What subjects to study in school? Which jobs to take? How to discipline and advise our children? When we should take action or just sit back and observe our surroundings?Sometimes we know the right thing to do, but the actions of others….justified or not….keep us from acting. Sometimes our own wants….our selfishness… takes over preventing us from hearing God. Sometimes as the background noise in our lives becomes louder and louder it becomes more difficult to hear God.
Why can’t the path be clear instead of clear as mud?Reading through the Bible it seems the ancients had several opportunities to hear God when they needed guidance, and the Pentateuch was very clear on what NOT to do when seeking answers.
Deuteronomy 18: 10-13 provides a list of things that were detestable including interpreting omens, witchcraft, casting spells, and consulting the dead. These practices were so detestable they were punishable by death per Leviticus 20:6.The people of Babylon practiced divination so well they are the go-to culture when researching various ways the ancients used to contact the gods. They used astrology, analyzed cloud formations, the peculiar actions of animals and pouring liquid into basins to read the bubbles that were formed. There were even specially trained priests who read the livers of sacrificed animals. To the ancients it appeared the liver was the source of blood in the body and therefore must be the seat of life.
Divination was distasteful to the Israelites because it was detestable to the Lord, and the Lord couldn’t stomach it because it broke their faith in Him.
It makes sense to me, but even though certain things were detestable the Israelites still used methods we would find odd today.
They actually analyzed the pouring of water to determine God’s will.1st Samuel 7:6 states, when they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed thus connecting the pouring of water with confession of sin and fasting.
Lamentations 2:19 calls for Israel to pour out your heart like water. Many scholars think the pattern the water made was analyzed, and the direction the water ran revealed God’s will.I’m not sure if this would do me any good because the water always runs the same way at my house whether it’s on the floor or in the driveway.
By New Testament times we can see how the use and imagery of water evolved with the emphasis on baptism along with repentance and forgiveness of sin.Other customs to seek out the divine including “putting out the fleece” as mentioned in the 6th chapter of Judges. Gideon actually asked God for more signs to show him what to do. This can be a dangerous thing to do. We are not to test God, however we can analyze the situation to see if God is providing indicators regarding which way to go, but which are indicators and which are just static and don’t really mean anything?
A more reliable way of learning God’s will was the Torah. Its basis ….the first five books of the Bible or Pentateuch held the highest authority in Israel since it expressed God’s will for his people. Yes, reading the Bible does give you the rights and the wrongs, but sometimes situations are a little gray. For example, Solomon told the women who both claimed an infant a lie when he said he would split the child in two. So, this means sometimes it’s necessary to lie, right?See, we are back to murky stuff again.
The most fascinating way the early Hebrews used to determine God’s will involved the Urim and Thummim. They provided yes or no answers from God by physical means.There we go! Yes or no….plain and simple. I like that!
The Urim and Thummim were carried in the priest’s breastplate of judgment. They even received explicit instructions from God regarding who could use them and where they should be placed.Exodus 28:30 provides God’s instructions….Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.
Where’s Aaron and his breastplate when I need him?Often a question was placed before the Lord through prayer first such as the one Saul prayed where he asked why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault, respond with Thummim. Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared….. 1 Samuel 14:41-42
Some scholars state the Urim and Thummim were stones and might have been white and black. Others state the objects were made of wood, bone or some other material. At some point the Urim and Thummim are no longer mentioned mainly due to the rise of the prophets, and the objects along with the breastplate of judgment have been lost to the ages.The casting or drawing of lots was similar to the Urim and Thummim but not exactly the same. Scholars aren’t sure what the lots looked like or were made of, but there are many educated guesses they were colored stones. Receptacles were used to cast or draw the lots.
The idea behind casting lots is that it removed human volition and allowed God to make the choice. We are told in Proverbs 16: 33 the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.We need to remember the first king of Israel was chosen by lot….1 Samuel 10:20-21, inheritance was not chosen by a Last Will and Testament, but by lot…. Joshua 14:2, and even Judas, the ultimate betrayer, was replaced by lot …Acts 1:26….Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
If you look a little further, however, you don’t see lots being used for decisions anymore after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to be dwelling in believers.Folks in the Near East felt that dreams came from the spirit world and nightmares came from evil spirits, but in various sections of the Bible we see all dreams originated from God. Genesis 20: 3-7 tells us that God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and 1 Kings 3:5 shares that the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream.
Those dreams were very easy to understand but some dreams required interpretation such as the passage recorded at the 2nd chapter of Daniel.Numbers 12:6 states when there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams, and proves the Hebrews believed God spoke to people and prophets through dreams and visions.
There were the prophets, of course. Some interpreted dreams while others spoke directly for God. Deuteronomy 18:18 states, I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.I’m not really sure how an interpreter would explain my dreams. I’ve reached an age where I pray for them sometimes, but the don’t happen, or if they do…..I don’t remember them, and unfortunately the prophets are long gone or are possibly turned into fools by the media.
Prayer was also an acceptable means of asking God for help and still is. Moses prayed to God, spoke with God, and even questioned God……Numbers 11: 1-15Often a question was placed before the Lord through prayer as 1 Samuel 14:41-42 indicates.
I’ve often wondered how many prayers God listens to every day. Sometimes it doesn’t seem as if He’s listening, but I know He does….and He answers in His own time, we just have to know when we receive the answer.That’s the hard part….since our humanity gets in the way.
That little voice in me…..perhaps the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in my soul….tells me prayer is the way…..pray and study…..and a little time, but durn wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal Urim and Thummim?