(16) As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.
(17) She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."
(18) And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.
I was visiting with my mother this week on Thanksgiving afternoon, and we were talking about some long lost relatives. We laughed about the odd names of her mother’s family. My grandmother was named Maebelle. She had a sister named Mattie lee and another sister named Dovie lee. Then there was Maggie. Mother does not seem to know how Maggie was related to the family, but she says that Maggie always lived with her grandparents and everybody said she was a relative. I met Maggie only twice. The second time was about 1960 but I still remember it because of the odd thing that happened. One of the other cousins was there, and she said, “I have this really ugly wart on my hand, and I am going to get Aunt Maggie to charm it off.” That was something I had never heard of before, so I tagged along to see what would happen. By the way, “Aunt Maggie” was actually more like a great Aunt, but never mind that. She must have been about eighty even then.
I don’t remember the cousin’s name. I think that day was the only time I ever met her, and she was actually what you would call a second cousin, or a cousin once removed, something like that. In any case, she knew Aunt Maggie pretty well, and she went right up to her and told her what she wanted.
And aunt Maggie did not waste any time. She said, “Let me see that.” Then she said, “I can take care of that.” She took the girl’s hand and brought the wart almost up to her eye, and she said something like, “eeeeennny, eeennny, eeenny, eeenny eeeeny, adddaa, addddaaa , adddaaa, mmmmmmmmmmhhhh—Be gone by tomorrow.”
And she said to the girl, “That will take care of it. It will be gone by tomorrow.”
Now as I remember it, the cousin seemed satisfied with this treatment, and she left, but my curiosity was really aroused, and I began to ask the elderly lady what she was doing. What was this strange treatment she was administering? She seemed flattered by my interest. She was very willing to talk about it. She said she learned it from her mother, but she had no children to pass it on to, and she wanted to teach it to someone because she realized she was getting on in years. She lamented the indifference and ignorance of the younger generation, saying all they want to do was watch TV, but since I had shown interest, and I was family, I guess, she would teach me.
She proceeded to do exactly that. She said, “You got healing power in you, I can see that, so what you do is you get that wart or mole up close where you can really look at it, and you begin your chant. What you chant does not really matter, the point of the chant is just to focus your healing power on the wart, and then when you feel that it is the right moment--and you will know what the moment is because of your healing power--when you feel the right moment, you say, ‘Be gone by tomorrow,’ and wave it away.”
Well that was what Aunt Maggie told me forty some-odd years ago, but I have never actually “charmed” off a wart. I guess I never really believed it would work. Maybe that is why it would not work for me, I never believed it would.
What Aunt Maggie was doing was what Anthropologists call “folk magic.” In rural SC, a couple of generations ago, medical treatment was almost entirely unavailable. If you had a major problem, say you chopped off your arm, then they would take you into town to a doctor, but for the minor irritations and pains of life, they took you to someone like Aunt Maggie and she “charmed” the problem away. Was the old lady dealing with occult power? I don’t think so. She was just trying to do good, and she was using mostly the power of suggestion.
By the way, I once asked a doctor about Aunt Maggie’s treatment, and he said what she was doing was probably as effective as most medical treatments when it comes to getting rid of warts.
But now let me tell you about another more serious incident. And I have to confess some sins here. When Beth and I were dating, I was over at her house one night and her brother Brad had a Ouija board. Brad was about 11 years old at the time, and I do not know where he got the Ouija board, but he was asking us about it, and we decided to experiment with it. If you have never seen a Ouija board, it is a square board with a circle of letters inside the square. You dim the lights, place a pointer in the center and everyone gathers around the board puts their hands upon the pointer, and then you ask the board a question. The pointer moves to various letters to spell out the answer to your question. Well, we asked our questions and the board did indeed spell out answers. And we did this not only that one night, but over the next several weeks we had a number of sessions with the Ouija board. Finally, there came the last night. A couple of friends had come over. Brad was not actually playing that night, he was just watching. Four of us had been asking questions of the board and getting answers. Someone suggested that we ask the board where it got its answers. So I decided to ham it up a little, and I said, “Oh, Ouija Board, who is your master?” We put our hands on the pointer and let it go where it wanted, and it spelled out S A T A N.
Well that sent a cold chill through our little group. Someone tried to laugh it off saying, “If it was really Satan, he would not tell you, because Satan always lies.” But having said that, we found that we did not want to play the Ouija Board any more, and no one wanted to talk or anything. It was just like a cold cloud had settled among us. Shortly thereafter, we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. The next time I went to Beth’s house, the Ouija Board had disappeared. I asked Brad what happened to it. He said, “I burned it in the backyard.”
Now I have told this story many times, and sometimes I have finished by saying, “We probably influenced that pointer ourselves, and subconsciously we brought about that answer trying to scare each other, and poor Brad was just a young kid, and we scared the bejeebers out of him. That was what I have said sometimes but I confess that I was glad that Brad destroyed that board, because we all felt that night the presence of a power that was hostile to us. That was what is called occult power.
In Acts chapter 16, the Apostle Paul was on a missionary journey, and he had passed over the Northern Aegean Sea to the Macedonian seaport of Philippi. Then we are told in v16 that one day the missionaries were going to a place of prayer—probably not a building, just a place down by the river, a pleasant grove, where believers could worship God. So they are going to the right place. But on the way, a very strange incident occurs. They met a slave girl who was a diviner or soothsayer. A diviner is a person who supposedly has the psychic power to obtain secret knowledge about things, especially about the future. In ancient times, diviners were everywhere, from the highest courts to the lowest slum. They were found among Jews and Gentiles alike because everyone wants to know stuff. Suppose a lady lost her favorite necklace, she might go to a diviner to find out what happened to it. Suppose a king wants to know the outcome of a battle, again he might go to a diviner. So this girl’s profession, if you want to call it that, would have been somewhat unusual in ancient times, but not that unusual. Everyone knew what she was and what could be expected from her.;
And she was a slave. This is a slave society. Slaves were everywhere, and did every kind of job. Apparently this slave girl was successful in her divining, for we are told in v16 that she “brought her owners much gain.”
All that is background. Let us return to the action of Acts 16. The missionaries are going to a place of prayer and this girl follows them, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."
Notice what she says. She is speaking the truth. Every word she says is true. The missionaries are indeed “servants of the most high God” and they proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ which is “the way of salvation.”
Now you might think, well what is wrong with that? You might think that Paul would turn around and say, “Thank you for that testimony, sister.” And perhaps he did, the first time she said it.
But she kept saying it, over and over and over. She followed them around wherever they went, and she kept on saying it. What is going on here? It seems like when occult power the girl has encounters the Holy Spirit power the missionaries have, she is so overwhelmed that she is locked into a sort of mental circle and can only keep repeating the same thing over and over. To put it another way, this young person is still dominated by the power of Satan, but she is in the presence of a far greater power and that presence locks Satan up so that she can only follow and repeat the same phrase over and over like some kind of demonic parrot. She is demon possessed, but what she says is absolutely true, because even Satan in the presence of God must speak the truth.
Finaly Paul gets tired of this. Paul knows what is going on. He knows the source of her occult power. So, he says in v18, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And the spirit of Satan came out of her.
We are told nothing further about this girl, but we can surmise that having been liberated by the power of Jesus Christ, she now is free to serve Jesus.
Before she was doubly a slave. She was a slave to her human masters, and she was a slave to Satan. She remains a slave. She is not freed from her human masters. But she is freed from spiritual slavery. And she is forever changed. 2Co 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Christ came into this girl’s life and made her into a new creation. Now the girl’s human masters did not like this at all. Because she no longer has occult power, she cannot act as a diviner. Now she has been changed to something new by the greater power of the Holy Spirit. The girl’s human masters are so outraged by this that they haul the missionaries to court for destruction of property (namely the girl’s spirit of divination), and they successfully get the missionaries thrown in jail.
But let us not miss the point here, two points actually.
The first point is that there is spiritual power other than the power of God. This power is able to manifest itself as certain occult talents. It is a demonic power that is ultimately devoted to the destruction of the people it possesses.
The second point is that this demonic power is unable to make any kind of resistance against God. Satan confronted with the HS folds like a house of cards. There is no war between Satan and God. That notion, of a war, dignifies Satan too much. Satan will do all in his power to resist God, but Satan cannot really do anything at all.
The lesson to us is obvious. Choose the power that overcomes. Paul told us what that power is in v18. Jesus Christ. Choose Jesus.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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