And they cast their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts of the Apostles 1:26
With the retirement and resignation of Pope Benedict, the worldwide media is buzzing about who will become the new pope. Once again, cardinals from the worldwide Catholic Church will gather to choose the church's next leader. There will be discussion, debate, prayer and finally a decision.
Their ways of choosing is unlike that of the disciples who chose to use the method of casting lots. When Judas Iscariot lost his place because he betrayed Jesus, it was decided by the disciples of Jesus that someone should take Judas' place. The method of casting lots shows up throughout the Bible, also in the using of the Urim and Thummin. God was seen as a God who was involved in choices and One who would show His choice by the lot. Using the lot shows not only God's immediacy and nearness but His power to direct small and great things.
And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit. Numbers 33:54
Then Saul prayed to the LORD, the God of Israel, "Give me the right answer." And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 1 Samuel 14:41
We--the priests, the Levites and the people--have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the Law. Nehemiah 10:34
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33
According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Luke 1:9
The lot causes contentions to cease, and decides between the mighty. Proverbs 18:18
Matthias was chosen as the twelfth apostle but no more is known of him after that choice. Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostle was more concerned with writing about Paul and how Christianity was brought to the Gentiles, therefore he wrote very little about the other disciples.
However this casting of lots -- whether it was dice, flipping a coin, or seeing which stone falls out of a bag-- would end all disputes and be acknowledged as God's choice and will.
Casting of lots was also used by secular people in the Bible.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. Psalms 22:18
"Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did. John 19:24
Paul later modified this in his doctrinal epistles to Timothy and Titus, by suggesting what qualities a good deacon or elder should have. Perhaps the lot was still used, after a pool of candidates were approved.
Casting lots can be abused and might lead go gambling and irresponsiblity In some cases, it might even lead to an extreme belief in fatalism and the belief that "everything happens for a reason." But, who is to say that it might not serve a purpose, making room in human decisions for God to show His hand?