Yesterday we saw in Acts 1.15-20 that the apostles knew that another needed to be added to their ranks because of the Word of God given to them in Scripture. Today, they take this one step further and go ahead with appointing someone to fill the spot left by Judas.
They have one major qualification for the one major role: the man must have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us…The new man must have, simply, been around since things began (from the baptism of John). The task at hand is stated in v.22: to become with us a witness to his resurrection.
Then, prayers are prayed and lots are cast (vv.24-26a) and Matthias is numbered with the eleven apostles (vv.26b). Some object to the casting of lots (essentially rolling a dice or drawing straws). The apostles had stepped forward in faith that Scripture was showing them they needed a replacement for Judas and casting lots was a practical and Scriptural way of doing things:
The dice are thrown into the lap, but their every decision is from the LORD.
(Proverbs 16.33, NET)
I love what David Guzik wrote about this:
“The disciples were bold enough to make a decision because they knew from God’s Word that this is what He wanted. The apostles did not sense an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them; that was yet to come. But God did not leave them without guidance. They knew what to do from the Word.
Of course, even if we do sense a special guidance from the Holy Spirit, we still have God’s voice permanently established in His Word. Any perceived guidance from the Holy Spirit will never disobey God’s written word to us.”
Yes, the method might seem odd to us who have lived in the post-enlightenment-period West where reason and self-reliance are held up as key, but as far back as Exodus 28 God’s people have used physical items to discern spiritual guidance. Remember, this all happened before the coming of the Holy Spirit, whereafter God’s people had access to His guidance and presence like never before.
Then they cast lots for them, and the one chosen was Matthias; so he was counted with the eleven apostles.
(Acts 1.26, NET)
Whether we marvel at the method or not, God’s people sought His will for their situation and stepped forward in faith when they had an answer from Him. As we are thinking about Acts being prescriptive or descriptive, no, we don’t need to carry dice around for every decision. The indwelling Holy Spirit and the often-in-your-pocket Word of God are enough.