from the journal of Dr. Luke (based on Acts 16:16-24)…
Monday, July 2
Paul, Silas, and I rose early and headed out to have prayer with our fellow believers, as was our usual custom, but today was no ordinary day. For on our way to our brother’s house, a young woman met us in the street and began to make quite a fuss. Clearly she was possessed with a spirit of divination, for her shrill cries bore all the earmarks of one possessed of Python, the serpent-spirit worshiped at Delphi. “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show us the way of salvation!” she cried hysterically over and over again. What she said was true, of course, but we did not need the testimony of a devil. As soon as we reached the house, we entered quickly and shut the door, relieved to be free from the presence of that poor girl. And we prayed for her.
Tuesday, July 3
Again today we were walking peaceably through the city streets, and that girl came up behind us again, following us for several blocks, shouting the same words she cried yesterday: “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show us the way of salvation!” We were not far from Andrew’s house, so we went there and knocked on the door. “Please, may we come in?” Paul asked our friend. “We need to get away from this girl—and we need to pray for her.”
Sunday, July 8
Several days have passed, and every day has been the same. We cannot step outside the house without this pitiful girl finding us and following us, wailing, and crying, and declaring us to be the servants of the Most High God. We are all grieved, but especially Paul. We have learned that certain men of the city make good money off of this poor girl, extorting her for her satanic power as a fortune teller. She is at their mercy. Today, instead of hiding from her, Paul turned toward her and ordered the demon, in the name of Jesus Christ, to leave her at once. The demon had no choice but to obey. The damsel then knelt down at Paul’s feet, thanking him for what he had done, and asking him how she could have the peace that he has. Paul would not let her remain on her knees, for he was but a man and not worthy to be worshiped. But he very gladly told her all about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now this young woman is filled with the Holy Spirit, and can never again be possessed by the evil ones. Praise God!
Monday, July 9
Yesterday was a very good day for that precious young woman, but it was a very bad day for her masters. They were furious when they discovered that she could no longer tell the future, for that cut deeply into their pockets. I was away tending to someone who was sick when the angry men caught Paul and Silas, dragged them into the marketplace, and presented them before the magistrates. Of course, they said nothing about their lost income, but out of spite, they trumped up false charges against my friends, saying, “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.” Of course, both Paul and Silas are also Roman citizens, but this was ignored, and their rights as Romans were completely disregarded. The magistrates did not even give them a chance to speak for themselves, but immediately ripped off their clothes, and commanded that they be beaten. Their bare backs were torn open by the many stripes they received. Then bruised, bloody, and covered in welts, they were thrown into the inner prison, where the jailor secured their feet fast in the stocks. My friends were treated like hardened criminals, and all because they liberated one precious soul from Satan’s grasp.
❧ ❧ ❧
Today we find another one of the many unnamed women in the Bible. Very little is known about her. We know that she was able to tell fortunes through the power of the demon that possessed her. We also know that she was a slave to many masters who were more interested in how they profited from her than in her own well-being. We do not know how she responded to being freed from the demon that tormented her, but we can imagine that she turned to Christ by faith out of gratitude for being delivered from the power of the evil spirit. One obvious indication that such is the case is the anger of the men who could no longer profit from her. If the Holy Spirit had not come into her heart to indwell her, then the evil spirit would have had a chance to return—and bring his buddies with him. Then the girl would have been worse off than she was before.
Matthew 12:43-45 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, “I will return into my house from where I came out.” And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goes, and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
In the parable Jesus taught, the evil spirit returned to the man from whom he had recently departed, and he found the man’s heart [i.e. house] “empty, swept, and garnished.” This sounds good, doesn’t it? The man’s heart is garnished, which may indicate decorated or furnished. So he has added good habits to his life. And it is swept clean. But the trouble with this kind of clean is that it was all of his own doing, not God’s. How do we know this? Because his heart was empty. If Jesus had cleansed and furnished his heart, the evil spirit would have found it occupied, and would have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere. An empty heart is an open invitation for the devil and his angels. The only permanent solution to the power of sin and Satan is to invite Christ into your heart, and He will send His Spirit to fill you.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.
Because the evil spirit could not return into the girl, I believe she left that day filled with the Spirit of God, happy to serve a new Master.
What can we learn from this young woman?
There is much to learn here, but I would like to focus on just one thing: the value of that young woman in the sight of God.
Never in this account do we see Paul, Silas, or Luke judging the damsel for her actions. They know that the blame lies with the evil spirit, and their rebuke is directed toward only him. The girl was being used of the devil to distract people from coming to know Jesus, but she herself was precious in God’s sight. He did not identify her by her behavior, but by her need. He did not see her as someone to be destroyed, but as someone to be redeemed.
This young woman served many masters who used her for their own profit, but Jesus paid her ransom. He bought her with His own blood—not so that He could enslave her to Himself, but so that He could set her free! He took His proof of ownership and stamped “FREE” across the page, then presented it to her and let her go. This dear young woman, overcome with gratitude for having been granted her freedom, vowed to voluntarily serve the Master for the rest of her days. To this He replied, “Come, follow Me.”
Even the masters who despitefully used her were precious in God’s sight. Paul and the others did not speak ill of them either, or to them. Had they desired the same freedom that the damsel received, they would not have been turned away.
What is my point? Friends, far too often we judge people by their appearance, by their smell, by their language, by their associations, or by their actions. But we forget that God loves them just as much as He loves you and me. Jesus Christ died and rose again for them, just as He died and rose again for you and me. Folks, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We are all the same in the eyes of God. Let’s learn to look past the surface and see the real person on the inside who desperately needs to be set free from the bondage of sin.
This applies to those who do not yet know the Lord, as well as to our brothers and sisters in Christ. People hurt us. Sometimes they do it maliciously, sometimes they have no idea the pain they have caused. Let us learn to pray, “Father, teach me to love that person the way You do.” And if you think such love is impossible for you to give, then pray, “Father, teach me to love that person because You love him. Teach me to forgive that person because You forgave him.” If I hold onto a grudge simply because I cannot let go of the hurt someone has done to me, then I am placing myself above God. In essence, I’m saying to God, “His offense against me was worse than his offense against You.” Can you honestly say that about anyone? Can I? Then why do we find it so hard to forgive?
Let’s make it more personal. Learn to pray, “Father, teach me to love her because You love me.” This prayer is powerful because it comes straight from the Word of God.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
The love I’m talking about here is not the superficial Woodstock kind of peace and love, and it’s not the pass-around-a-Coca-Cola-and-teach-the-world-to-sing kind of love. It’s the kind of love that demands sacrifice of self, the kind that puts another’s needs ahead of your own, the kind that motivates you to suffer loss for the sake of someone else’s gain, if God so requires, knowing that the Lord will provide everything you have need of anyway. God did not ask us to do anything that He was not willing to do Himself. In fact, He gave us the perfect example in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 15:12 This is My commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you.
Paul and Silas loved this young woman, although her behavior grieved them.
Who needs your love?
This is the final study in my Women in the Bible series for The Abundant Heart Blog. In due time, I will reissue these studies in print form, so I’ve decided to reserve the remaining twenty-five studies for the print edition. Many thanks to all who have read these studies and left your feedback. It’s going to be a while before I’m ready for the print edition, but when it is ready, I’ll be sure to let you know. God bless you!