Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Spirit of Pythia

16 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. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants [5] of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 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. (Acts 16:16-18 (ESV)
“A spirit of Pythia” is the wooden translation of the Greek expression that Luke uses. We encounter again the Greek world of antiquity that is not so different from ours. The oracles of Delphi were named Pythia. They would fall into trance like states and give oracles that could often be given different interpretations, and allowed you to read what you liked into them. Though, the practice of adding “in bed” to the end is a modern innovation that admittedly makes such modern day trifles a bit more fun.
The truth is though, that this girl was possessed by a demon. Her owners made good money off of her telling fortunes, which probably had more substance than your average fortune cookie today, or even the abilities of modern day charlatans passing themselves as palm readers, or whatever other means they use. The thing is, I’m still not sure all of them are mere charlatans. I still don’t care to frequent their domiciles.
The people of antiquity would put a lot of stock in such things. I think it is in the nature of man to want to know the future. To want some divine assistance in choosing the paths that lie ahead. It’s all wrapped up in our desire to be rich, to avoid pain and suffering. The same sort of anxiousness that causes otherwise good Christians to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to discern God’s will for their lives in regards to marriage and work, and even such things as which car to buy. But there is no real good way to determine this sort of thing, though dice seem to have Biblical warrant, and are probably as good as any other thing.  “Time and chance happen to them all.” (Eccl. 9:11) That isn’t to say there isn’t a certain amount of divine providence at work in a person’s life, but then what God wants to happen, well that happens despite your best efforts. It isn’t always a pleasant thing to live through in this world either. Anxiousness isn’t something easy to live through, but it isn’t going to help the situation either. Never has for me. Sometimes it seems to just make things worse.
But that is what drove the prophets for this slave girl with the Pythian spirit. This demon who could hear the word of God, and recognize those sent from God. This is one of those cases, where you see that finally God rules even over the angels of darkness who work against his will, they too are forced to prophecy in his favor, and this happens here.  This girl is possessed and her demon is forced to shout that these men are from God, and are there to show the way of salvation.  One wonders why Paul even cured her of the demon. Almost seems like good advertising. But then Paul shows her prophecy to be true when he exercises the demon, and bestows salvation upon her. And he is also able to get work done and preach without the disruption. Losing her demon does not hurt her witness at all, instead it is strengthened.  

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