Throwing the dice....
“Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:26, NIV)
It’s a funny way to choose the twelfth apostle—the most important leader in the history of the world’s greatest religion. Jesus chose the twelve based upon His perfect discernment of people and His complete clarity into God’s will. But the remaining eleven disciples decided to throw dice to see who the next disciple/apostle would be?
Casting lots—in this case, probably one stone representing one candidate and another stone representing the other candidate—was used to render an impartial, unbiased decision on a very important matter. Once the lot was cast, no one could argue that the decision was the result of human intervention or favoritism. They only cast lots, it appears, when there was no other means of determining what should be done or who it should be—or in some cases in the Old Testament, who was guilty!
But what I see being emphasized is the idea, all things being equal, that there should no partiality in making weighty decisions. So if both candidates were approved, the idea of throwing the dice is that “we'll accept either choice.” Kids do the same thing every day in games—they draw straws or flip a coin. It’s “fair” and cannot be manipulated. In the Bible, the point seems to be that no one should get the advantage because of family, connections or politics.
There’s also an element of trusting that God is going to see the sincerity of our efforts to make the right choice and that He realizes that we simply don’t know what else to do but ask for a “sign.” God understands that there are times when we just need a vision or epiphany—like right now in our fight against this virus. It’s ok to ask God for confirmation in life about big decisions.
It looks like even with the disciples, there was a keen awareness of the danger of leaving important decisions to one person. Peter—the one Jesus chose as head of the group—never “laid down the law” or demanded his way, but rather he presented his case to the other leaders and let them decide. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The early church recognized this and tended to make their decisions after much prayer, the complete presentation and examination of the facts (or merits of the one being considered, as with a deacon or elder), and if needed, after God provided some means of pointing out the right choice.
So how do you decide what to do? Do you make up your mind and follow the Nike ad to “just do it”? Do you take a vote? Do you wait and see what happens. Do you pray about what you want and then ask others to pray to God about what you want Him to do? Or do you do what the disciples did? They did their “due diligence”, they investigated and vetted the candidate so take Judas’ place, but they did not leave the decision to Peter or even to an unbiased vote—-the gave the matter totally to God. They flipped a coin, so to speak, but not until they had given themselves to prayer and abandoned the outcome to God. Then they threw the dice and left the outcome to God knowing that He was in charge of the outcome.
Have you ever been unsure of what to do but you had to make a decision? Have you ever flipped a coin, or thrown the dice or laid out a fleece to be sure you were doing the right thing?
In Judges 6: 36-40, (NIV) we hear this example of being sure of God: “Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.”
Have you ever thought you heard God’s voice but, like Gideon, you wanted to be completely sure?
Well, here are three considerations:
1. Do you really want to hear Him? Normally He’s not talking to us when we expect it or plan for it, He speaks to us when HE is ready and wants us to be a part of what HE is doing. We get things so backwards in the way we think about our relationship to Him. Friends, it’s all about Him—not us.
2. Will you do what He tells you what to do or when He gives an answer to your question about going left or right? Do you know Him well enough and are you sure enough of His voice—-as well as His love for you—-to do what He says? Consider this story? 13-29, (NIV) By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’” That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the Lord has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.”
When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord.
Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before. The king said to the man of God, “Come home with me for a meal, and I will give you a gift.” But the man of God answered the king, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.
Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king. Their father asked them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken. So he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”
“I am,” he replied. So the prophet said to him, “Come home with me and eat.”
The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’”
The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.
While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’”
When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.
Some people who passed by saw the body lying there, with the lion standing beside the body, and they went and reported it in the city where the old prophet lived. When the prophet who had brought him back from his journey heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who defied the word of the Lord. The Lord has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the Lord had warned him.”
The prophet said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me,” and they did so. Then he went out and found the body lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey. So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. “
Are you inquiring of God—-sincerely and soberly? If you are, when He speaks to you, what are you doing? This man of God heard God, obeyed God, but later listened to a liar, and rather than inquire of God, he trusted the word of a liar and did not inquire of God. God held him responsible for not getting the final word from God! We are not expected to trust men—even men that claim to be prophets or pastors or priests—-but God directly! If God calls you to do something, start something, establish or perform something, and then someone else tells you that God has changed His mind, run away from that person! Inquire of the Lord! Seek His voice and His will in the matter—-or risk being devoured by lions.
3. Have you abandoned what you want to what He wants? Are you willing to be the “man” or “woman” of God that He sends to get His work done? I hope so—-there’s no higher calling in life! But you have to abandon your plans to His plans and trust His path to the avenues others will tell you that you should be taking. At times you will appear to be a fool; you will be called a dreamer; friends and family will roll their eyes and shake their heads when your name is mentioned.
But to be abandoned to God is to become one of His favorites.
Friends, do you trust Him…do you to know Him…. Have you have stepped off that cliff prepared to find out if God is real or just a myth. If you have, you are stepping into the ranks of the great ones in God’s Kingdom.