Friday, April 13, 2007

The Second Contact: In Bondage Twice

Acts 16:16-24
This 16th chapter of Acts introduces us to three different people from three different levels of the Philippi's society. Two weeks ago, we met the international seller of Purple cloth named Lydia. Next week, we will meet the jailer. Both these people have a life-changing event in their lives that brought them to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

This week, we meet a young girl without a name who has indeed an encounter with Jesus yet remains outside the faith. She is a slave girl and she has a demonic spirit residing within her.

Slavery has been around from when one person forces another person to do or go somewhere without their consent.

The International Labor Organization in 2005 estimated at least 2.4 million people have been trafficked with a worldwide number of 27 million-this year-are in slavery.

Q: Why are people trafficked? Is it a new problem? What causes it?

A: The trafficking in human beings is not new. But it is a rapidly growing problem. A number of factors have led to its expansion, such as the easy profits made from exploitation; growing deprivation and marginalization of the poor; discrimination against women; restrictive migration laws; a lack of information about the realities and dangers of trafficking and insufficient penalties against traffickers.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the upcoming movie called Amazing Grace, about the life and work of Wilberforce, who helped bring the end to the slave trade-or so it seemed-that was supported by England. (From their web site)
The makers of Amazing Grace had two goals in mind when they began work on this film some ten years ago: They wanted to again make William Wilberforce, Britain's “Great Abolitionist,” a household name; and they wanted to offer, in our fiercely partisan (or political) era, a model for transcending cultural, racial, religious, and political barriers for the sake of destroying a barbaric social evil.The result is a lavish historical drama about the man who, more than any other person, is credited with bringing an end to the slave trade throughout the British Empire.
Today, it has been reported in many web sites, that over 27 million people are still called 'slaves.' Some are slaves to what was called “Indentured Servants”, in that they are working off a debt while others are stolen from their homes under cover of darkness and sold to inhumane masters who both mistreat them and kill them at will. Age, sex, color, national origin holds no special protection from the evil that still goes on in our world today. And it is not just somewhere else. Slavery is here in Japan. Underworld groups 'host' people from all over the world, taking their passports and making them work at all sorts of different jobs.

Here in Acts 16, we find the same misuse of an individual for financial gains.

But first, we have the group of men from Israel walking around Philippi. They must have been there for a while because of the wording Luke uses:
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl...
This became THE place to go for prayer and for the fellowship they and others needed. Time to pull away from the clamor and push of the society we all live in. They went there to pray.

Do you have a place to go to and pray? Maybe it is your office before everyone gets there, or a special park bench or sitting at your table at home before the crazies of the day begin…or on the train, or in a library desk or at Starbucks. Or you could come here on Sunday mornings; the doors are unlocked after 9 AM. You and I need a place to have some time of prayer. Paul had such a need as well.

And on one of these trips to the Prayer Spot, they were somewhat joined by a very interesting young girl. You might have seen someone like her on the train? Hope she/he does not sit or stand next to you! This one was shouting at them and about them to everyone around. She was somewhat well known and that was even more of an issue with Paul. But the time came when he could take it no more! After many days of this annoying clatter, he wanted this to end. These shouts were crying out repeatedly!
Verse 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.
This poor creature was enslaved twice; once by the evil money-hungry adults that keep her working for them and by another force quite a bit more forceful. The passage tells us that she was a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. Did not work for her-did it?

This 'spirit' was called the spirit of Python. The Python was a mythological serpent that supposedly guarded the temple and oracle of Apollo. She had to do with prophesy. This term later changed a little to mean a demon-possessed person through whom the python spoke. The spirit supposedly took control of the person's vocal cords and spoke through them like a hand held puppet. She was the voice box of the Spirit of Python. Such a spirit was well known in that area and therefore she was somewhat of a pop star or celebrity. Python had a death hold around her & would not let go!

Those who owned her were not very pleased of her being release from this demon's control.

They could not rejoice that a poor young girl was finally free to be a young girl with dreams and desires of her own. They could only think of the loss of revenue. It seems that most people would tolerate just about anything until it hurts them in the wallet. Funny that a wallet has such feelings!

This made the owners wild in anger! They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the place the authorities held their hearings.

Today, I am told, you can stand on the very steps Paul was dragged to. Four large stone steps that led up to the bema, “speaker's platform or judgment seat” where the authorities held court. Their case was made in haste and they beat the daylights out of Paul and Silas. People in the crowd joined it. They stripped them and beat them. Severely flogged them! Then they threw them in jail. What happens there in Jail is next weeks story.

What happens to the slave girl?

We don't see her again. We don't hear of her conversion. She does not offer shelter for Paul and Silas. She just slips away into a nameless past.

What about that? How can a person who is released from a demonic control just disappear?It is not easy but it happens all the time. Take a look at Matthew 12:43-45
43 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."
In Luke 5:12-14 Jesus touches a man with leprosy and he is made whole and follows Jesus. Jesus says; “Be clean!” He became clean.

But not with this girl. The evil spirit was removed from her as she was twice bounded, now no longer a slave to the demon, she was of no use to her owners. She got some freedom, but I feel she was not yet really free. She had not opened the door of her heart to lead her to real freedom in knowing Jesus.

Let's go back and hear what she said. "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved."

She was saying more than it may seem. This announcement both helps Paul and hurts him. To the Jewish people-which there were only a few-it could mean the term MOST HIGH GOD or el-selyon -- the God of Abraham. But this is also the way the Gentiles refer to their one true God. To the many pagans present in Philippi, they would hear that this one god would be against their many gods. Being polytheistic, they were opposed to the idea of only one god. Their chief god was Zeus and the mother god was Isis and then there was Ba-al. This reference was to be understood as to be any one of these pagan gods.

“The way of salvation” would be misunderstood as it would NOT refer to the Gospel's Way of Jesus. Paul would need to correct and re-clarify each time she yelled that out. This, if left unchecked any longer would wear Paul out. This is one of the tactics Satan uses; getting the Christian worker tired. Wear him out. We need our rest. The world will not fall apart if we take some time off. The whole work of evangelizing Tokyo or your campus or your neighborhood does not solely rest on you. If you need rest: take it. Then get up and work hard and work well for the Lord. Counter these mixed messages that were being spoken into your hearts. Be careful what you listen to!

So Paul said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!"
As the advance of the Gospel spreads across the land, people are being liberated by God's Power and Truth. Satan had lost the war and the battle for men's souls at the Cross. His ability to win is held back by the Name and Power of Jesus alone. No name given under Heaven can save anyone! Jesus Alone!

What must I do to be saved? Experience the liberating Power of Jesus Christ in your life, which not only opens your life but also cleanses hearts from our sins to His Glory.

The similarity of this exorcism here and with Jesus are interesting. People who were certifiable demon-possessed did attack Jesus and Paul. Both dealt authoritatively with them. In Luke 4:35; 8:29; 9:42 and 11:14, the demons obey the command: “Come Out!” That is where the similarities stop. Jesus alone had the authority to use His Own Name. It was direct and personal with Him. The demons feared Jesus and what Jesus could do to them. Jesus rebukes them and they responded. Paul's and our authority does not lie with us. It is Christ-centered and we would need to call on the Power of Jesus to do these things. There must be a bold confidence and strong prayer support for us to be so involved. But the Authority is still there and that is His profession!

Luke 4:18-19.

The slave owners had a plan for this girl's life. It was making them rich…at her expense. Try as people do, you can't improve on God's plan for our lives. When God's standards are rejected, only pain and suffer remain. For this young girl, she was free of the demon but she did not get filled with the Joy of knowing Jesus as the Freedom Giver…Living for .

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Luke 19:28-40

On Palm Sunday, we remember that the King Who gives freedom came into Jerusalem to set the captives free. Join me in remembering His Great Gift to us. Come to the Table and REMEMBER!