You might have heard a saying or something similar to it when boys play at break at school. The one boy is being harassed by three other boys and the one being harassed and threatened says … “Touch me, touch my brother.” He has an elder brother at school and as a means of protecting himself he brought the image and reputation of the older brother before the other three. There is another saying … “touch my money, touch me”. This is the picture arising in the passage in Acts 16 from verse 16 … let’s start by reading a short section of it:
Ac 16:16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl 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.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled 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. 19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.
Ac 16:16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer.
In reading this sentence it almost seems as though the missionary team prayed now and then. The truth is, they were men of prayer, relying on the Spirit to guide, protect and use them. Yet, because of being in a pagan city and having lodgings that we not too private, (it’s not too clear whether they still stayed at Lydia’s house), they would find places to pray like the one down at the river. It is not just missionary teams, pastoral teams and pastors who need to pray! We all need to engage regularly in prayer. In reading George Muller’s book “Release the Power of Prayer”, he speaks of getting to bed earlier, sleeping less, to rise early and spend quality time in the Word and Prayer. It’s astounding what he trusted God for and what God provided for him to open and operate a number of orphanages, sponsor the Scripture Knowledge Institute and support overseas missions. He found a place to pray every day … and very regularly with his wife. We need to cultivate more time to pray about more important things! Leaving the selfish requests behind, God will provide every need. Remember though, all requests need to bring Him glory and pleasure, whether they are answered the way we desire or not.
2) Demon-possessed slave girl. In both Gordon Keddie and FF Bruce’s commentary’s they refer to the Greek wording for … we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit … say something like this … “the Greek text has ‘a spirit of a python’. The python was a large dragon in Greek mythology, which, until killed by Apollo, had guarded the oracle of Delphi, in the region of Pytho.” The interpretation is applied to those who predict the future or who were believed to be possessed by a spirit. Associated is the concept of “ventriloquism”. Colleagues who came out of Hinduism relate how people in bondage to a spirit or spirits (demon possessed) would be thrown to the floor, foaming at the mouth shouting, screaming and speaking in another voice (ventriloquism).
3) Predicting the future. Her main work for her owners was to predict the future. People would pay the owners money for her to tell their future, similar to a clairvoyant or the horoscopes. May Christians visit such people for help in knowing their future? Consider the following passages:
Lev 20:27 A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.
Dt 18:10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.
Why would any Christian want to engage in any of these things when we have God to trust and guide and direct us? He reveals information only when needed … and at the right time. Does He not say:
Dt 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
As His children we need to leave the “why” questions and the future to Him who knows best all the time. This is the safest way. On top of this, the words coming from demons (for that is what horoscopes, clairvoyants, mediums, spiritists and calling up the dead are), is evil and exposes a lack of faith in God, who knows our future and reveals it piece by piece, as required.
4) Money maker … She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This was exploitation! She was not normal! She was a sick girl and her owners used her as a money making machine. Sadly this is still one of the biggest problems in the world today, be it under communism, socialism or in the free market world. The vulnerable are often exploited, paid below a livable income, pushed to work long hours … to enrich the business owners.
5) Following and shouting. Satan has his strategy to attempt to stop Gospel progress. The people were none the wiser when the slave girl shouted … “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” To them this was the voice of a “god”, even though it was “ventriloquism” in action. The problem was, they heard the demons speaking about their future and now the demons were speaking about the way of salvation. She was, through the demons, bringing the Gospel and missionaries into disrepute. Non-Christians might know the truth about salvation, but they are without the Spirit of God and therefore cannot lead a soul to Jesus. This is why, if your pastor is not born again, get out of that Church!
6) Exorcism … because of the way she harassed them by following them around day after day, disrupting the working of the Holy Spirit through them … Paul rebuked the evil spirit (demons in her) … “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that very moment … immediately … the demons were exorcised … she was delivered and healed and we can believe that as the evil spirit left the Holy Spirit came and indwelt! That is, she became a believers and follower of Jesus. This is what happens when someone trust Jesus … see Ephesians 2:1-9.
7) Touching the money bags. We shall pick up the story here tomorrow:
Ac 16:19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities
Though for today, consider … as Paul exorcised the demons from the girl, so her owners were exorcised of making money our of her! They lost their income. If you are a believer working for a company who does shady deals … why are you still working for them? You have been delivered from satan’s domain (Ephesian 2) and need to change morals to align with the Gospel as you trust God for your future.
Father, thank You for the power of the Gospel to take a demon-possessed slave girl and instantly change her into a believer. O God, if anyone reading this note is being abused as a believer by unbelieving employers, help them find God-glorifying employment. Amen.