Yesterday I had a conversation about the intersection of theology and physics, asking how we blend these two disciplines in our beliefs. For example, a former colleague once asked me this: if God is truly outside of time and experiences all of time constantly, then could we pray for his intervention in things that have already happened? Our prayers would reach God who would be experiencing those very moments which for us are in the past. Might we have prayed for past events and seen God change them without knowing it?
Today I want to ask a different question. If God is truly all-powerful and in control of the events going on around us, then what is the most efficient and quick way to discern His will? With verbal communication from God rare these days, how might we discern God’s will in large decisions quickly? The answer is: Urim and Thummim!
The Urim and Thummim are found throughout the Old Testament. These were two small, flat objects, probably stones, one black and one white presumably. These were used to determine courses of action, guilt and innocence, and practically any matter where a “yes – no” answer would work. The priest wore these things in his breastplate worn for worship. They were used, probably by drawing one out of a small bag, to determine God’s will. In the case of civil courts, drawing the white stone would indicate innocence, while drawing the black one would indicate guilt. And if God were truly all-powerful, and truly wanted to give us His will, He would make us choose the right stone.
Elsewhere, the same concept is used without the stones and we call it “drawing lots”. We see this with Jonah, with Jesus’ garments on the cross, and now here in the choosing of a disciple to replace Judas. In modern parlance, these hugely significant decisions, sometimes with life or death consequences, were chosen by a coin toss.
Did God speak through these seemingly random short-straw methods? What is the modern day implication of this for the church? What happens when we have to put our theological beliefs in practice with physical consequences?