I've been quiet here for a few days. But the only reason is that there's been too much to do and I didn't choose to use some of my time writing here.
Yesterday I wrote a new article for i.ucc.org -- it's about how the early believers came to the decision as to who the new 12th disciple would be. I'm interested in what you think about this one. The article is called, "Trusting the luck of the draw?"
The disciples needed to add a new twelfth. So they prayed and threw the dice.
Really? The disciples left the decision as to who would be the new 12th disciple to something like a coin toss or rolling dice or some other game of chance?
But they prayed first.
Did that make it a decision that was guided by God? Or was it simply a random occurrence guided only by the laws of chance?
Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias were the two who had been around the disciples since the beginning. It appears that either one of them could have filled the role of disciple in the eyes of the 120 who were gathered to decide. They prayed and asked God reveal who God had chosen. And the lucky one was Matthias.
I keep using words like "luck" and "chance" because I'm in a particularly irked mood about the misuse of "God told me" and "I hear God saying that" phrases that I've heard too many times from people who ought to know better.
In the Bible the casting of lots was usually used to divide up land fairly or to choose a person for a job (like King) when there were several qualified candidates. There are a few instances in the Old Testament where lots were used to have God supernaturally reveal the answer to questions about guilt or who God was angry with, but I don't think it was the norm for people in making decisions then -- nor should it be now. (Curiously, Proverbs 16:33 says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the LORD's alone. I have no explanation about that one and would love to hear other's thoughts)
I look at the situation in Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 as a situation where there did not appear to be a wrong answer to a situation, but two right ones. Since the believers had decided only to call one disciple, they had to leave it up to chance. They trusted that God would reveal the correct decision-- and I believe God did. I also believe if they had chosen Joseph called Barsabbas in would have been the correct decision . (A few Bible scholars have labeled Joseph called Barsabbas as somewhat of a radically conservative Jew who had a different agenda than Peter. I don't think there was any huge issue that separated the two candidates -- otherwise there would have been a significant argument instead of casting lots)
I think we have situations like these often. We can see the wisdom in many different decisions about an issue, but we have to pick one answer. It may be that there are several answers that will be the correct one.
I think its good to be able to appreciate that God understands the multiple layers of decisions we make. May God continue to give us discernment and the desire to step out in faith.