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The 'casting of lots' in the Old Testament was a specific ritual whereby a priest, or petitioner through a priest, could inquire of God (Num 27:21m Ezra 2:62-63); as distinguished from lots cast by pagan nations, which were chance or divination. The priest would cast the Urim and the Thummin, much like getting a 'yes or no' answer from God. There were also twelve stones in the breastplate that could be used in conjunction, to determine matters regarding the twelve tribes (Ex 28:15-21). One of the examples of this is found in I Sam 14:41, "And Saul said: Lord, God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If this iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, Lord, God of Israel, give Urim; but if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim. Then Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot; and the people escaped" Casting the lot was very different from leaving something to chance, such as dice rolls or drawing straws. It was a direct inquiry of the Lord. Hence, while the priest physically casts the lot "into the lap", it's every judgement was directly from God (Prov 16:33). Compare this to rolling a die multiple times, and getting different results every time. While the rules binding dice are set by God (physics, probability), one could not construe every individual roll of a die to be direct revelation from God, without believing in a changeable God. If a priest were to cast the Urim and Thummin multiple times, it would always come up the same. However, this was unnecessary, as God's answer was final. In the old Testament, there were several ways of God communicating to the people. The primary ways were by the prophets, by visions/dreams, and by the casting of the Urim and Thummin by the priest. (I Sam 28:4-7). Now that Christ has come, and believers have the Holy Spirit, God has written His law directly on our hearts, and we can pray to God through Christ. The old system of priests is obsolete, for now Jesus is our High Priest. "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe" (Heb 1:1-2) Yet, in Old Testament times; the lot, dreams, and the prophets were often the people's only connection to gaining an answer from God. The Urim and the Thummin were kept inside the breastplate of the High Priest (Lev 8:6-8). They were used to determine many things, such as boundaries, sin, genealogy, or courses of action. It was generally not a good thing when Israel failed to inquire of the Lord, (John 9:3-15). Here are some notable examples in scripture: Determining boundaries: After being sent out to survey the land and divide it into seven parts, God assigned which tribe would receive which section (Josh 18) Sin: When Israel failed to conquer Ai, the Lord told Joshua that it was due to someone taking some of the things devoted to destruction. The next day, lots were cast to discover the culprit (Josh 7). Ancestry: After the exile, those who could not prove ancestry were forbidden from the priesthood or to eat of the holy things until a priest inquired of God to determine their ancestry. (Num 18:9-11, Ezra 2:62-63) Division of priestly service: Lots were cast as to where each family of priests would serve (I Chron 26:12-16) Choosing a King: The king of Israel, Saul, was chosen by lot/inquiry of the Lord (I Sam 10:17-24) There is also the famous example in the New Testament of Matthias being chosen by lot. (Acts 1:23-26). Much as the Israelites were to choose divisions of the land before God distributed it, here the Apostles used sensible criteria to choose out two possible men to take over Judas' ministry. God answered their prayer and Matthias was chosen. The practice of casting lots does not seem to have been used in the church past the giving of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit Himself convicts us of God's will.
Only to shed Light do I offer this: The LORD God gave to Moses the practice of casting lots for the Children of Israel as a way to know His Will in matters that were at issue as previously stated by my learned Brother and Sister. It is how they cast lots that I wish to share. *Each tribe had two stones. A different color from the rest that bore the resemblance of that tribe. The first twelve stones were placed in the Breastplate of the High Priest according to the location of the encampment of the tribe. So you had three rows on four sides to make a perfect square of the Breastplate. 777 777 777 777 (The attempt to make a square here sadly failed with my programing, however, you get the idea, smiles! Lena) This was the formation of the encampment of the tribes of Israel as they left Egypt and traveled to Canaan's Land. It was ordained by the LORD God Himself and recorded on the Breastplate of the High Priest. At the Bottom, or East side was Zebulun, Judah, and Issachar carbuncle, sardius, topaz On the Left or South side was Simeon, Reuben and Gad sapphire, emerald, diamond On the Top or the West side was Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh amethyst, ligure, agate On the Right or North side was Asher, Dan and Naphtali onyx, beryl, jasper As Ms. Jennifer correctly stated there were the Urim and Thummin stones (the Flashing Lights) that were also placed in the back of the Breastplate. When the High Priest inquired of the LORD, he stood before the veil. As he inquired, the Breastplate began to flash. Ju 20:18, 2 Sam 2:1 The Light of Judah would flash, meaning Judah would go to battle first. The second set of stones** were placed into the priest lap and used in the same way. Only this time, the stones would actually leap up from the lap of the priest. Outside of the Children of Israel and the One True God, the pagan practices of casting lots were a divination practice that the LORD God forbid His people to practice. Casting lots to ask the gods who had caused the seas to roar in Jonah's day was forbidden to him. Jonah knew he had angered the LORD by running from Him. While he did not know the salvation the LORD had planned for him with the great whale, he knew HE was the key to the salvation or damnation of the crew of that ship. I pray this additional information sheds greater Light to this most important subject. I feel that we as Christians must be led by the Flashing Lights of the Urim and Thummin, the Headship of Christ! I firmly believe that we can and should know the humble mind of Christ as Paul stated. Phil 2:5 Be Blessed Lena *Precious Gems in the Tabernacle by B.R.Hicks (C) Christ Gospel Churches Int'l, Inc., 1961 ** Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews
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