Devotional # 59. 11/5/13. A Demon Beats Up Some Exorcists and Demetrius Starts a Riot.
This week’s Reading: Acts 19:1-41.
Introduction. This chapter has three famous stories in it: Peter’s sweatbands heal people, a demon beats up a bunch of exorcists and Demetrius is worried about his business and wants Paul to quit preaching. This chapter shows us how God moves in amazing but unpredictable ways while he protects His children and is glorified in any situation.
vv. 1-10. This section is similar to some of what we have covered in the past and the 12 men who only knew of John the Baptist’s baptism are a lot like Apollos from last week (see Devotional 58, specifically vv. 22-28).
vv. 11-12. This is an interesting section. The “handkerchiefs and aprons” were Paul’s “sweat bands” from working at tentmaking (Source 1). So “in the same way that the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15) or the hem of Jesus’ garment (Matthew 14:36) might heal: the item became a point of contact by which a person released faith in Jesus as healer” (Source 2). Notice that even at this time Luke (the author of Acts) says that these miracles were “unusual”. Although we don’t usually see miracles like this (in the United States) happening today it is a reminder that God loves to use the unexplainable to heal. He uses many different ways to bring people to Him.
vv. 13-16. In verse 10 we just read that “two years” passed, so if we add that with the other time markers we’ve read then Paul has been ministering for four or five years at this point. The miracles he did in Jesus’ name had become famous and, as we saw in Acts 8 (specifically vv. 9-13, Devotional 48), Simon the Sorcerer wanted to have that power and use it for monetary gain. Remember I just mentioned that God likes to do unexplainable things in different ways? We see this with Jesus healing people or answering in parables. This is so there isn’t one method that people can depend on and then trust in themselves. Anything worth doing is done by the Holy Spirit. So these “itinerant Jewish exorcists” and the “seven sons of Sceva” were trying to use a powerful formula (using Jesus’ name) to throw demons out of people. But demons shouldn’t be messed with!
This one demon says several interesting things. First, it recognizes Jesus (of course, since He is the Creator) and Paul (God’s influential spokesperson of the time). In James 2:19 we see that demons believe in Jesus and shake in fear. But Second, this demon says ‘who do you think you are?’ and then beats the crap out of these men! It’s actually pretty funny, but there is also something we learn from this. If you don’t have faith in Jesus and you are just pretending to be religious or a Christian you will be beaten up. The ungodly world will beat you up. Notice a demon beats up ungodly men. Who would want to continue in that kind of life? Satan and his demons don’t respect people, they sucker you in then chew you up and spit you out. Now some people can fool others but they don’t fool the spiritual realm. And that’s what counts. So what about God? He knows what we think (Psalm 139:1-4) and if we are pretending to be Christians but still live in the world it is known as being “lukewarm.” Jesus hates that and uses violent language to explain what He will do to those people (Revelation 3:16).
vv. 17-20. God will always be glorified and in this situation it was because the demon attacked these imposters. People hear about what happened and burn their books on magic. One piece of silver was a day’s wage. If we put this in a modern perspective and assigned $100 as a days wage that would make the total amount of the books burned was $5,000,000 ($100 x 50,000). Then we have some of the most exciting yet comforting words of the whole chapter, the “word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed”.
vv. 21-22. This portion helps us understand where Paul desired to go and how he sent travelers in front of him. As always he makes his plans “in the Spirit.”
vv. 23-41. This is an interesting story about the good businessman Demetrius who made idols of the goddess named Diana. She was also called “Artemis” and the temple for her was one of the seven wonders of the world (Source 1). Demetrius was being proactive noticing a decline in the sale of idols that he and his fellow “silversmiths” made. They cause a riot, grabbing a few of the guys that Paul traveled with and everyone goes into the theater. It’s actually funny because most people don’t know why they are there (v. 32) and spend two hours shouting (v. 34). It is commendable that Paul wanted to go down and defend his friends who were captured. But it was wise for his friends to keep him from going because he may have been unnecessarily hurt or even killed. It is all cleared up by the clerk who tells everyone to go home. This could have had a really bad outcome but God spared everyone’s life. I bet Gaius, Aristarchus and Alexander thought they might die but it probably shook up the other Christians also. I think God may have allowed this to happen so that these Christians would realize the importance of what they believed in and that they would face opposition but that He would always take care of them.
Conclusion. This chapter has a lot going on but I’m going to concentrate on vv. 13-16 because it applies to everyone of us. Over the last year of doing these devotionals everyone knows that Jesus says if people want to go to heaven it must be through Him (John 14:6). So confessing our sins and calling on Jesus as our master (Romans 10:9-10) gives us all the protection, love and rights of a child of God. If you have made that decision that you know what it means to have the Holy Spirit’s comfort, direction and discretion in your life. But if you haven’t made that decision what are you waiting for? Do you still believe the lies of the ungodly world? Test them. See how happy you are and how much better your life is without God. You can lie to me and lie to yourself but you will die empty and alone. Remember Satan suckers you in with fun and sweet sin but he doesn’t love or protect you. Instead as you swear allegiance to him he beats you up and drags you to hell. So you think that you don’t have to choose a side? You’re wrong. Jesus says you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). And “you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). So if you want to lose your life on this earth (and the next) go fully into the sinful world or if you want to follow Christ do it fully but don’t sit on the fence!
Source 1: John MacArthur, the John MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1669-70.
Source 2: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Act/Act_19.cfm?a=1037001