Sunday, September 13, 2015

How Are We To Understand the Casting of Lots in Scripture?

By John Sanidopoulos

"The lots are cast into the lap, but they are disposed of by the Lord" (Prov. 16:33).

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite writes: "Some believe that by lots and raffles is meant that the divine Apostles followed what is irrational and according to chance, as those people who are of the flesh and worldly. This is not acceptable to the divine Dionysius the Areopagite. Rather he says that by lots is meant divine words, a divine gift, which revealed to the choir of Apostles what has been chosen by God. He says: 'Now concerning the divine lot, which fell as a divine decree upon Matthias, others have expressed another view, not clearly, as I think, but I will express my own sentiment. For it seems to me that by lot is meant a certain thearchic gift, pointing out to that Hierarchical Choir him who was designated by the divine election; more particularly, because the divine Hierarch must not perform the sacerdotal acts of his own motion, but, under God, moving him to do them as prescribed by the Hierarchy and Heaven' (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Ch. 5). Clement Canonicus says about lots: 'It was common to regard lots as superstitious, when they were used without divine command or calling. When God therefore appointed their use, then lots were used in obedience to God. In other circumstances, we tempt Him.' Apolinarius interprets the text, 'But the land shall be divided by lot' (Numb. 26:55), saying: 'Nothing happens by lot, but by the will of God.' The sacred Theophylact interprets the passage from Jonah, 'Then the crew cast lots' (Jon. 1:7), as follows: 'Do not think that he was chosen by lot, but God had elected him.'"

It should be added, that John Chrysostom inserts after the text, "And they gave forth their lots" (Acts 1:26) the following comment: "For the Spirit had not yet been sent" (Homilies on Acts, 2). Chrysostom goes on to explain: "They said not, 'choose', but, 'show the chosen one'; knowing that all things were foreordained by God; 'Whom You chose, one of these two', they said, 'to have his lot in this ministry and apostleship. And they gave them their lots.' For they did not yet consider themselves to be worthy to be informed by some sign. And besides, if in a case where neither prayer was made, nor men of worth were the agents, the casting of lots so much availed, because it was done of a right intention, I mean in the case of Jonah (Jon. 1:7); much more did it here."

Therefore, the casting of lots did not leave things to chance or determine the will of God before the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, but it revealed the will of God to those who sought His will but did not receive a direct message from Him. After Pentecost, the will of God is revealed by those who have acquired the Holy Spirit, and it comes directly from the Holy Spirit through His vessels, both by charismatic men and women as well as the tradition of the Church, especially the Hierarchy who are to be chosen from among the deified, those who have acquired the Holy Spirit, according to Dionysius the Areopagite, in order to properly shepherd the flock of Christ according to the divine will. For this reason lot casting is no longer used in the Church, but instead we are called, especially Hierarchs, to that intimate union with God where His will is revealed to us directly, or at least by those who have attained such a spiritual state.