Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
This story is sometimes seen controversially in regard to making decisions. Was Matthias really God’s choice to take the place of Judas, or was it the Apostle Paul? There are arguments on both sides. However, they were following what they understood to be good practice at the time. They were in Jerusalem, Jesus had ascended and they were waiting in prayer. This was all being done in obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ. They had no idea how the arrival of the Holy Spirit would change things — and them. Instead they simply had to go on what they knew and that included the traditional practices of selecting priests.
The process they outlined was really quite good as they established criteria for this individual. To be numbered among the apostles the individual had to have been personally discipled by Jesus, present from the time of his baptism until his ascension, and a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. After this criteria was determined they identified two excellent candidates. They didn’t pray long and loud public prayers over the situation, but simply laid it out before the Lord, asking for divine intervention in the decision making process. They believed that God knew their need and would direct. Matthias was chosen.
Interestingly, after the day of Pentecost their decision making process begins to shift. We see this when they have to raise up leaders for the new growing church but at the time this decision was made, they used all the information they had to try and do their best. It was the most dependable decision making in their day.
Making decisions can sometimes be a rather fearful adventure. Worrying about making the right decision may result in making no decision. While people may criticize the way in which the apostles chose the person to replace Judas, at least they did make a decision and they followed a good process. I think that this does lay the groundwork for dependable decision making.
What we learn from the disciples is that when it comes to making a decision — we need to know the real question. For them, it was to find an apostle to round out the twelve. Sometimes we muddy the decision-making process by not identifying the real need. You can’t come up with a solution if you don’t know the problem.
After determining the need, the disciples took the time to set-up the qualifications for the person to fill that need. When making decisions we must slow down enough to establish the details of the need. Not just any person or solution is going to solve our problem. It’s not about the person that we know the best or a friend who needs to find a place to work, it’s about the best fit for the role. There were a lot of people who had been a part of the Jesus followers but they narrowed their choice down to these two.
Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in the decision-making process. Even if we establish a good process, it needs to be infused with God’s leading. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit and so we lean into that discernment when making decisions.
Now, regarding the casting of lots — I suppose we could call that a voting process — because I wouldn’t recommend just throwing some dice and seeing who wins. We live on the other side of Pentecost but that does not give us the excuse to not consider a thoughtful and careful process of decision making. We are provided with good examples to work in the kingdom.
Lord, thank you for the direction you provide for us in life. Amen.
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