Proverbs 16:33

Sermon preached on July 27, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In the final round of the British Open Golf Championship last week, Sergio Garcia of Spain was in second spot and was hoping to catch the leader, Rory McIlroy. On his approach shot on the 12
th hole flew way right into the grandstand. There was a loud bang where it hit some metal between the seats and didn't it bounce high in the air directly back toward the green. It didn't quite make it to the green but ended up right next to it on the short grass on the fringe of the green. By inches it cleared the long bent grass. If it had been in the long grass, his next shot would have been much more difficult. In the long, bent grass, you never know how your shot will come out, maybe to the right of where you intended, or perhaps to the left. So Sergio got a very good break by having his ball bounce where it did. If it had bounced in any other direction, he would have had a much more difficult shot. One of the commentators wrote of the bounce afterwards, (Jay Busbee)

"the golf gods gave Garcia a gift…

The golf gods. I suppose that's better than calling it sheer luck, but it's not much better for we know there are no such things as 'golf gods'.

When I worked as a longshoreman the first thing we did when we were called to our job was flip coins to see who would relieve the pull cart driver. There was five of us in a gang and we would flip until we got four heads and one tail, or vise-versa. The odd guy would get to drive the pull cart on odd hours when he relieved the cart driver. Then the other four would divide into two and flip for hours, which you worked one hour on, one hour off. The two that won the flip would pick to work the first hour, and have the second hour off. The reason they did that was because by then it was 20 minutes past the hour, so that hour would only consist of 40 minutes work. Lunch break was also at 3 a.m., so if you picked the first hour, the lunch break also fell on your work hour, so you only had to work a half hour that hour.

So the flip of the coin was important. If we were unloading 100 pound bags of fishmeal, it meant you only had to deal with that stinky stuff for 2 ½ hours instead of 4 hours. If you won either of the two flips, the guys would consider you lucky.

The Roman philosopher M. T. Cicero said, (quoted from Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 594)

"The big things the gods take care of; the little ones they ignore."

That's the way that we often view it. A more modern way of putting Cicero's words is,

"God doesn't micromanage the world."

But what our text teaches us is that God does indeed micromanage the world. It shows us that there is no such thing as luck, or as 'golf gods'. It says, (Proverbs 16:33)

"The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord."

This is a very simple verse, yet it contains a truth, that if we applied it to our hearts, would comfort us, be a source of consolation to us and help us live confidently in the world. The Bible teaches that all events, even ones that seem totally random to us, are controlled by our Great God, our covenant Lord. The great implication from it is that we can trust the Lord with our lives. He is in absolute control of everything. We don't have to fear anything. Nothing apart from His will can happen to us. He is leading us to glory and the path that He has set for us is totally controlled by Him.

So let's look at what we can learn from our text.

The major thing we should see is that

seemingly random events are not random at all, they are under God's control. God determines them.

What the Holy Spirit is telling us in our text is that events that seem to be random to us are actually not random. They are determined by God.

They may seem random to us, but they are not. Let me illustrate. When I first started to learn about computer programming at one point I needed to generate a random number. I learned that the computer language I was using had a 'random number' function and you had to tell it the range you wanted the random number to be in. If you wanted the random number to between 1 and 50,000, you had to put those numbers in and it would give you a number between 1 and 50,000. I used it and sure enough the computer spit out a random number, something like 42,836. I thought, 'Great, it works.' But when I tried it again to see what number I would get next I got the exact same number. I tried it again and again and every time the computer spit out the same number. Hmm, was it really a random number? The first time I tried it I thought I got a random number, and in a certain sense it was. It was a number between 1 and 50,000. But it another sense it was determined. The computer could not give me a different random number. It always gave me the same one. As I read through the literature I found that this was normal behavior. A computer, for whatever reason, whether it's the hardware or the software, could only give you one random number in a specified range.

Was that number truly random? It seemed that way when I first asked for a number. But after subsequent trials it didn't seem random. It was fixed. After some further reading I found out that in order for the computer to give me a different number, a truly random number, I had to tie the random number function to a variable that was constantly changing—like the computer's clock. Then I would get a different random number every time I asked.

This illustrates the point. To us the roll of the dice seems random. What could be more random? You fling it to the ground. That's the meaning of the Hebrew word here. It means to cast something violently away from someone. It's used of Saul hurtling a spear toward David, of the Lord hurling a storm against the sea when Jonah was trying to run away from him. So you fling a dice from you and what happens? I'm sure the air influences it a little. You hurl it way from you and the air affects it a bit. I'm not sure about this but it's possible that the temperature of the air also affects how the dice fly through the air. When the dice hit the ground, or the lap, the bounce depends on the force with which the dice were thrown, the hardness of the surface, the angle of the dice when they hit, and the angle of the surface they hit. That seems pretty random to us.

But it's not random. God determines the outcome. Random events are not random. God determines their outcome. Seemingly random events are part of His glorious plan to frustrate His enemies and eventually bring out their demise. Seemingly random events are part of his plan to save His people and bring them to glory. Seemingly random events

When Pharaoh's daughter went to the river to wash and she found the baby Moses, was that a random event not controlled by God? No.

When Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar was it just a random event? When he later found favor in the eyes of the prison warden, was that a random event? No.

When Samson went down to Timnah and saw a Philistine woman there, and fell in love with her—was that a random event? No. (Judges 14:4) It was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines. God was working out His will through seemingly random events. Herman Bavinck writes, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 592-593)

"all created things exist in the power and under the government of God; neither chance nor fate is known to Scripture."

There is no such thing as luck. Psalm 148 tells us that the lightning, hail, clouds, and stormy winds do God's bidding. (See also Job 37:3) These things are not random.

The second thing we should understand from our text is that

'the lot' stands for all kinds of random events.

He could have as easily put 'the flip of the coin', 'the short straw', 'spinning the wheel' on Wheel of Fortune, or other terms. Anything that we think is random is covered. For example, in Matthew 10:29 Jesus said,

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall
to the ground apart from the will of your Father."

A sparrow cannot die apart from the will of God the Father. In Matthew 10:30 Jesus said,

"And even the very hairs of your head
are all numbered."

In 1 Kings 22:20 we are told that the Lord convened His heavenly host and said,

"Who will entice Ahab into attacking
Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?"

King Ahab went up to Ramoth Gilead. He disguised himself so that none of the enemy would know who he was. We read, (1 Kings 22:34)

"But someone drew his bow at random
and hit the king of Israel
between the sections of his armor."

The guy who shot the arrow wasn't aiming at the king. He wasn't aiming at anyone in particular. Yet his random arrow was guided by the Lord.

Sometimes people use lots to make great decisions. In Ezekiel 21:21–22 the prophet tells us that God controls the lots that the heathen cast. Ezekiel told the people that it was God's purpose to punish Jerusalem. He told them that the King of Babylon was on a march of conquest. Here's what Ezekiel said,

"For the king of Babylon will stop
at the fork in the road,
at the junction of the two roads,
to seek an omen:
He will cast lots with arrows,
he will consult his idols,
he will examine the liver.
Into his right hand will come the lot for Jerusalem,
where he is to set up battering rams,
to give the command to slaughter,
to sound the battle cry,
to set battering rams against the gates,
to build a ramp and to erect siege works."

God was going to punish Jerusalem and He was going to use the lot cast by the King of Babylon to do it.

Thirdly, note that our text says that

every decision of the lot is from the Lord.

It doesn't say that 'some' random events are controlled by the Lord. It doesn't doesn't say,

"When an important decision is to be made by lot, it's decision is from the Lord."

Every decision is from the Lord. Vern S. Poythress writes, (Chance and the Sovereignty of God.)

"Every lot has its outcome determined by the Lord in his sovereignty, and in accord with his eternal plan. We can generalize further: the Lord controls every random event, whether it is deliberately brought about by a human action of rolling dice or flipping coins, or is just a happenstance, like a hair coming out of someone's head and falling to the ground."

Indeed, we see that God often had His people use lots to determine His will. When the Israelites we taking possession of the promised land, when they came to Ai, they were defeated. God told them that the reason was because someone had disobeyed Him in taking some of the things devoted to destruction when they had taken Jericho. It seems that Joshua used lots to pick out the guilty man, Achan.

When the Israelites chose Saul as king, it appears that they used lots. When Jonathan ate some honey, even though he didn't know it was against his father's orders, his father used lots to figure out who had eaten. When the ferocious storm came upon the ship that was carrying Jonah, the sailors cast lots to see who was the cause of the storm. In Acts 1 the apostles used lots to choose Matthias.

Now what does this mean for us in practical terms?

First thing that this means is that

you should be greatly comforted.

Your life, everything in it- is in God's hands. Romans 8 tells us that nothing can separate you from God's love. Nothing in the present, nothing in the future, no power, no creature - nothing. Everything that happens to you is in God's plan. Romans 8:28 says,

"All things work together for good for those that love God
for those that are the called according to His purpose..."

So you should never worry. Something bad happens to you - it's in God's plan. It's an opportunity for you to glorify God in adverse circumstances.

Stand firm, stand confident. Psalm 112 tells us that a righteous man will never be shaken and that,

"he will have no fear of bad news..."

He doesn't fear because he knows that God is in control. Herman Bavinck writes, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 594)

"It is above all by faith in Christ that believers are enabled—in spite of all the riddles that perplex them—to cling to the conviction that the God who rules the world is the same loving and compassionate Father who in Christ forgave them all their sins, accepted them as his children, and will bequeath to them eternal blessedness. In that case faith in God's providence is no illusion, but secure and certain; it rests on the revelation of God in Christ and carries within it the conviction that nature is subordinate and serviceable to grace, and the world [is likewise subject] to the kingdom of God. Thus, through all its tears and suffering, it looks forward with joy to the future. Although the riddles are not resolved, faith in God's fatherly hand always again arises from the depths and even enables us to boast in afflictions."

Secondly, it means that

you should accept what comes your way knowing God is behind it, that God caused it to happen.

Now by that I don't mean that we should accept evil. Joseph quite properly rejected the advances of Potiphar's wife. We shouldn't ever do evil even if the opportunity presents itself.

Nor does this mean that we should use lots or coins or straws to determine God's will. That was God's way of speaking to us in the past. Bruce Waltke writes, (Proverbs, Vol. 2, p. 38)

"After the outpouring of the Spirit, the practice of casting lots does not occur in the church."

But by accepting, I mean you should know that nothing in your life happens by chance. If something happens to you it's because God sends it to you. And this applies to both good things and bad things. When something bad comes your way—God has sent it. Job recognized that. He said,

"The Lord gave,
the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."

And that means that you should never complain about your circumstances. In Philippians 2:14 we are told to do everything,

"without complaining...."

God controls, directs. We are in His hand. Paul and Silas were able to rejoice and praise God when they were cast into jail in Philippi. (Acts 16:25)

I had a friend when I was growing up, Danny B. I was always amazed by Danny because it seemed that nothing bothered him. He just rolled with the punches. I don't think I ever saw him upset or angry and I spent a lot of time with him, playing baseball and hockey. I got to see Danny again three or four years ago and over the years I had sort of forgotten about this characteristic of Danny. But when I met him again, it was right there. He accepted whatever came with a great calmness. I nearly tipped over his sailboat—yet it didn't phase him.

That's the way that we should be amid life's troubles. God is in absolute control of everything. We have nothing to fear. We can remain calm, as Psalm 46 tells us. Ephesians 1:11 says,

"In him we were also chosen,
having been predestined according to
the plan of him who works out
everything in conformity with
the purpose of his will…"

And in Lamentations 3:37–38 we read,

"Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the
Most High that both calamities
and good things come?"

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this means that

Jesus can save you.

It's not by chance you're here today. It's not by chance that you're hearing the gospel today and all the other times you've heard it. It's not by chance that you're hearing about how Jesus controls all things. It's all part of His plan. It's part of His plan for you to hear and respond.

The question is—how are you going to respond? Go to Jesus today.