The scripture reading for today is Acts 16:16-18.
“One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation." She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.”
Last summer it was a special joy to visit the place where this story happened! While traveling through Greece with my wife, son and daughter-in-law, we visited the ruins of ancient Philippi. I was so excited by what we saw there that I want to focus on these stories and Paul’s letter to the Philippians during the season of Lent.
In this particular story, this slave-girl was in bondage two different ways. She was in physical bondage because she was a slave, owned by someone else. Let’s remember that slavery is not just an ancient problem. There were slaves in the United States in the not-too-distant past. Even today, many millions are slaves, trafficked, locked in concentration camps, or in similar horrendous situations around the world.
This slave-girl was also in spiritual bondage. In particular, she was in bondage to a spirit. It was called a spirit of divination because she could tell peoples’ fortunes and futures. In the ancient Greek language, this spirit was called a “python spirit” because it was believed to be similar to the python that told fortunes through the oracles at the famous shrine at Delphi. This shrine was high in the mountains in the center of the Greek countryside. It was also at the center of Greek religion, which worshipped a pantheon of gods.
When the apostle Paul and his traveling companions came into town, this slave-girl saw them as her opportunity for freedom. She called them slaves of the Most High God, which put them higher in the pecking order than her owners who were merely taking advantage of one spirit among many others in the Greek pantheon. Paradoxically, their slavery to the Most High God offered to her freedom, a new way of life, and a whole new set of loyalties. Paul commanded the spirit to leave her, which release her from bondage.
Does anything hold you in bondage? Fears, guilt or shame? Recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ offers you freedom. You too can become a slave of the Most High God.
God, help us to accept the freedom and new life you offer in Christ.
Pastor Lanny Westphal email@example.com
Prayer Concern: Those who are in physical or spiritual bondage.