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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 14, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 1:15–17, 21–26

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus—for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (NRSV)

When I was a second-year resident assistant (RA) in college, the Director of Student Affairs and I drew lots to choose the next year’s RAs. This is true. I don’t think I was the only RA in on this unconventional selection process, but I distinctly remember, after every applicant had been interviewed, writing all their names on slips of paper, folding them, and then dropping them into a clear-plastic takeout container that moments before had held a club sandwich. The director prayed that God would guide our selection and then reached in and pulled out as many papers as positions. That was it.

You see where he got this hiring strategy, right? “And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). It is hard to know exactly what this lot-drawing procedure entailed, but we can observe two things about it at least. For one, drawing lots appears several times in the Hebrew scriptures as a method for decision making. Aaron does it in Leviticus, and so did Joshua. The sailors on Jonah’s storm-tossed boat cast lots to decide who to blame for that calamity.

In the New Testament, though, the only mention of the practice besides this one is at Jesus’ crucifixion. All of the Gospels report that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing, an echo of Psalm 22:18 (“they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots”).

It’s a way of leaving room for God in the making of significant decisions. It might seem arbitrary, but it’s not; the criteria Peter articulates for selection is quite specific. It needs to be someone who was there with Jesus from the beginning and can witness to what he said and did.

What big decisions are you facing in this season? How might you create some space for God to speak, once you’ve done your homework?

Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us the way you have chosen for us to take up our place in your ministry. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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