-Proverbs 16:33 “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Happy Irish-American heritage month! And, double bonus round, it’s also Women’s History month. Luckily, for you, I’m both, so I can usher in your jolly celebrations and shenanigans until March 31. You’re welcome!
I always hear people talk about “the luck of the Irish” which seems to suggest that we are extremely lucky people with exceptional fortune does it not? But, I recently learned that like most terms associated with Irish American history, it wasn’t meant as a compliment. It never specified that that their luck was good, that is just the tag we have put on it through the years. No, it’s more to insinuate that the only way the Irish could achieve any success was because of dumb luck, certainly it couldn’t be because of intelligence. I just learned this from Edward O’Donnell’s book, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History. A little light reading for St. Paddy’s Day am I right?! I love learning about my cultural history. I think everyone should know their heritage – and it wouldn’t hurt to know about the heritage of others to better understand each other. Just my two pennies worth.
Somehow, I think I inherently knew that it never referred to good luck though, because I have said for as long as I can remember “if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” When others buy tickets for the Powerball, or Mega-Millions, I joke that I might as well throw a dollar out the car window so my loss could actually help someone who needed it.
The truth is, I don’t believe in luck at all. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. Another redhead whom I greatly admire, Thomas Jefferson, although Scottish not Irish, said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” And that, my friend, is my opinion in a nutshell.
The last time we talked, we chatted a bit about God directing our steps and being in control of what happens. Our wise friend, Solomon, chimes in again with Proverbs 16:33, this time telling us that God is in charge of the outcome of lot casting, or the outcome of “fate.” We see what we might refer to now as “luck” many times in the Bible. The Israelites cast lots to determine God’s will. (Joshua 18:6-10, I Chronicles 24:5, 31) The book of Jonah tells us the reluctant prophet tried to run away from God’s calling and hopped a ship going the opposite direction. A crazy storm kicked up that was going to sink them and the sailors believed it was because someone had angered the gods…they weren’t too far off from the truth. So they cast lots to see who the culprit was so they could toss him overboard. Lot casting wasn’t uncommon in ancient culture, but it was God’s people who used it as God’s way of revealing what He wanted them to know. And for all of my “but I’m a New Testament Christian” friends, I didn’t want to leave you out. The Gospels tell us that the soldiers cast lots to divvy up Jesus’ coat. Whether or not this was the coat that He owned that they took from him or the fancy robe that they mocked Him in we don’t know. But it was something worth gambling for in order to win. In fact, we see this practice again in Acts 1:26. The disciples of Jesus used this method to determine who should replace Judas Iscariot, and Matthias was chosen.
So what does it actually mean to cast lots? I always picture a scene from Guy and Dolls in my head; back alley gangsters shooting craps while singing “Luck Be A Lady.” No? Just me?
Lots were basically a form of divination. It may have been bones, pebbles or runes tossed similar to rolling dice; or it could have been the reading of tea leaves that determined a decision to a particular question asked. A sacred person of some sort, a prophet, a holy man, or a seer, would know out to read the outcome. Or in the cases referenced above, the will of God. Today, this would be similar to us tossing a coin or drawing straws.
Now I know what you’re saying – God’s people are to just know His will and get our direction from him. He tells us. But, how were they to do that, do you think? How would He tell them? We have a 66 book, 1189 chapter, sacred text as a jumping off point. And, we have the Holy Spirit now that they didn’t have then. (John 16:13-14) Well, they used the common practice of lots or some variation of that. I would imagine it was a sacred process for the Israelites and Jesus’ followers. It wasn’t merely the toss of a coin to make a decision by fate or luck. It was a prayerful belief that God was in control of the outcome, It was a tool of necessity used by God in order to know what they were supposed to do.
And even today with the benefit of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we aren’t so different are we? We may not cast lots to make decisions, but we sure think that things just happen by coincidence, or accident, or a fluke. As believers though, we should know there is no such thing as coincidence. Or to quote another wise sage, Master Oogway, “there are no accidents.” (King Fu Panda)
There’s an old Yiddish saying that goes “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” or “Man Plans, God Laughs.” I think the old Rabbi that said it first was paraphrasing Solomon in Proverbs 16.
So does this mean we shouldn’t invest in our 401(k), buy a home, or plan for our kids college tuition? Of course not! I think it is more about being a fluid to God’s will, or you know, go with the flow man.
It’s good to have a plan, the wisdom in Proverbs is full of guidance on planning and being prepared. If you take a deep look at the Proverbs 31woman that many of us Christian women aspire to be like, she is a perfect example of a business woman, a hard worker, and a provider — with a PLAN. That’s called being wise. That doesn’t negate our trust in God. We believe that He has what’s best for us in mind and will take us on the route that is most beneficial to us.
Did you know that there was a faster route to the promised land from Egypt? Exodus 13:17 tells us that God didn’t take them that way ON PUROSE. He knew that they would have to fight for the land right away, and He knew they couldn’t handle it. Even if they were an army physically prepared for battle, their faith was not in a place that they could foresee victory. They didn’t know Him yet. They needed a relationship first in order to trust. And it was through that time of wandering and relying on Him that gave them the fortitude to step into the best that God had for them.
What about you? Is God leading you the long way around because He knows you’re not ready for the battle? Start asking Him to reveal Himself and His plan to you. You may only be able to handle a little at a time, so ask Him to go before you to clear the way like He did the Israelites.
And as we seek him together, to know his plans for us, (Jeremiah 29:11) I’ll leave you with this Irish blessing…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand. (John 10:28)