We are a devoted group of people when it comes to attending church on Sunday, smiling at visitors, making room in the pew for one more, as long as there is still room for our family who may or may not come, and our view is not blocked from the stage. We might even toss some cash in the offering plate if it’s been a good week. We say our goodbyes, then before we get into our minivans to go home our minds are already on what we need to do for work the next week. Sometimes there are people who get in the way of “The Way”. Sometimes those people are…us.
When The Way, (Good News of Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit convicts or guides us to do something or be something that involves our checkbook or our precious time we have a tendency to fight back at first with disgruntled reasons why this is not a good idea. In Paul’s day, The Way, was hurting the idol business. See what happened…and how God acts and takes control of the situation!
Acts 19,The Message
Witches Came out of the Woodwork
11-12 God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole.
13-16 Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul’s “game.” They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!” The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man when the evil spirit talked back: “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” Then the possessed man went berserk—jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could.
17-20 It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.
The Goddess Artemis
21-22 After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. “Then,” he said, “I’m off to Rome. I’ve got to see Rome!” He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia and then stayed for a while and wrapped things up in Asia.
23-26 But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as “the Way.” A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, “Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here—and you’ve seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we’re doing by telling people that there’s no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.
27 “Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!”
28-31 That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!” They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul’s associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: “By no means go near that mob!”
32-34 Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!”—on and on and on, for over two hours.
35-37 Finally, the town clerk got the mob quieted down and said, “Fellow citizens, is there anyone anywhere who doesn’t know that our dear city Ephesus is protector of glorious Artemis and her sacred stone image that fell straight out of heaven? Since this is beyond contradiction, you had better get hold of yourselves. This is conduct unworthy of Artemis. These men you’ve dragged in here have done nothing to harm either our temple or our goddess.
38-41 “So if Demetrius and his guild of artisans have a complaint, they can take it to court and make all the accusations they want. If anything else is bothering you, bring it to the regularly scheduled town meeting and let it be settled there. There is no excuse for what’s happened today. We’re putting our city in serious danger. Rome, remember, does not look kindly on rioters.” With that, he sent them home.
What do we learn?
–Demons know who Jesus but do not praise Him. There only job is to block The Way.
–The idol (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”) business suffers.
–Paul keeps going, telling the story of salvation through Jesus Christ, God’s Son…The Way is gaining steam.
–God intervenes at just the right time.
–Where God guides, God provides and acts where necessary.
Reflection: What does my checkbook tell about my life as a believer of The Way? What are my idols?
Dear Heavenly Father, I repent of any time I got in the way of Your Way. I repent of any idols that blocked my view of You. Change me. Transform me to be and to do all that is necessary in Your eyes, at just the right time and place, to advance Your salvation story. Thank you for always being with us. Thank you for inviting us to Your work. Thank you for never changing. We trust in You alone. I believe.
In Jesus Name, Amen