Casting Lots Over Matthias

“What if we flipped a coin?” a friend once proposed. “I mean, we like both applicants the same amount and the disciples more or less did the same thing when they chose Matthias to take Judas’s place as the twelfth disciple.”

I hadn’t been given a proposal quite like that before. There were lots of ways in ancient culture to “divine” information from the heavens, but the majority of “divination” techniques were forbidden to Israel since divination was communication with false gods, demons, and even the souls of the dead. God did, however, leave a few options open for Israel to ascertain information from him directly, like by using the Urim and Thummim or by casting lots. But the problem with something like casting lots is that, though you can certainly prove that someone drew the short straw, you can’t certainly prove that God inspired them drawing it.

This brings us to Jesus’s confused disciples. Jesus had just ascended into Heaven and they were told to go wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit showed up. But the Holy Spirit had not shown up yet and Peter was reading his Bible when he came across an old Psalm: “Let another take his office.” Peter took this as a word of knowledge as to what to do about the loss of Judas, and so he made Justus and Matthias cast lots to see who God would choose to become the next disciple.

But the irony here is that the disciples were just days away from receiving the Holy Spirit. Had they just waited, God’s own Spirit could have spoken to them directly as to who to select; for the Holy Spirit is our source of God’s wisdom. With him there is never need again to cast lots or to use the Urim and Thummim. We are Christians living after Pentecost, so we have direct access to God via his Spirit. Let us ask for wisdom and work hard to discern what we hear.

*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 1:15-26 found in today’s reading at

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