Casting (Bal)lots

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. –Proverbs 16:33

Many have commented how incredible it is that we have come to the point of having these two major presidential candidates before us as a nation. I have heard it expressed that it is like trying to choose whether you would prefer a boisterous, drunken uncle or a conniving, wicked stepmother. As people agonize over how to vote tomorrow, perhaps it is helpful to remember the verse above.

Much like we use dice or choose straws, lots were pebbles or sticks with markings representing different parties. They were cast and one chosen, most likely, by landing in a designated spot. This practice was common in biblical times. Aaron casts lots to see which goat would be the offering and the other the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. Joshua cast lots to divide the land of Israel among the families of the tribes. In the days of David lots were cast to see which men would serve in the various priestly functions. So common was the practice that lots were cast to figure out that it was Jonah on the ship that had brought about the storm. Even the early church used lots before the giving of the Spirit, as leadership for a new apostle was chosen in Acts 1 by casting them.

Sometimes modern man believes he has “outgrown” such practices, that by voting we are imposing our will and choosing our leaders in a much more sophisticated way. The word ballot is from a Latin word meaning a small ball, as ancient elections used small colored balls placed in a container to record the voter’s decisions. Now we use paper tickets or even computer screens to fill out our ballots. Yet this is no guarantee that we control the outcome.

For recall the election year debacle of 2000 in the presidential race between Al Gore and George Bush. The results of the presidential election remained uncertain for several weeks as ballots in Florida were recounted, hanging chads and dimples judged, and eventually the Supreme Court weighing-in with a 5-4 split decision. We were reminded just how uncertain the best attempts at being equitable can be.

We think we have solved such things with computerized systems and extra precautions. Yet still glitches occur (in several places early votes seemed to switch from what was cast), votes can be lost in some places, people not registered to vote may be doing so, and concerns about hackers grow. Sometimes, just simple things happen. A while back, my wife shut down the election in our precinct for a time as her ballot jammed the collecting and reading machine.  We were amazed at how it took four or five people ten minutes or so to figure out how to get it running again. Eventually a lady took a key, opened up the box we thought was to be sealed until the election was over, and yanked the ballot down into the box.  Who knows if her vote counted?  I had great fun teasing Miriam about this providence on the way out to the car, until I realized I had locked the keys into it and had to walk home to get another set.

These anecdotes remind us of the truth of the verse above. The best attempts of man to control things fail. We are at the mercy of the sovereign God who rules over all things. Nothing happens by chance, not even the roll of the die or the casting of the lot. For what do we do with our ballots? We cast them. So we can say, “The ballot is cast, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

As we come to the election then, let us be reminded that regardless of how encouraged or disappointed we are at the results, the will of the Lord will be accomplished. So as you vote, rejoice you can enter into the privilege, for it is a right of citizenship. But also, as you vote, do not overestimate its significance. If your vote falls with the result you wanted, be humble. And if your vote fails to achieve your desire, be submitted. For the results will show us God’s will for the nation and, again given the choices before us, means we should indeed be humbling ourselves before him.

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