Acts 1:21-26 (Voice) 21 So we need to determine his replacement from among the men who have been with us during all of the Lord Jesus’ travels among us— 22 from His baptism by John until His ascension. We need someone to join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. 23 The group put forward two men: Joseph (who was also known as Barsabbas or Justus) and Matthias. Disciples: 24 Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Make it clear to us which of these two is Your choice 25 to take on this ministry as Your apostle, replacing Judas who went his own way to his own destination. 26 Then they drew lots, and the lot fell to Matthias, so he was added to the eleven apostles to reconstitute the twelve.
This passage has always perplexed me. From a very young age, when I heard this passage, something about it didn’t sit right with me. Drawing lots doesn’t really seem like an appropriate way for the disciples or anyone, to discern God’s will.
Even now, as I think about it, drawing lots seems much closer to consulting your horoscope than it does consulting God for wisdom and guidance. And yet, here we have the disciples invoking God and then drawing lots to determine who would replace Judas as one of the apostles.
This can’t be how God works and communicates with us. But, if we look throughout the Old Testament, this isn’t an isolated incident, God seems to work through what we might call random chance in Proverbs 16 & 18, Exodus 28, Deuteronomy 33, Leviticus 16.
Now before you start reaching for the closest ‘Magic 8-Ball’ to seek God’s guidance and advice, it is important to note that this is the last recorded incidence of lots being cast in the bible. After God pours out his Spirit (at Pentecost), God chooses a more direct way to communicate with all of his people. This is good news for me, especially because I have never been able to get much from a Magic 8-Ball is, ‘ask again later’, and that isn’t much in the way of direction. To my thinking the presence of the Holy Spirit is of much more comfort and value.
The good news of God’s presence with us through the Holy Spirit doesn’t change the realities of this passage. The disciples cast lots to determine God’s will, and strangely, it seems like God was on board with it. So, what does that mean for us.?
I think it’s an important reminder about two things. First, there are no limits on what God can do, and there are no limits on what God can use to demonstrate his will, his love, and his grace to us. Elsewhere in scripture, we read that ‘even the rocks would cry out’, if we are silent about God’s grace and power. Is this so different?
Second, if we are paying attention, we can see God’s fingerprints all around us. The lots the disciples cast seemed like random chance, but it was the hand of God. What are we missing because we haven’t seen God in it?
Last night we had our ‘popsicle and prayer’ event. Shortly before the event was to start, the rain came pouring down. After about 30 minutes of heavy rain, it slowed down and then, even before the rain stopped, the sun came out and then, right above the church parking lot was not just a rainbow, but a double rainbow. It was beautiful. Was it the result of a random collection of factors all happening to occur at the same time to produce the beauty, or was it a message of love and grace – a reminder of God’s presence right there for all of us to see, if we would but look.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Lord, help us to see you in the things we so easily dismiss as chance, and to listen to your voice and your Spirit. Amen.