After the two men dressed in white told the disciples to stop standing around, looking into the clouds, the disciples went back to Jerusalem. They went to the upper room and “they all joined together constantly in prayer.” As they were in this waiting period between Jesus’ ascension and the day of pentecost (they had no real idea of when the Holy Spirit was going to come to them) Peter decided they needed to fill Judas’ place. They needed to have the 12 spots full. And it needed to be someone who had witnessed everything – from Jesus’ baptism to His resurrection.
They proposed two men, Barsabbas and Mathias. They had been constantly praying, then they said a prayer about which of these two men should take Judas’ spot. And then they did something interesting….
They cast lots. They rolled the dice. They flipped a coin.
This was fairly common in the Old Testament. There was a belief that casting lots was a way of letting God decide something. Just as when you flip a coin you don’t know which way it’s going to land, there is an element of ‘fate’ to it.
Why is this significant? For starters, this is the Bible’s last mention of casting lots. As far as we know, it doesn’t happen after this.
But, I think there is another reason this is significant. This is right before they receive the Holy Spirit. Up until Jesus, they had known God through the scriptures. While Jesus was with them, they knew God’s voice through Jesus. But, when you don’t know what to do and you want to do God’s will, if you don’t know how to hear from God how do you decide?
This was the way they knew to let God decide. To cast lots and whatever happens, happens. But all that was about to change with the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is significant because it’s a complete shift in how decisions would be made.
The disciples would move from making decisions by casting lots and hoping God would intervene to make the lots fall the right way to having the presence of God in them daily. After they received the Holy Spirit, they would have God in them, guiding them daily. There would no longer be a need to hope, they would know.
And especially for the disciples, since they knew Jesus so well and His voice, they would know how the Holy Spirit, the presence of God/Christ.
Often when we pray, we spend all of our time laying out our grocery list of requests before God. We talk and talk and talk. Or we complain to God about everything we don’t like and aren’t happy with. Or we yell our anger at God. But, how much time do we spend stopping and listening to God’s voice? Do we even know what that sounds like?
I’m afraid we don’t. I’m afraid I don’t.
How do we know? It begins with God’s word. We have to know what God says, we have to know what God has revealed to us. The more we know this, the more we will know if what we think we are hearing from God is actually God. God will not tell us something that contradicts his word. If what God is telling us goes against the Bible, it’s not God speaking.
We also have to develop a daily habit of listening for His voice. Reading scripture and worshipping, then allowing time for God to speak to us. Listen. Don’t speak, listen.
Every person who has put their faith in Jesus Christ has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is alive in us. Our job is to learn more and more each day to set aside our flesh and our sinful natures so that God’s voice comes through clearer and clearer.
Today, spend some time in reading God’s word. Read through the book of Ephesians if you don’t know where to start. Spend some time worshipping God, making much of Him. And then just listen. Allow God to speak to you. See what God says. Get to know His voice.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27
What is God saying to you?