Going Deeper 5-28-19

‚ÄčThe first reading for Easter 7...
Acts 16:16-34    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.  But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.  When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, "These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe."  The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods.  After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely.  Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened.  When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here."  The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them outside and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  They answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."  They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.  He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

As is the case with many of the strange stories found throughout the Bible, this one might generate a lot more questions than answers.  Is fortune-telling always demonic?  Why would this demon speak what appears to be the truth?  Why is Paul annoyed at what appears to be the truth?  What happens to the girl once her ability to earn money for her masters is taken away?  Why is it so seemingly easy for these rich slave owners to have Paul and Silas not only thrown into jail, but under maximum security?  Why would the jailer decide to kill himself when it appears the prisoners had escaped?  

Let's be honest: this is a very strange story.  Some of the questions might be answered, but others cannot.  And let's continue to be honest: there really are a lot of strange stories that can generate a lot of unanswerable questions in the Scriptures.  What are we to make of this?

Here's my response on this wet and gloomy morning: God works through the weird twists and turns of history to bring about ultimate good.  From all of the bizarre stories that can be found in the very first book of the Bible, to all of the strange symbols and images in the very last book of the Bible, we see that our God is so infinitely wise and powerful that He is able to work through all of the messiness to bring about His good and gracious will.

It might blow our minds to think about it: but even when God's will is clearly not done, even when His children cause and/or experience crazy dysfunction in their lives, even when truly bad things happen, God can make it all work together for good.  A story like the one in our text might create more questions than answers, but in the end, salvation comes.  

That is God's way.

With You in His Love,
Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."