. I truly believe God speaks to us in many different ways. He knows the paths we take, He knows the person He created, He knows what speaks to us most and He knows as our walk with Him grows deeper these forms of communication may take a different shape. We are all of one body of Christ but we do not all have the same function. To one is the gift of faith, another wisdom, another knowledge, another healing… you get the picture. For me, in the beginning of my walk, it was Him talking to me through the clouds and the sun (my name is Skye by the way, God loves those little details :)). At first He was simply reminding me that He was there and would never leave or forsake me. But He put a fire in my heart for the word of God and that lead me to start looking up scripture that spoke directly of the clouds. It’s amazing the things He’s taught me at such a fast pace.
But as I said in the beginning, He knows your heart and your intentions, so it really is having a genuine desire to do His will. “Bring all thoughts under the counsel of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Kimberly L says
All I can say is “Amen”.
In reading all the comments, I felt such an uneasiness in the pit of my stomach. I will not participate in any way shape or form.
much love and peace everyone. I’ll be praying.
Okoli Chinwe says
It’s a complete no from me for casting of lot. Jesus the author and finisher of our faith would have dogged going to the cross by casting lot rather he went to Gethsemane’s prayer house. He even pleaded that his inner cabals Peter, James and John should join him to pray through. Also all the casting of lot in the bible is either old testament, or practiced by unbelievers or disciples who have not received the Holy Ghost .Track all the scriptural references for confirmation. God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness in Christ which includes His Word, His Spirit, His gifts and His fruit. Do not be a Christian gambler.Shun laziness rather travail in prayer, studying the word and improve in your quiet time and heaven will release answers for you.
Ayo Akanji says
Casting of lot is one of the methods God uses to reveal his will even now. Some of us may be gifted in open revelation like the boy Samuel serving the Lord at the time of Eli, some by dream,or night vision or through the Bible. Such means were available in the old testament and even now. It all depends on how the Lord wants to reveal his will to you.
However one can easily abuse the privilege of lot casting by turning it to to child play. Casting lot on little or irrelevant matters because of simplicity of lot casting. If you have good reason with heavy heart the Lord knows and he will reveal to you by lot if you ask him. It has happened to me many times.
Before casting lot Pray with all seriousness before the Lord and do the casting you Wii be amazed.
On one occasion I prayed to the Lord, telling him that tomorrow morning I will cast Lot, but the Lord revealed his will to me in my dream before the morning, so no need to cast lot again.
On another occasion, I want another source of income and in a week or two I would come up with one idea or the other, after careful study and prayer I would ask the Lord by casting lot, sincerely yours, all the time I asked, (about ten times on different projects, covering about three months) it was always NO, except on one occasion. So casting lot is not a game of chance except where one abuse it.
Out of hundred different challenges, you may not need to cast lot more than two times, the rest would be solved by the Lord through the ability he has given to you or other means the Lord chooses to do it or reveal it. Our God is always with us, he knows our limitations and sincerity.
I agree with the comments concerning the change in meaning of casting of lots. I do not know but the casting of lots for Jesus garment has always left a sour taste in my mouth. For that reason, I will not do it. The Holy Spirit lives inside me, unlike the sailors who cast Jonah off the boat and the soldiers who shared Christ garments. Now it also worked for the disciples at the time worked because these were simple men. Structures and methods at that time were part of the culture to bring order and make decisions. However, a simple ‘yes’ ‘no’ will suffice for me courtesy the same Holy Spirit who rose Christ from the Dead. No casting of lots for me.
I must admit that I have learned a lot from my personal experience and your comments. Our God is always with us, he knows our needs. And he reveal his will or answer our prayers in various ways. For years, I just decide on what to do after careful consideration also with prayer. I don’t consult anyone for help to know what will be the future. Few years back I continue to ponder on casting lot in a Christian way. And it works beyond doubt. All you need to do is to pray and make sure you really need to know what you are asking for.
And if you already have a better idea on what to do don’t cast lot anymore as it would amount to testing the Lord.
There was a particular occasion I agree to cast lot the following morning on an action I want to take, behold I had a dream during the night telling me what to do. So I simply thank the Lord no need to cast lot again. Be faithful to the Lord in everything.
I’ve had a think, and I’d like to add that we mustn’t miss the most important thing the apostles did – they prayed. They had been chosen by Jesus, who looked them in the eye and called them, taught them, lived with them. And the memory of his presence was still very fresh, so I’m sure their prayer was powerful and intimate. Now they were choosing to remake their number (Ps 109:8) but only to choose one from those who’d witnessed all Jesus did from the beginning, a qualified person. They’d wisely already made two good choices.
I think there are more lessons here than taking a chance decision through a randomising tool and calling it God’s will, though I don’t doubt it could be. We must pray, and ask God for wisdom, and also use the sense he has given us, and commit it to him, trusting that it will become apparent, and if you think some form of lot casting to speed the process up is the way to go, well, I can’t say not. But it must be in a spirit of asking God’s will, in Jesus’ name. This is very close (without prayer it’s the same) to what new angers do with dowsing and cards, and it is not a holy spirit that‘s guided them, or the outcome. They just believe it’s some spirit guide, or more subtlety, just being more in touch with your subconscious, or the flow of the universe, for example.
And always remembering Rom 8:28. The Lord has us, even if we get it wrong.
Some might say perhaps Paul was God’s actual choice for Judas’ replacement? I’ve heard that said, it’s not my idea, and just thinking about it, Paul wasn’t a witness from the beginning and all points in between, but his ignorance was accurately filled in with revelation (sanity checked with Peter) so his lack of ‘qualification’ was no hindrance to God’s using him mightily.
You’ve brought up a good point about replacing the 12th disciple and why not Paul. When they decided to cast lots, they didn’t ask God what He wanted, they asked Him to choose between two of their choices.
They chose those men because they had been there the whole time. Paul had not yet had his conversion so he couldn’t be chosen.
I Agree, as Jesus last words were, forgive them Father for they know not what they do, Amen.
Wow this is scary! It feels like giving into superstition, or testing the Lord, or something, and yet I believe God can determine the roll of dice, but I’m not sure that he would interact with me like that just because I wanted him too.
Or perhaps culturally this just feel weird.
What I’d previously read was that we don’t do this anymore because now we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and Matthias was chosen before they received Him. Paul’s ship mates were not believers, so they can cast lots for cultural reasons.
I can see it’s a fair way to allocate resources, decide who goes next etc, but I’d not thought of it as a guidance. It’s too close to divination in my mind, which I shun. In fact, let me ask, what’s the difference? Serious question.
I shall think more about this
I agree, however the word divination is root word=divine…so praise to Jehovah God, Christ Jesus and their Holy Spirit that lives in us to decide/guide in Worship and praying, Amen.
Somewhat recently, my husband and I have begun to cast lots. We will ask God a question and roll a die. We created a meaning for each of the 6 numbers. 1 is yes, 2 is yes with reservations or you might think of it as, “yes, buy it, I might have more to say about this”. Three is no with reservations and 4 is a flat no. We designated 5 as God choosing to stay silent on a matter, and 6 as Him telling us to “Wait”.
You might think, “What a relief it must be to truly cast your cares on Him”, and it IS, but there most definitely is still a strong faith factor required. Because as soon as a question is asked, you must believe that He has in fact answered. And yet, He does answer and guide supernaturally in this way. Once, my youngest daughter was suffering from an allergic reaction, prolonged and concerning and we could not deduce what she was allergic to. We asked God to direct us through lots and through that, God showed us the problem: certain dyes in clothing, linens and toys. We went through the whole house and purged what was affecting her. The allergy cleared up immediately. God is good. And He does, indeed, still use lots today.
Mary-Katherine Rogers says
YES! Sort of. This particular scripture has been rolling around in my head recently as I was pondering my decision to move to Arkansas last year based on 3 vanity license plates I saw in quick succession preceding the decision: THUMMIM, ILISTIT, and ARKANSAW. We moved, the job fell apart, but I know God had a hand in it and can’t wait for Him to show me why!!! Thanks for illuminating my day!!!!