During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them. “Brothers,” He said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.”
(Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)
Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’ So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time He was baptized by John until the day He was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, You know every heart. Show us which of these men You have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.Acts 1:15-26
A Reader’s Questions:
- Why was the casting of lots the way to determine God’s will?
- Is that the pattern we should be following today?
Relevant excerpts clipped from the last Gem:
The Use of the Urim and Thummim
There was a vessel which they call “Kalphi”, set in the court, into which two lots, which were made of wood, or stone, or metal, on which were written “for Jehovah” and “for the scapegoat”.The manner of Moses’s choosing the seventy elders is said to have been handled in this way.
- The stones shone whenever the Glory of God was present.
- The illumination of certain letters the divine will was revealed.
- The letters moved from their places to form words.
- The Urim and Thummim were two sacred lots, one indicating an affirmative or favourable answer, the other a negative or unfavorable answer.
The common mode of casting lots was to write the names of the persons and put them in one urn, and the name of the office. These were then placed in an urn with other pieces of stone which were blank. Unless indeed we surmise for the occasion the existence of a third nameless blank lot.
I have not included the rather more fanciful or mystical ideas in my interpretation of the Urim and Thummim, nor how it relates to the interpretations of the Urim and Thummim or the casting of lots. I don’t personally think the notion of letters being illuminated or letters moving in a supernatural way was the way in which the Urim and Thummim were to be interpreted. I think it was more simplistic and natural rather than supernatural. I think that not because I don’t believe God could move supernaturally at the time the Urim and Thummim were consulted. On the contrary, God is capable of doing anything at the time when His priests sought His will on behalf of the people. But rather I believe it was a more natural process that was available to the priests of old but which also became the basis for a normal, natural approach to seeking God in New Testament times. Seeking God was not to be a mystical, supernatural experience but was to be a natural, personal approach to our heavenly Father. Therefore it stands to reason that it ought to be normal and easy. Not all of us would be equipped to delve into supernatural ways of approaching God. God made access to His presence and His response to us easy and available.
It is clear that the traditional understanding of the Urim and Thummim is that there is a polarization between the Urim and the Thummim. As in the case of the Scape Goat and the Goat destined for sacrifice or the positive and the negative split or the Name and the Office, there are always two elements set against one another. However, there is enough of a hint in the evidence related to the Urim and Thummim and in the appraisal of the Casting of Lots in the New Testament period, to suggest there could well have been a third category. The assumption is that it was a blank object, a bland middle of the road category, namely neither the positive (Yes) or the negative (No) polarization. I think this naturally fits the modern way of thinking. God answers our prayers in three ways: Yes, No and Wait. Not only does a three way split on the Urim and Thummim fit our modern concept but it also establishes a consistency in God which ensures seeking God was to be the same yesterday, today and forever. It all fits in my thinking that the way God was sought in the past and the way we are to seek Him now is the same.
Allow me now to address the”serious difficulty” which arises from the claim that the answers required from the Urim and Thummim are not always the equivalent of “yes” or “no”. In other words, the point is that we are not always looking for just a “yes” or “no” answer. When the disciples or Moses were seeking God as to who among a large number of people were to be chosen, they need more than a “yes” or “no”answer. However, if the Urim and Thummim or the casting of lots were applied to pairings of names, then the selection of multiple names is effectively gained by yes/no answers if you simply apply the Urim and Thummim or casting of lots to each successive pairs. I wonder if at times God gave “a blank stone” as an indication that for this candidate it wasn’t a yes or no answer. Give this person time and they would be suitable further down the track. I.e. Just wait, their time will come. Is it possible that the short term solution of the Urim and Thummim yes/no response or the casting of lots was an interim measure? Something to give those seeking an answer, until the coming of the Holy Spirit when God’s people would have the Holy Spirit within them as God had promised.
Is it possible that the Urim and Thummim along with the casting of lots were used until such time as the Apostles / disciples had learned to wait on the Holy Spirit as they evidence in the Book of Acts? A new thought has come to me as I write this, that following the casting of lots in Acts 1, there are no other occasion referred to when the disciples or any of God’s people resort to the casting of lots. Which would account for its disappearance following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It would become more normal for God’s people to consult the Holy Spirit as God always intended. With restoration of access to Holy Spirit following Pentecost there was no longer a need for the Urim and Thummim or the Casting of Lots.
Think about it. We should not be so concerned with what the Urim and Thummim were nor how to use them. They were to be used solely by the priests anyway. Neither should we concern ourselves with the Casting of Lots and what it meant. Rather, we who are God’s and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, should be more concerned about hearing the voice of the Spirit. But in the interim, I am happy to believe that the Urim and Thummim and the casting of lots were a means of gaining from the Lord a Yes – No – Wait response.
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.Proverbs 16:23
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they divided his garments and cast lots for them. (Some might say what they didn’t know had to do with the casting of lots).Ian Vail
Is it possible that the Urim and Thummim and the casting of lots had to do with getting a Yes or No or Wait answer from God?Ian Vail
We who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit ought to concern ourselves more with learning to hear the voice of the Spirit.Ian Vail