24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.
First a little background on the book of Acts as we head into the weekend. The book of Acts was initially appended to the Gospel of Luke as Luke-Acts. The book of Acts begins where Luke ends – with the ascension of Jesus the Christ to Heaven. It, as was Luke, written to Theophilus, which means in Greek friend of God. As we go through Acts you will see many actors (disciples and believers) in the book of Acts, but the one constant persona throughout this book is the Holy Spirit. He is everywhere.
In this first chapter of Acts, after 40 days Jesus ascends to Heaven. After His ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem and among approximately 120 believers they looked for a replacement for Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Jesus and died in a field they called Akeldama or Field of Blood. Quoting Psalm 109:8b Peter said May another take his place of leadership.
How were they to choose from the 120 believers? The Holy Spirit provided some criteria
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.
We are not told how they narrowed it down to these two men, so we are left to wonder or believe it was through prayer and the Holy Spirit along with the criteria given. And so we come to our verses of the day
Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”
It should be noted Lord, you know everyone’s heart is literally Lord, you are the heart-knower of all men. I point this out because this compound word is not found in any Greek version of the Old Testament and only found here and later in Acts 15:8 (Ellicott’s Commentary). There are those who argue whether the prayer was addressed to the Son or to the Father. Since they live within each other, it seems to be a rather silly argument.
What is of great interest though is the choice is being made by the heart content of the two chosen. It does not mean one’s heart was less deserving than the other, but one was chosen to fill the role of the twelfth disciple by what God saw in his heart. So after all their prayer and narrowing it down to these two men how was one chosen?
Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Casting lots may seem foreign to us for important decisions, but such was not the case among the Jews as noted by Joshua 7:14-15; 1 Samuel 10:20-21; 1 Chronicles 24:5; and Luke 1:9. Exactly how this was accomplished we turn to the Benson Commentary which quotes Hugo Grotius
[T]hey put two lots into two urns, the one containing the two names of Joseph and Matthias, the other a blank and the word apostle: and then drawing forth the name of Joseph and the blank, they knew that the lot containing the name of an apostle belonged to Matthias. This being in answer to their prayers, they concluded that Matthias was the man whom the Lord had chosen to the apostleship.
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the above as another explanation said both names were placed in a jar. Then the jar was shaken until one fell out and that was how Matthias was chosen. However I do know both Grotius and Benson were serious theologians.
What does matter is God is heart-knower of all men which means He knows our hearts. What does He see when He looks at my heart? Sometimes I shudder at what He sees, other times I am at peace with what He sees. How about you? What do you think God would see when He looks into your heart and He can see what you have even hidden from yourself. Something to ponder deeply on.
It’s Friday and I hope you have a Great Weekend and remember to Go to Church. Spend some time in fellowship, corporate prayer and worship, and spend some time being transformed by the word of God. Then be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves James 1:22.