16 “As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.” (Acts 16:16–18)
Being consistent with the text, the place of prayer Luke mentioned most likely was the riverside where Paul and his co-missionaries first met Lydia. The text does not say it was the Sabbath. It didn’t have to be. Every day can be a day for prayer.
As Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy were going to the place for prayer, they encountered a slave girl. The phrase “they were met” indicates that the encounter was mutual. The girl was most likely a woman of age or adulthood. However, she was not a free person. She was someone’s slave. The reason is never revealed.
She was also demon possessed. Luke referred to it as a spirit of divination. The phrase Luke used is an idiom or an expression meaning literally ‘to have a spirit of a python.’ By this spirit, she was a successful fortune teller. She would tell people for pay what would happen to them in the future.
Dr. Simon Kistermaker explains that, “The Greek here rendered ‘divination’ derives from a word referring to Python, the mystical snake that guarded the Delphic Oracle. As the priestess of Apollo at Delphi was able to predict the future, so this slave girl served her masters in Philippi as a fortuneteller. She was an instrument of demons who used her as a mouthpiece.”
She was exploited. She was abused and ill-used not only by the demons but also by her owners. The only personal value she had with her masters was the “much gain” she brought to them. They were pimps who subjugated her to a life of fortunetelling prostitution.
Whatever the reason, and Luke did not provide one, the girl followed Paul and his companions for many days and continually shouted and screamed that “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul raises several questions. “Is she truly able to predict future events? We cannot be sure; the answer depends on whether God makes His plans known to Satan to any extent. Also, why would Satan allow this girl to make a truthful confession about Paul and his companions? However, Satan may be using a truthful testimony delivered in a disruptive way to frustrate Paul’s ministry efforts. It is also possible the Gentiles hearing the girl are being led to believe that the ‘Most High God’ is a reference to Zeus.”
Regardless, Paul had enough and became irritated and angry. He eventually said to the demonic spirit, ““I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” The spirit immediately submitted to Paul’s command and departed from the girl.
The Apostle Paul used the divine and delegated authority God had given to him. The result was that the girl was no longer bound by the demons. However, she was still bound by her human masters who would seek retribution against Paul for eliminating their source of profit and prosperity.
Standing for Christ in a lost and fallen world will always result in spiritual opposition. I Peter 4:12-14 says, “12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Therefore, always be on your guard. We never know when we may face spiritual oppression and attack. However, Jesus is always with us so be encouraged (Hebrews 13:5).
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!