Thursday, October 8, 2009

A LOT to Think About

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Isaiah 30:21, “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”(NLT)

Have you ever had times in your life when you’re seeking God’s direction and just don’t feel like you’re getting a clear answer? I know I have. And a thought I’ve had on more than one occasion is that I wish it was as easy to hear God as it is to flip a coin. You know, something like, Okay, God. Heads I take the job, tails I don’t.

Wouldn’t it be great to get such a decisive, clear answer just likety-split like that and know that God landed the coin to point out His will?

That line of thinking is what caused me to be so enthralled the first time I read in the Old Testament about the Urim and Thummim, specific lots that were cast to indicate the Lord’s will. But not just anyone could interpret them; only priests were given the privilege, beginning with Aaron: “Insert the Urim and Thummim into the sacred chestpiece so they will be carried over Aaron’s heart when he goes into the Lord’s presence. In this way, Aaron will always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord”(Exodus 28:30, NLT).

There must’ve been much more to the Urim and Thummim than heads and tails though, because answers sought using them were more than just “yes or no” questions. Research I’ve done reveals that we just don’t know much about how they were used at all. But several commentaries make a point to distinguish the Urim and Thummim from such abominations as devinations or sorcery because of the recognition they were the Lord’s means of providing revelation.

Scriptural examples of the use of lots are interesting. 1 Samuel 14:42 says that Saul told the priest to "'Cast the lots between me and Jonathan—and death to the one God points to!’ The soldiers protested, ‘No—this is not right. Stop this!’ But Saul pushed on anyway. They cast the lots, Urim and Thummim, and the lot fell to Jonathan.”(MSG) It’s worth mentioning that up to this point, Saul had been rash with a goofy oath about his men not eating before getting revenge on the Phillistines. Jonathan hadn’t heard the oath and ate some honey. Saul knew someone had broken the oath because the Lord didn’t provide a clear answer to his previous question (v. 37-38).

The truth was illuminated through the lots, but God used it to illustrate Saul’s increasingly unstable leadership. The people recognized how asinine it would be to kill Jonathan and they rescued him from his crazy father. I’m sure they didn’t soon forget Saul was ready to murder his son for the sake of an oath that was questionable to begin with.

Look what happens later when Saul once again consults God through lots: “He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets”(1 Samuel, 28:6, NIV). Mind you, Saul had just cleared out all the mediums and psychics from the land, but when he didn’t get a response from the Lord right away who did he turn to? A witch from Endor who calls up Samuel’s spirit (v. 7-22). Had God not provided an answer this time to see what other measures Saul might take? Or because no priest was present? Or was his voice not clear because Saul’s heart wasn’t earnest?

Generations later, at the end of Acts 1, the disciples are discussing a replacement for Judas Iscariot and two men are nominated. Verses 24-26 state, “Then they all prayed for the right man to be chosen. ‘Oh Lord,’ they said, ‘you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas the traitor in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.' Then they cast lots and in this way Matthias was chosen and became and apostle with the other eleven."

Now here's the cool part: Right after this event is listed at the end of Acts 1, Acts 2 begins with the arrival of the Holy Spirit! From that point on, believers had (and have!) the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit guiding us. Just as the torn curtain in the temple illustrated our direct access to God's throne room--no priest needed--so too, does the gift of the spirit trump the need to seek direction through lots. Also from that point on in scripture, no other reference to casting lots is made.

Our job, then, when we need a clear word? Simply trust and obey. Don't grieve the spirit by casting verbal lots at God. Gather prayer warriors. Listen for a still, small voice. Seek direction and confirmation through the Word and through life encounters. And be patient. That's the kind of faith the Lord honors.

Father, give us patience and discernment to recognize the varied beautiful ways You speak to us. Help us to know your voice.

Have you ever considered verbally casting lots with God? The Word promises that the Holy Spirit leads us to the truth (John 14:17). Be alert for the Spirit's promptings through the Word, your prayer time, and your daily experiences.

Power Verses:
John 14:17, "He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you."(NLT)
James 1:25, But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action."(MSG)
John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”(NKJV)

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