The Spirit of Divination
"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. 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." Acts 16:16-18
Sometimes you read things in Scripture which you think you understand, but through life experiences God shows you how cursory your understanding really was. Such is the case with me recently and the spirit of divination. I thought I understood this spirit, but did not realize until I saw it in action how little I knew.
While this post is not a part of the book, this understanding has indeed helped in that regard as well. The word for "divination" here is actually the word for python. This references the Oracle of Delphi (also called the priestess Pythia) which was one of the most important temples in all Greece and a focal point for intellectual inquiry. It was dedicated to the god Apollo, who was believed to have the gift of prophecy and was able to impart this "gift" to his oracles. It is this serpent spirit which is referenced in the text above.
Scripture says that the serpent was more subtle than any beast the Lord had made (Genesis 3:1a). There is a reason why Satan chose this creature to try and deceive man in the Garden of Eden.
subtle: not immediately obvious or comprehensible; difficult to detect or analyze; cunning or wily; operating or executed in secret: a subtle intrigue
Many times, people operate in this spirit and are not even aware of it. Yet there are certain things about this spirit that we can discern from the Scriptures.
- Religious - It is a religious spirit, purporting to speak for God and about the things of God. In this way it can deceive, as the outward appearance is one of being in line with God. Additionally, it likes to manifest in religious settings. Notice that it began to "prophecy" as the men of God committed themselves to prayer each day.
- Wrong Spirit - It is important for us to understand why this woman's actions grieved Paul so. This spirit claimed to know certain truths of God and to "prophecy" about them, but it was the wrong spirit. Someone can say something that is true, but still be demonically inspired. Taking her words at face value may not have caused much concern, but Paul was able to discern the spirit operating behind those words. This is why God tells us to test the spirits (I John 4:1). Even truths spoken in the wrong spirit grieve God.
- Idolatry of Man - One way in which this spirit was in error is that it tried to get the people focused on the disciples instead of on the Lord. The disciples were preaching Christ and drawing the people's attention to Him. Yet she followed them around, constantly trying to direct the people's attention to "these men". Whether it is man himself or the life of man, any message that has you focusing on the things of this world is not of God. God admonishes us to always set our affections on things above, not below. Even if a man is preaching the Gospel, the focus should always be on Christ. Men must not take glory that belongs to God for themselves and must be aware of those trying to sow to their flesh.
- False Gifts - This spirit also attempted to use the Lord to validate its occult, psychic powers. Seeming to speak truths about God gave the appearance that the woman's ability to "see" was of the Lord or sanctioned by Him. Now, there are actual gifts of the Spirit which provide a word of knowledge or discernment, but that is not what was operating in this woman. When this spirit is in operation, you will often see false spiritual gifts, which again can be deceptive if you cannot see the spirit operating behind the "gift".
- Pride - There is also an element of pride in this spirit. Not only did it try to get the disciples puffed up about their obedience to God, it also operates from a position of self-pride in the one who carries it. It deceives them into thinking that they are the "one" with the answers; they alone can "see" what others cannot. Consider this. The disciples were actively preaching Christ (Acts 16:10). Anyone who could hear them knew they were showing the way to salvation. Yet, the spirit in this woman felt led to proclaim this obvious "truth". It presents itself as being one with access to hidden or secret knowledge upon which others are dependent. God did not need the validation of this spirit to confirm those He had chosen. This is why pride in the Scriptures is often associated with Leviathan, a large serpent.
Consider Peter in Matthew 16:21-23, when he spoke against what Jesus stated must happen in His death & resurrection. Did Peter intend to entice Jesus into disobeying God? Was Peter trying to get Jesus to cherish His life in this earth more than His eternal life with the Father? Probably not. Yet nonetheless Jesus said to him, "Get thee behind me Satan!"
Can you imagine what Peter may have thought in response to Jesus' words? "Lord, why are you calling me Satan? I didn't mean anything by my statement. I think you have misunderstood what I said or what I meant." But did Jesus misunderstand? No. It is just that man does not know his own heart. Peter did not know what spirit he was manifesting...but Jesus did (Luke 9:55).
I post this message in the hopes that it will lead each of us to examine our own hearts before the Lord. If that spirit is in operation within, then we need to repent and seek God for deliverance. If that spirit is in operation around us, then we need to sanctify ourselves from it. Failure to do those things will allow that spirit to crush the spiritual life in us and in those around us. It grieves the Lord and He will not bear with it, no matter how much a religious veneer it walks in. Jesus is a faithful Deliverer, if we would just humble ourselves before Him.
Lastly, the following is a series of messages from Ron Phillips Ministries dealing with this spirit and its various manifestations. As with all things posted on this blog, I am trusting the Spirit of God to lead each person in receiving what is from the Lord and dismissing anything else. However, this is a very important message for the church to hear as we will encounter this spirit even more in the last days (II Thessalonians 2:9).
Python: Coiling Cords of Wickedness
Leviathan: The Twisting Spirit
Jezebel: The Controlling Spirit
Absinthe: The Bitter Spirit
Cain: The Killing Spirit
Snakes: Shake off the Snakes