Monday, September 3, 2007

Once Upon A Riot Acts 19:23-41

Have you ever been the reason for a riot? Ever been in a riot! Looking back, I guess I had been in at least three. Once outside New York City when I was in my early 20’s and twice while I was visiting Seoul, Korea, 17 years ago. While it was all exciting, it was very dangerous! Police dogs are very big and the tear gas hurt the eyes for hours! The mobs in both locations were not able to listen to reason. They only responded to power—with power in return.

In our passage this morning, we find a craftsman who felt he had been hurt financially by the advancement of the Christian Faith. He really did not have anything bad to say about Jesus but he was very unhappy that many people were not using his trade. Some and many had stopped buying the small idols he and others had made. His pocket book was hurt more than his heart. He was mad and he wanted others to join him in his anger.

That is the usual way, isn’t it? I’m mad and I want to have you join me being mad at someone! Misery loves company. He was really making the most of the situation by getting more on his side.

The question of what Christianity does to a culture has angered anthropologist right along. The Christian Faith, they say, hurts the common good of the culture. It disturbs the flow of the society. It could even change it or destroy it altogether. Whether it was in the Amazon River region today, or there in Ephesus, Christianity was looked at as killing the society with it’s teaching of having a new life style. This great disturbance about The Way with it’s new leader, new way of living, new set of mores and behavioral patterns and, in truth, was a new culture that was on the other side of Demetrius’ world view. To him, his world was falling apart!

The Way was creating a great disturbance.

He was waving, not only the economic prosperity flag, but also the national pride issues and a deeply felt religious passion. His trade was tied to worship of this idol as well as the Emperor himself, and he was a disciple of Artemis.

He and his craftsmen made plaques, silver relief of the goddess within her temple. Once the item was dedicated at the Temple of the Great Artemis, the local people and visitors, bought them as votive offerings and uses these items in family worship centers, amulets, charms, or just souvenirs—much like what is sold at temples today.

Artemis or known as Diana in Rome was the “Great Mother”—hunter, goddess of wild animals, wild nature, chastity and childbirth. She took on the role of the goddess of fertility able to hold power over wild animals, deliver her people from fear and to be the connect between earth and the cruel fate that bothered them. Artemis had unsurpassed cosmic power! She was considered as Lord, Savior, and Queen of the Cosmos.

Demetrius had it in for Paul. Paul’s message caused a decline of income for the local idol makers. Paul’s message was directly against the polytheistic religion of the land. He charged Paul with leading people astray—or mentally and spiritually bringing a different point of view, causing someone to change his position. The Message Paul shared dealt with repentance and conversion. Demetrius was concerned he’d loose his livelihood. Rightly so!

The Message does that sort of thing. It deals with the real issues of life: meaning, purpose, direction, future, control. The Message of Jesus deals with those items in every aspect of life. Demetrius was dealing with the here and now, while Paul was dealing with the here and now AND the hereafter.

Imagine a world without the Great Temple of Artemis! The temple was called one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It covered an area four times the size of the Parthenon-70 meters long, 280 meters long, (300 yd) with 127 sixty-foot columns. It was THE worship center of Asia and a world-class bank. Well, all that is left now of that temple is one column and a small gathering of rubble. There have been found over 33 worship sites to this female goddess across the Roman world. She was worshipped by the leaders of Rome and was THE most extensive worship in the known world—at that time. From what Demetrius could see, this was in danger of ending!

Then, all went wild! People were shouting this thing while others shouting that! Ever see a newsreel of fanatic group shouting? Out of this world! Blind uncompromised devotion is hard to work with.

The whole city was thrown into confusion.

Two of Paul’s friends and traveling partners were taken into the theatre. We see Aristarchus again in Chapter 20 and 27, as well as in Col 4:10 and Philemon 24—while Gaius was even known by John as his good friend and by Paul in Romans 16:23. However it could have been another Gaius…

Then things really went wild! While this was going on, Paul wanted to address the crowd. His friends with him, as well as some city leaders, strongly suggested that he not! It seemed that even in the high society of Ephesus, many felt that the Way was no threat to the Imperial cult—Not yet!

When it comes to hearing and accepting advise, how do you rate? Even when the whole city is ready to fry your skin off, what kind of guidance would you accept? How do we KNOW God’s way for our lives?

A few things to remember: (ALL verses come from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

1. God’s direction comes to those who look to Him. John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—

2. Guidance comes through the Spirit. John 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all Truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.

3. The purpose of the guidance is to reflect Him. Phili 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death,

4. Guidance comes with Peace. James 3:17-18 Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (the Message)

5. Many times, guidance comes to us unaware. Ps 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. (NIV)

9 He gives the rejects His hand, And leads them step-by-step. (The Message)

6. Sometimes, Guidance is not always pleasant. Isa 55:8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.

As it turned out, a clear-headed clerk ended the riot by a simple statement. If the riot keeps up, and they could not support the reason for the riot, Rome could revoke their status of being a free city as they could not maintain law and order through its own local leaders. This brought the fear of god into their hearts and they were dismissed.

Let this be said of you, after you received guidance from God. Joshua 11:15 As the LORD commanded His servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.