Saturday, 10 June 2017

Magic and God II.

I'm trying to help you 
A strangely appropriate moment for a discussion of magic in the New Testament. Gandalf to Bilbo: "Do not  take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks! I'm not trying to rob you, I'm trying to help you."

There are two more passages about magic in the Acts of the Apostles. Interestingly both touch on the love of money, in relation to magical pursuits, making people turn against God.

The first passage I'm going to consider from Acts 16 is about a slave girl, who is a fortune teller. She is a slave not only to her owners, but also to this spirit of divination which makes her do strange things, following Paul and Luke and the others as they were ministering the gospel and crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God (touv qeouv touv uJyi÷stou) who proclaim to you the way of salvation."

For the slave girl, this form of slavery, being enslaved to a spirit of divination, is really far more debilitating than physical slavery, because her very identity and self had been stolen from her by this spirit, so that she is not herself, but does the spirit of divination's will.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Paul casts out the spirit and frees her from slavery at least in the spiritual sense.

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. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 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.

But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:16-24

In some ways I would like to know what happened to the slave girl after this - being no longer a means of gain for her masters, was she freed? Was she punished? But Acts tells us nothing about that, and follows instead the story of Paul and Silas in prison, and the conversion of the jailer.

In giving herself to the spirit of divination (probably inadvertently, by stealth, by some sort of occult involvement that seemed entirely innocent at the start, and led on by lies) the girl was taken over and could no longer be herself because the spirit of divination had suppressed her true self and was expressing its own will through her - so that she was doubly a slave. But it was Jesus who saved her, through Paul's intervention.

In giving themselves to evil spirits, people truly lose themselves and become slaves to those spirits, their true identity becomes suppressed and the spirits take over.

But what a contrast - if we give ourselves, our lives, to Jesus, we become truly free, and truly ourselves. In giving ourselves away to God, God gives us back our true selves, something no money can buy.

True spiritual freedom only comes through Jesus, from God. Jesus' name is above every other name, and he is compassionate, merciful, call on him to save you if you need to be saved.

*note - quotation from LOTR fixed to be more accurate

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