16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the
This morning, our mind is drawn to a couplet of very discussed terms, with most
of the conversation being skewed improperly in one direction or another. The two
terms are: fate and chance. Is either or both of them Biblical? What should we
think about them? Most today either lean too hard to one or the other, but when
looking at the pages of Scripture, I believe that there is a balance to be
struck regarding these two things that we should seek to advance in our speaking
of these subjects. To lay the groundwork, many times terms are employed based on
one's perspective. For example, I could talk about my eventual glorification in
the sense that one day in the future my body will be raised incorruptible,
undefiled, and immortal. Using I Corinthians 15 as a guide, my description would
be perfectly fitting (future sense) of that which I earnestly await and long
for. However, from God's perspective, we can adequately prove that He can and
does look at it from a past tense point of view. (Romans 8:30) When Paul
employed the term "glorified" (past tense), he utilized the language from God's
point of view, seeing it good as done based on who sits at His right hand. The
reality of Christ being seated in heaven in a glorified body with the perfect
prescience of knowing what will come to pass, God can speak of "glorified." Our
perspective speaks of "will glorify."
Solomon gives a proverb in our verse that describes two perspectives: God and
man. Consider a die (or dice) being rolled (which is the same as a lot from our
verse). If it is a six sided die, then there are six possibilities that could
arise. In mathematics, we would say that every roll contains a one in six chance
of hitting a number from 1-6. To our perspective, we cannot adequately judge
what will happen every time, but given enough time, rolls, and circumstances we
can say that the numbers will "probably" hit about the same number of times on a
long enough curve. Just like flipping a coin yields a 50/50 chance of heads or
tails for every flip. The chance does not change even if heads is flipped 10
times in a row. But, on a long enough curve, chances are that the heads vs.
tails will come out pretty evenly. The reason we must speak with such
uncertainty is because we cannot control all the variables in the equation. For
me to ensure that I
get a 5 every time I rolled a die, I would have to precisely control the
velocity, trajectory, angle, pitch, wind, and a host of other factors that
affect the outcome of that single roll. Such is beyond my ability to measure
much less control.
However, from God's point of view, He knows exactly what the die will be with
every roll. The reason He can know this is because He set in motion all the
physical laws that the roll will take in. If it hits a surface with a particular
speed, angle, etc., the LORD knows exactly what the outcome will be. Further
still, His perfect omniscience knows before the throw exactly what will happen.
There is no chance or probability to His mind as His mind understands things in
certainty and not probability. Just as in the example of the resurrection, He
can speak of what will be as if it has been based on such knowledge. (Romans
4:17) Therefore, if a lot is cast in the lap, the disposing - proper judgment,
discernment, and understanding - is of the Lord. He can judge what it will be
and discern what it should be based on His perfect knowledge of all the elements
and ingredients to the equation.
Now, let us take this principle and apply it to the two terms of fate and
chance. Many times, people will speak of fate as if our course is already
charted for us with no possibility of escape from it. Many books, movies, and
sadly sermons have this thought entwined in them. For this to be so, the Bible
would have absolutely nothing positive to say about chance, nor even of
encouragement to good works. Yet, we find where Solomon, Paul, and even Christ
employ the term chance in a way that lends insight to the discussion.
(Ecclesiastes 9:11, Luke 10:31, and I Corinthians 15:37) The point that Solomon
makes is that sometimes the outcome is not what we would expect. The strongest
does not always win a competition of strength, nor does the swiftest always win
the race. The Lord Jesus talks of the possibility of men seeing a man stranded
and half dead on the side of the road, and Paul speaks of the possibility or
probability of a grain growing out of
the ground and bearing fruit. The reason that chance is employed in these
situations is for the very same reason that the lot being cast is a chance
outcome to us: we cannot control all the factors, and probably not identify all
Why do the strongest and swiftest not always win their respective competitions?
Perhaps they suffered an injury, or perchance the other competitors "played the
game of their life." We all enjoy underdog victories, and those things are not
generally explained by means of empirically identifiable figures. When someone
is on the side of the road needing help, ten people may come by or no one may
come by. The reasons they may or may not come by are varied and many. When we
plant something in the ground, there is a certain level of care that we can give
it. Our planting, tending, watering, nurturing, etc, are necessary ingredients
to promote the growth and productivity of the plant. However, sometimes they
just do not grow. My own hands are the very opposite of a "green thumb." As my
father before me, I can kill a plant real easily by just trying to make it grow
and produce fruit. Others, however, can do seemingly the same things with their
plants that I would do and have a very different outcome. Why is that? Is it the
soil, particular angle of sunlight, etc, etc? The point is that there are more
factors at work than I can control, and therefore, Paul utilizes the term
However, we would be loathe to speak only in terms of chance when discussing the
different series of events in the universe. To our perspective, we many times
speak in such ways, but the Lord holds perfect disposing (judgment) over all. He
knows exactly what is going to happen, how it is going to happen, when it is
going to happen, why it is going to happen, etc. Before the foundations were
ever laid, He declared the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the
things not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my
pleasure." (Isaiah 46:9-11) There has not been one event or circumstance that
took Him by surprise, and nothing to His observation is chance or happenstance.
Since all things are naked and opened unto His eyes (Hebrews 4:13), we can take
confidence in things He says will either be forever or never happen. My forever
and never are not bedrock at all, for my own abilities to control circumstances
or variables in the equation are little. He can control circumstances in however
large or small ways that He desires to and certainly knows exactly what will be.
Therefore, if He says we shall never perish (John 10:28), there is no chance
such a thing will happen.
Still, His knowing of what will be does not imply that we have no choices to
make and that our path of fate or destiny is inescapable. Such a mindset would
give every license to sin known to man. He knows our changes and choices before
we make them, but our course of mind should be to make the best and most God-honouring
ones that we can. He is no more making dice in Vegas hit certain numbers with
every roll than He is forcing His children to walk in robotic fashion after the
Spirit. Does He know what the outcome of every Vegas roll is before it happens?
Yes. Does He know what our choices are going to be? Yes. He forces neither, but
each pass through His perfect discernment of things. Therefore, may we attempt
to do what we can with the variables that we understand to serve Him acceptably
and honourably in this present evil world.
We could hide behind the subject of chance as if to say, "I just couldn't
control anything" or fate by saying, "I just couldn't help it." There are men
who can throw a die certain ways to get certain numbers more often than just a
random toss. They hold it in such a way, throw it so hard, etc, but it is still
not a perfect science. They do not get what they want every time. We today
should know how to better please God by reading, studying, praying, etc, but we
still do not please Him at every turn. He knows the end, but we should do what
we can with the things we understand. Is there some uncertainty for us?
Certainly, but may our focus be upon the One in whom no uncertainty dwells to
align more closely with Him to glorify Him more.