“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 42

‘Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.’

Acts 16:16-24

Unless you have come face to face with someone like the female slave, it is hard to imagine what this is about and how to deal with it. For just a couple of minutes, set aside how strange this may sound to you, and enter into how Scripture describes Paul’s encounter with her.

The female slave believes she has a gift: She can predict the future by means of a spirit that lives inside her. On some level, that must have seemed to her like a great freedom – or power – to have, despite her status as a person in physical bondage to her masters.

Of course, a master-slave relationship is not simply a type of physical bondage, but also a kind of spiritual bondage in which one’s emotions and thought-processes are threatened and commanded against that person’s will. That kind of bondage opened a door in the female slave, to spirits that inspire her to oppose the Gospel, and use her to make money for her masters. The female slave has been, for some time, a gateway for at least two spirits, one of which is “Mammon” (Matthew 6:24), that is, making her masters money.

When the Kingdom of God advances, gateways like these are closed, and the people made to be these gateways, are freed. The Name of Jesus Christ, in the mouth of his Spirit-filled shepherd, Paul, is enough to close the gate and free the woman. She is no longer a spiritual slave. She is also no longer of use to her masters, and that reality reveals the extent to which the town they lived in, was a home base for bondage to these spirits: Their “customs” have been threatened, and now Paul and Silas must be put in bondage, in jail. Their customs were the means by which these evil spirits kept a people and a place in darkness. When Christ works through his servants, those customs die, but not without a fight.

Scripture strictly forbids “divination” (Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 17:17; 1 Samuel 28; Micah 3:11): calling upon spirits, intentionally or half-heartedly and in jest, not because it does not work, but because it can work, and often results in summoning spirits that may give us things we need or desire for a time, only to destroy us later.

At the heart of “divination”, is the desire for a word that speaks to our situation: We may be in desperate straits and want someone or something to offer us a way out. It may be something as seemingly innocent as a horoscope, a Ouija board, crystals, or Tarot Cards. It can be a god of our own making, that sounds biblical, but is not the God who came to us in Jesus Christ.

If He is not your Lord and Savior, something, or someone else will be, and you will be his/her/its gateway. When we are filled with his Spirit, we are given the supernatural means to resist the Enemy of our souls (Ephesians 5:18; 6:10-20). Finally, an isolated Christian is an easy mark for temptation and attack, and that’s why, every Sunday, we draw near to the Good Shepherd in worship, and – filled with his Spirit – go out into the world, fortified, encouraged, and ready. These three are the way we resist and persevere. But remember the powers that threatened Paul and Silas – that threaten us – will not die without a fight.

Prayer: Father, I sense that I have been in bondage to something that means to harm me. Lord, today, I accept you as my Lord and Savior and ask to be filled with your Spirit. Lord, please direct me to the nearest church, where I can join with others who have been delivered and saved, and can heal, be strengthened, and walk confidently in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

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