Acts 16:16-24 Under Paul’s Skin

Her future changed in an instant

The last time we met we got to witness Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke as they went to the riverside to find a place of prayer. Today’s story starts with a side note regarding that trip, but it doesn’t end there.

If you are not an only child you can probably come up with a memory where one of your siblings bugged you to the point of exasperation! I can think of MANY in my life. Paul was taken to that point by the young girl in our story.

Luke remarks that while they “going to the place of prayer” this girl first met them. She had an evil spirit that actually benefited those she was enslaved to. This spirit was knew the secrets of others and it shared them with her. She used these secrets in telling other’s fortunes. Her owners made a sizable profit from her knowledge.

Before we go on I want to say something about the spirit residing in this girl. First of all, it didn’t have the ability to see into the future. If Satan had that power he wouldn’t have been so determined to have Jesus killed. Even with all the prophecies he still didn’t really know what was going to happen. So this spirit could do no more than use people’s secrets to its benefit. Like knowing who is planning on buying and selling sort of secrets. Second, this spirit was speaking the truth in its proclamations. Finally, this spirit was insistent on being heard and enticed the girl to follow Paul and his group everywhere.

Ok, back to the scene in town that week. As Paul and company walked about in the city they had a “town crier” following in their wake. It was of course our girl who had the evil spirit living in her. Wherever they went she would follow and call out to the people. What she was saying was very true and probably brought a lot of attention to the group. “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation: (verse 17). That was their message in a nutshell. Probably useful in drawing a crowd so they could begin sharing.

That would have been helpful if it ended there, but it didn’t. Satan was not about to help Paul and his group reach souls for the Kingdom of God. He was intent on disrupting their mission trip in any way he could. So as Paul begins to speak, the girl cries out again forcing Paul to stop speaking or compete with her voice to be heard. Again and again and again this scene played out over several days. Our group couldn’t even walk a block without her announcing it. She even followed them to where they were staying and called out during dinner.

Our troop has endured this spirit’s behavior for DAYS. Enough is enough! Paul has had all he can take and he is going to do something about it. Paul knew there were spiritual forces behind the girl’s behavior. He didn’t rebuke the girl for her behavior. Instead he spoke directly to the spirit that was causing the girl’s behavior. He didn’t ask it to please stop disturbing them. He didn’t ask it what it wanted. Instead he used the power of Jesus’ name to command it to leave the girl.

Paul’s words with Jesus’ power behind them put an immediate stop to this situation. I want to know now what happened to the girl. Did she run to her masters and tell them what had happened? Were they watching her during the week? Did she give her life to Jesus after she had been freed? Did she want her freedom or did she wish for the return of the power the spirit had given her?

We know that her owners noticed the change in the girl very quickly. They also knew how that change came about. Here again, were they watching at this time or did the girl tell them about it later? All they saw was how the change impacted their pocketbooks. They had no concern for the girl, whom they were exploiting. She meant nothing to them beyond what she could do to benefit them.

They were furious with Paul and Silas. I’m curious to know where Timothy and Luke were during this time. Did they single Paul and Silas out because they were the leaders? Were Luke and Timothy doing anything more than providing support services? Maybe that is why they were not included in the owner’s vindictive behavior.

I’m also wondering how many of them (the girl’s owners) there were. It would have had to be more than one because Paul and Silas could have easily shaken off one man. But Luke tells us they were “dragged” into the marketplace and brought before the rulers.

There was probably some kind of location where the rulers/magistrates sat during the day. Paul and Silas are taken there by this angry bunch of men. Paul and Silas remain silent during the whole ordeal. Were they waiting for their turn to speak? Were they being shouted down whenever they tried to speak? Their turn never came.

The whole crowd joined in with the clamoring for the magistrate’s attention. To please, and probably quiet, the crowd the magistrates acted quickly and decisively. They didn’t bother to hear the evidence or ask Paul and Silas’ if they had anything to say. They simply passed judgement and ordered punishment.

Paul and Silas didn’t receive a few blows with the rods but MANY of them. They were severely beaten. Their punishment didn’t end there. Their bloody bodies were hauled away and thrown into prison. No treatment for their wounds. No bandages. No food. No fresh clothing. Instead they were placed in the darkest part of the prison, their feet were placed in stocks, and they were left there with the rats for the night. Cold, bleeding, hurting and hungry; possibly even unconscious. ALL because of the deliverance of one young girl.

Father God I’m so glad the story didn’t end there. I can hardly wait to finish this story. Paul and Silas didn’t have “the rest of the story” right at hand like I do. They had to endure it moment by moment. Thank You that You didn’t leave them alone, even during their beatings.

Was Paul acting on Your urging when he commanded the spirit to leave the girl? Or was he acting out of his own fleshly frustrations? You honored his words regardless of his initial motive. I’m so glad You can use our less than perfect behavior for Your good. Paul’s frustration was showing but because of it a whole family found You, but that is for another night.

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