The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
If men cannot solve a dilemma, God can! Men have faced decisions that were nearly or totally equal in their minds. In such cases, a faithful use of the lot decided it. At other times, men were not able to resolve disagreements among parties. In such cases, a faithful use of the lot peacefully ended the conflict. In both cases, God settled the confusion.
What is a lot? It is a chance event used to settle a dilemma. In this day, men might flip a coin, roll dice, or draw straws. The purpose is to let the chance event choose a solution from two or more alternatives. In Bible times, the purpose and use of the lot were the same, though the actual items used for the lot may not have been coins, dice, or straws.
If a solution could not be reached by other means, a lot would end contentions, if all parties submitted to the method and outcome of the lot. The mighty are mentioned, because rich and powerful parties are more prone to contention, are more fierce and stubborn in it, have greater assets at risk, and are more able to continue lengthy conflicts. If the lot could settle differences of great men, then surely it was sufficient for the poor.
Are there chance events in the universe? Yes, from your view! No, from God’s view! When you flip a coin, you cannot predict the result beyond probability mathematics, which is 100% ignorant and uncertain as to any specific outcome. But God has already purposed the outcome of every lot and all so-called chance events in His secret will (Deut 29:29). Just ask Ahab (I Kgs 22:28-37)! All lots are entirely disposed by God (Pr 16:33)!
There is a sovereign God in heaven, and wise men see His choices for their lives in the past and future. He did not ask if you wanted existence, or the conditions of it. And you cannot end it. Give Him glory! Wise men accept His choices in the past (Pr 22:2; Is 45:9; I Cor 4:7), and they humbly submit to His will for the future (Jas 4:13-15). They tremble before a Being with such dreadful authority and power (Job 42:1-6; Rom 9:20-21).
Pagans have used the lot from antiquity. Without Scripture to guide them through life, they needed chance events to solve difficulties. The Bible shows Persians, Mediterranean sailors, and Romans using the lot (Esther 3:7; Jonah 1:7; Matt 27:35). Of course, Jehovah used each lot to accomplish His own purpose, even though they were ignorant of Him!
Israel used the lot to find God’s will for their national life. They used it to select the scapegoat (Lev 16:8), divide Canaan to ten tribes (Num 33:54; Jos 14:2; Acts 13:19), condemn Achan (Josh 7:16-19), pick Saul as king (I Sam 10:20-24), find Jonathan guilty (I Sam 14:40-42), give cities to the Levites (I Chron 6:63), settle the courses of the priests (I Chron 24:5,31), and pick inhabitants for Jerusalem (Neh 11:1). And the apostles even used a lot to settle on Matthias as the replacement apostle for Judas (Acts 1:23-26).
However, there is no use of the lot in the New Testament after Pentecost. With completed Scriptures and the gift of the Holy Ghost, there is clearly less need for a chance event to provide direction. The word of God is able to make the man of God perfect (I Cor 13:8-12; II Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; II Pet 1:19), and the Holy Spirit can direct his mind (Ps 143:10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 5:14-17; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9-17; 4:12; Heb 13:20-21).
If you face equal choices in all respects, or a dilemma you cannot solve by searching the Scriptures, seeking many counselors, or by prayer and fasting, then commit yourself to a solemn lot with a fervent prayer for God to honor it (I Sam 14:41; Ps 66:18; Acts 1:23-26; II Chr 30:18). Using the lot, even for serious matters, without these conditions opens you up to tempting the Lord and despising His inspired wisdom. Let the reader beware!
Though the Bible in both testaments endorsed the lot, it cannot be used for matters that wisdom should resolve, for doing so tempts the Lord (Pr 28:9; Matt 4:5-7). It is an evil symptom of human depravity that men would rather trust a lot than “thus saith the Lord.” God inspired written wisdom for your life, and you should heed it first (Ps 119:128). It is weak or devilish faith that requires “a fleece” to obey what has already been commanded.
Confusion where Jehovah has spoken is to reject God’s word (Dan 3:16-18; Rom 1:20-27; I Pet 3:6). Even in matters the Bible does not address, God will honor His churches (Matt 18:15-18; I Cor 6:1-5) and pastors (II Chr 19:8-10; Ezek 44:23-24; I Tim 5:17; Heb 13:7). Never let the lot replace His ordained means of wisdom. The Lord also allows you to follow your heart: He will direct your steps (Pr 16:9; Ruth 2:1-3; Jas 4:13-15).
Bible use of the lot cannot justify games of chance involving money or important matters. Only fools buy lottery tickets or gamble (Pr 1:32; 6:1-5). God ordained men should labor diligently (Pr 12:11; 13:11), avoid wasting their substance (Pr 12:27; 18:9), save money (Pr 6:6-8; 21:20), be able and ready to give to others (Eph 4:28; I Tim 6:17-19), and reject vain pursuits contrary to these goals (Pr 13:23; 28:19). Let the reader beware!
Do you recognize and submit to the sovereignty of God in the “chance events” of your life? The Most High chose your sex, parents, intelligence, nationality, appearance, and opportunities, among many other factors of life (Ps 139:16). He chose your spouse by arranging the circumstances of your romance, and He chose your job or profession by another set of circumstances. And He either gifted you for offices among men or not. Are you fully content with His perfect choices, as Israel was with the lot (Pr 16:33)?
Humble yourself before the dread sovereign of the universe and bless His glorious name for the choices He has made in your life, for He has done so by infinite wisdom for good and holy purposes (Pr 16:4; Is 57:15; 66:1-2). If you have hope of eternal life by His saving grace in Jesus Christ, then you are bound to give thanks for His choice of you to it (II Thess 2:13). Bring Him a gift of praise (Heb 13:15)! He is a great King (Mal 1:14)!