Thursday, July 02, 2009

Paul And The Damsel In Distress

And it came to pass as we were going to prayer that a certain female slave, having a spirit of Python, met us, who brought much profit to her masters by prophesying.

She, having followed Paul and us, cried saying, “These men are bondmen of the Most High God, who announce to you the way of salvation.”

And this she did many days. And Paul, being distressed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I enjoin thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out the same hour.

And her masters, seeing that the hope of their gains was gone, having seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the market before the magistrates . . .

Acts 16:16-19 (Darby Translation)

As often happens with Scripture, what doesn’t get said is as interesting or more interesting than what does get said.

Why do you suppose the demon-possessed girl started following Paul?

I can only think of two reasons.

One, since the demon possessing the girl recognized Paul was preaching the true Gospel, the demon wanted to take the chance to do everything it could to interfere with Paul’s ministry and perhaps even impact Paul’s personal salvation.

Two, the young girl’s human spirit struggling with the torment of possession also recognized Paul was preaching the true Gospel and mustered up what strength she could to follow Paul in the hope that he might be able to help free her of the spirit possessing her.

It’s an interesting issue for Scripture to be silent on.

However, it’s reasonably clear that Scripture isn’t a book as we understand books in the modern world. Rather Scripture is a dynamic interface between an individual and God. It’s our job to focus not on what we’re told but rather on how what we’re told deepens and strengthens our understanding of and faith in God’s will manifesting itself in the world around us as we figure out things for ourselves.

I say “reasonably clear” because after Peter’s famous confession of faith Jesus explicitly says as much: “And Jesus answering said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in the heavens.Matthew 16:17 (Darby Translation)

The slave girl who followed Paul certainly didn’t do it because she was told to by the people around her. They were making money by exploiting her torment. But by following Paul even to the point of annoying him the slave girl did get free from the spirit possessing her.

In some translations of Acts 16:16 the Greek words for “slave girl” are translated as “damsel.”

Damsel. Just like in the common phrase “damsel in distress.”

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