How great is it that you no longer have to put decisions for your life in the hands of a small group of leaders who roll the dice to see which way to send you! Not that you should exclude spiritual leaders from key decisions, but God has deposited his very Living Spirit in you, and he expects you to engage him in matters great and small. God will speak to you and direct you if you will nurture that relationship. And that, my friend, says a lot about what God thinks of you.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 24:30-31
These were the descendants of Levi in their various families. Like the descendants of Aaron, they were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank. Lots were drawn in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the family leaders of the priests and the Levites.
This particular historical section of scripture describes in great detail how King David brilliantly organized Israel’s worship. Hundreds of years prior, Moses provided the blueprints for the physical construction of the tabernacle—the tent of meeting—as well as the details of how worship would take place through a system of sacrifices and offerings administered by priest and Levites. Now that centuries had passed, Israel’s place of worship was transitioning to a permanent home in Jerusalem (the tabernacle was in Gideon, but would later be replaced by Solomon’s temple), and the number of priests and Levites had grown exponentially, so a refined and expanded system was critically necessary.
And King David, leader extraordinaire, singer and songwriter, and passionate worshiper of Yahweh, set to work reforming Israel’s worship. One of the things he needed to reorganize was the rotation of the thousands of priests and Levites who existed, literally, to physically serve in the temple. His challenge was how to squeeze in so many of these ministers of worship. So in fairness to all, his senior leadership team casts lots.
Casting lots? How could such an arbitrary activity be fair? Wasn’t this practice, which is used in more than one place in scripture, nothing more than depending on randomness to provide direction? Why would the God of Israel, who demanded strict obedience to his law, which he had made patently clear, allow this luck-of-the-draw process for determining important matters?
We don’t know for sure, but we do know that God is perfect in all his ways. We also know, in a general sense, that what is explained in scripture is not necessarily the equivalent of what God excuses. Given that, we can make some educated guesses about the casting of lots. Here is what the Quest Study Bible says about the process in it’s commentary on Proverbs 18:18:
How did God work through such an arbitrary process? Casting lots was a means used to settle disputed questions. In the absence of clear moral justification for deciding one way or another, this ancient equivalent of “flipping a coin” resolved the matter quickly and decisively. Though the means might appear arbitrary, participants fully believed God was involved: the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:33). God could certainly have directed the results of any such process.
The Israelites were fully committed to the belief that God controlled everything, even their methodologies for discerning his will. That is why you find several instances of casting lots in scripture, where a variety of instruments for finding out what God thought regarding an important matter are employed—sticks, marked pebbles and the Urim and Thummim. (Exodus 28:30)
Sounds weird, and a bit superstitious, but keep in mind that God never condemned the practice, and he seemed to actually sanction it. (Leviticus 16:8, Proverbs 18:8) Keep in mind also that the final recorded instance of lot casting was in the New Testament (Acts 1:16), where the Apostles used it to determine who would take Judas’s slot on the team of Apostolic leaders. Following that final instance, the Holy Spirit fell on the believers, and from that point on, they had an immediate and sure link to the mind of God. Going forward, God expected his people to discern his will from Spirit-directed prayer used in conjunction with wise counsel of the spiritually mature and the preaching of the Word.
Now what does that mean for you today? In a general sense, how great is it that you no longer have to put decisions for your life in the hands of a small group of leaders who roll the dice to see which way to send you! Not that you should exclude spiritual leaders from key decisions, but God has deposited his very Living Spirit in you, and he expects you to engage him in matters great and small. God will speak to you and direct you if you will nurture that relationship. And that, my friend, says a lot about what God thinks of you.
In a narrower sense, as it relates to this passage, casting lots to determine the rotation of temple workers showed how much God cared about details that might otherwise have seemed irrelevant to the hundreds of thousands of Israelites who were neither priests nor Levites. Why would they even care? But God wanted to make sure everybody within the Levitical calling got a chance to serve. What that shows us is that God is engaged in our lives, even in the smallest details, and he is fair. And a God who is engaged, and fair is a good God—and that is the same God who is involved in your life even as we speak.
We don’t know a lot about lots, but we do know that God cares a lot about us!