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We find ourselves rapidly approaching a day that will, in all likelihood, become a focal point for historians that look back and try to explain the course America took as she charted her way through a violent storm seething with unpredictable waves and unprecedented perils. I am confident in my spirit that the outcomes of the days ahead will carry more significance to the future of America than perhaps any other day in our country’s history. So to say the least, we have a lot at stake in the days ahead.
I have tried to refrain from airing too many of my opinions and views regarding this monumental election, but call it what you want, I now feel a burden to share this devotion. As I have spent time in prayer these past weeks over the upcoming election, God has seemed to center my thoughts around a story in the Bible where the eleven apostles had to select or elect a replacement for Judas. At first, I argued with God about any relationship this account might have with the choices before America this month. The longer I prayed and the deeper I investigated, the more relevancy God revealed.
Let me set the stage so I can better share what I feel God revealed. We find the Apostles after the ascension of Jesus staring into the heavens. Jesus has just given them a promise I suspect they couldn’t fully comprehend and an assignment that I am sure terrified them (Acts 1:8). Two angels appeared and challenged these “Men of Galilee” to quit staring into space and get to work. Now that alone could be enough spiritual fodder for a devotion, but that’s not where we are going to stop. Gathering themselves, the Apostles walked back to Jerusalem, joined with the other disciples, and retreated to the upper room. Their first order of business…selecting a replacement for Judas. Now we’re getting somewhere. They nominated two individuals. A candidate named Joseph…or was it Barsabbas…or maybe his name was Justus. That kind of made me wonder if election fraud existed back then. I mean how can you run a campaign against someone with three identities? But then again, I guess we have seen that first hand again this year from both sides of the aisle. The other candidate was a guy named Mathias. Now this is where I got confused as to why God would bring this story to my attention while I was praying over this monumental election in America. I argued, “But God, both of these guys were with Jesus and the Apostles the entire time. I mean both of them are probably acceptable candidates that embody all Jesus taught and stood for. That is not really what we seem to be facing in America right now.” It was at that point where God began to reveal something to me.
The process for selecting the replacement for Judas involved the “casting of lots”. Casting lots was a method used by the Children of Israel in the Old Testament and by the early Christian disciples to determine the will of God. Lots could consist of stones, symbols, or even sticks with distinguishing marks on them. These “lots” were then thrown or rolled and the results were then interpreted. Scripture cites many examples of people casting lots when faced with the need to make an important decision where there did not seem to be enough guidance or wisdom to reach a conclusion. I realize this seems like flipping a coin or rolling dice in response to significant spiritual decisions. It is important to recognize that God never condemned the casting of lots in the Bible. In fact, Proverbs 16:33 records, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” Scripture shows where lots were used in the selection of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8–10), in the allocation of the Promised Land (Numbers 26:55-56), in the determination of the warriors who had to go into battle (Judges 20:9), in the division of priestly duties (Neh 10:34), and even in the determination of who God was upset with (Jonah 1:7). In the Old Testament it seemed that lots were appropriate when someone needed to discern the will of God. Like many other things that may have started as a method we would classify as “of the Lord”, lots eventually became a sort of twisted or perverted game people would play and even make wagers on. Suddenly lots became associated with gambling, like when the Roman soldiers “cast lots” for Jesus’ garments (Matt 27:35).
And yet, we find ourselves in the Upper Room facing a monumental decision. Which of these candidates is God’s chosen vessel? Who will carry the mantle of testifying to the resurrection of the Lord? Who will the electorate decide upon to represent them and their cause to the nations? There was a lot at stake that day. And while it’s not validated in scripture, I suspect in a room of 120 people there were probably factions that favored each of the candidates. Isn’t it possible that some of them might have even had reason not to like one of the candidates? Did they campaign? Were there mud-slinging accusations? Was the local news media trying to dig up dirt? Think about it. The guy running this election was Peter, and we all know he wasn’t exactly perfect. The news media could have had a field day with him. Just imagine the headlines after his sword episode in the Garden…or…his false testimony under oath in the courtyard…or…his jealous outbursts as he wanted to be considered the greatest among them. I have to believe there were people in the Upper Room that identified things in both candidates that they may not have liked. And yet, none of them skipped out on their responsibility of ushering in God’s elect. They stood together in unity and recognized they needed more than their own wisdom and the hearsay of the community to effectively determine God’s will in appointing the next leader. Faced with the magnitude of the decision before them, they broke out the lots.
I asked God to clarify what He was showing me. In this season of unequaled significance in the history of America, are you telling me we should just flip a coin or roll the dice? With the barrage of propaganda we are being fed on a daily basis from editorials disguised as news, are you suggesting we leave the outcome to chance? Let me reassure you that nothing is farther from the truth. The power of what I believe God wants us to see is found in Acts 1:24, and occurs before they cast the lots. Acts 1:24 says, “Then they all prayed, Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.” The selection of this twelfth Apostle was not left to chance or the personal biases of those in the room. What a glorious example of unity and a kingdom mindset. How wonderful it would be if people today would use the same criteria before “casting their lot”. We all know the rest of story. In Acts 1:26, the lot fell to Matthias and he was selected as the twelfth Apostle. I find it reassuring that scripture does not describe any dispute over the authenticity of this selection process or describe any challenge issued by the less fortunate candidate. Is that perhaps because everyone involved surrendered their personal will and humbled themselves enough to pray and seek the supreme will of God? How wonderful it would be if we could recreate that atmosphere.
I suddenly found myself wishing that every American had a set of lots they could use to clearly reveal the will of the Lord for this tumultuous election. Then it dawned on me. This account in Acts is the last mention of lots found in the Bible. Did something happen that day that made the tradition of lot casting outdated? The answer is YES. In fact, it only took 4 verses beyond the selection of Matthias for us to realize why lots aren’t worth a lot anymore. In Acts 2:4, God delivered on His promise and endued His children with the power and wisdom they need when they face such difficult decisions. Believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and given the ability to discern the will of God in difficult decisions without having to cast lots.
America finds itself facing a monumental decision. As we each try to decide which story to believe, attempt to discern which news network is telling the truth, or analyze which political party’s platform aligns with our core values, I simply hope we realize how much is at stake and decide to earnestly seek “the truth”. God has already provided a way for us to align our decisions and actions with His perfect will. Whatever decisions you face in the days ahead, my prayer is that you will put your trust in the Word of God, tune your heart to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and commit your efforts to the power of Fervent Prayer. If as Americans we will unite ourselves in the desire to seek first the will of God, then I am certain that the outcome of the election before us will be much more predictable than a roll of the dice or the flip of a coin. America has a lot at stake. Let’s depend upon the promise from God. It not only replaced the lot, it cost Him a lot.