A Certain Damsel Possessed with a Demon – Acts, Chapter 16:16-34 – “16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. (Even the demons know who God is! Here He is being mocked by one.) And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
Divination was widely practiced in the ancient Middle East. This attempt to contact supernatural powers sought unknown answers that usually foretold the future. The Old Testament strongly condemns such practices: Leviticus 19:26 “Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.” And Jeremiah 27:9 “Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:” (Having anything to do with evil spirits in any way, opens the door for them to come in and ruin our lives! They work for satan!)
Paul and Silas had come to preach in Philippi where they met a fortune-teller. We know her only as a “certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.” Luke recognized her phenomena as being identical to those of the priestesses of Delphi. In other words, she was not seen as merely a lunatic or skillful ventriloquist, but she was indeed possessed of a demonic spirit, giving her extraordinary powers to predict the future, which was strictly forbidden – Leviticus 19:31 “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.” Her masters used and abused her, receiving much money from her fortune-telling, especially by making her answer those with problems and difficulties who were more vulnerable to such deception.
The girl followed Paul and Silas for days, crying out loudly and hindering their ministry. Annoyed, Paul exorcised the problem-causing demonic spirit from the girl’s body. Deprived of their potential gain, her masters dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace and had them beaten and imprisoned.
***In prison, however, Paul and Silas witnessed the power of the Living Christ! Not only were they miraculously delivered, but the keeper of the prison and his entire family were saved and baptized. Acts mentions no more about the fortune-telling slave girl. However, her testimony stands forever to prove that God can bring glory even out of the most harsh and unfair situations!***