The Casting of Lots (Jonah 1:7)
The sailors were at their wits end. They did not know what to do. They recognized that this storm was supernatural. They recognized that it was a judgment from God for some crime. The only way they could think of how to identify the culprit was to cast lots among themselves.
In the Old Testament, many people frequently resorted to the casting of lots in order to ascertain the will of God. Examples can be seen in the following: Achan, David as king, the way Joshua divided the land by lot, the duties of the priests and how they were determined by lot, and the way singers were chosen by lot. God gave Israel a method of determining His will since they had incomplete revelation. It was called the Urim and Thummin. These were two stones that were kept in the pocket of the High Priest’s breastplate.
It is generally agreed that these two stones were colored black and white. When the will of God was to be sought, the High Priest would reach into this pouch to ascertain God’s will by picking out one of these stones, either the Urim or the Thummin. It is thought that the white meant “Yes,” and the black, “No.” Is this how we have to ascertain God’s will today? The answer is, emphatically, NO! We have the full revelation of the will of God. Because that which is perfect has come, we have no more need for additional revelation, like signs and wonders, miracles and dreams, and visions and tongues. We have no need for Urim and Thummin. We now have the will of God from the Word of God.
Gambling is strictly forbidden in the Scriptures. Games of chance should have no place in the life of a believer. This also applies to other forms of seeking the unknown, such as astrology, soothsaying, witchcraft, spiritism, palmistry, and future telling. The child of God should live by faith in the written Word of God, and guide his life entirely by it.
There are only two instances of casting lots in the N.T. and in both cases they were wrong. The first example is when the soldiers drew lots for the robe of the Lord Jesus. The second is when the believers gave forth their lots to determine who was to take the place of Judas in Acts 1:26. This was a grave mistake; we never read of Mathias again. Some years later the Holy Spirit made His choice of the apostle Paul, and he became the twelfth apostle.
Consider Jonah’s predicament for a moment. Read Jonah 1:8-10. What a mess the prophet was in, due to his backslidden condition. He was out of the will of God. My dear Christian friend, are you living in the will of God? Are you in the place of blessing? Or is your life miserable because you are out of the will of God? What is it that is in your life that stifles your joy and testimony and makes you miserable, sour, unfruitful, cantankerous?
I’ve never met a happy backslider. [Describe how “the way of transgressors is hard.” An example can be seen through Israel.] We may find the answers to the previous questions in the story of Jonah. Three things contributed to Jonah’s condition:
- Jonah neglected the Word of God.
- Jonah neglected his prayer life.
- Jonah neglected his testimony.
This is the story of every backslider. Some examples are Elimelech, Samson, and Peter. [Describe these] Quote Jonah 1:2.
Notice how the type changes. Jonah goes from being a type of a guilty sinner to being a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, who took the sinner’s place. If the storm is to be stilled and the sailors are to be saved, the sinner must be dealt with. Jonah realized this. He said, “Take me up, cast me forth into the sea” (see Jonah 1:12).
This was God’s only way of saving the sailors from their doom; it was a substitutionary death. This is also true of the human race. We have sinned and God’s judgment is resting on us because of Adam’s sin. “He that believeth on the Son . . . He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
The sinner must die (the soul that sins must die), but instead, God wants to save you and that is why He sent the Lord Jesus into the world to take the sinner’s place. 2 Peter 2:9 says that God is “longsuffering, not willing that any should perish.” God made Christ to be sin for us and take the sinner’s place. The following verses illustrate this truth:
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He hath made Him to be sin for us […]”
Isaiah 53:6 “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
1 Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree.”
This clearly sets out the great doctrine of the substitution atonement of the Bible. Caiaphas the High Priest clearly stated the matter in John 11:45-52. He said, “It is expedient that one man die for the nation, that it perish not.” He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, “and not for that nation only, but that He should gather together in one the children of God.”
Because of Adam’s sin, the world lies under judgment. Now comes the second Man, the last Adam, the Lord of glory to take our place and our sin upon Himself. Like Jonah, He was cast into the sea of God’s judgment to die and to rise again for our redemption. Jonah 1:12 says, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you.” There was no other way to save the lives of the sailors. There is no other way for sinners to be saved. The Lord Jesus Christ must die. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation…no other name…whereby we must be saved.”
God’s wrath must be appeased. On the cross the Lord paid for every sin. He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished.” God’s wrath was appeased and salvation procured. God vindicated His approval by raising Him from the dead. Have you ever seen God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal substitute?
You cannot, by works, accomplish your own salvation. The sailors tried every device they knew to save themselves. They cast the cargo overboard even after Jonah told them that their only hope of salvation was to cast him overboard. They insisted on rowing harder than ever before in the hope that by their own efforts and works they would reach safety and make the death of a substitute unnecessary, but it all failed. They had to come to the place where they were willing to accept the death of another if they were to be saved.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, not of works […]”
Isaiah 64:6 “our righteousness acts are as filthy rags […]”
Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”