Today’s readings are from Exodus 37 and Acts 19.
God does crazy things! Sometimes obviously crazy things – like using hankerchiefs that had touched Paul to bring healing to the sick. Sometimes more subtle, but equally crazy things. Acts 19 tells a couple of crazy stories with unexpected results.
The first is about “some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” (Acts 19:13)
These guys were trying to use a power they had seen but had no idea about. Imagine our outrage at such a blatant abuse and manipulation of the name of Jesus. I’d probably want to stop it, warn people against it and plead on God to intervene so that people know the truth of him and not see him as one to be manipulated. My plan may make sense from a human level, but God had a crazy plan. He allowed them to go about their stuff, and as they did they encountered an evil spirit who challenges them:
Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:15)
Fair enough. They had it coming to them. But the crazy plan isn’t how he deals with the exorcists, but how he deals with his people through it;
And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)
Through an abuse and manipulation of the name of Jesus, God executes a crazy plan where people voluntarily come in confession and repentance with the result being that “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:20)
I’m glad I wasn’t around to get in the way!
The second story is of the riot in Ephesus. We read “About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23). No little disturbance I bet! People were scared of losing money personally as well as status for the town. This was a massive event in which the apostle Paul feared for his life (see 2 Corinthians 1 & 2 Timothy 4:14-18.).
Eventually the town clerk comes to the rescue and settles the crowd, saying;
But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion. (Acts 19:39-40)
Even by the town clerk’s standards, they hadn’t done anything wrong but had been treated so unjustly. Again, think of our outrage as we watch injustice play out. Yet again, God has a crazy plan (or two). We read in Ephesians of the community of Ephesus who are “faithful in Christ Jesus” of whom Paul says “I do not cease to give thanks for you”.
Through this riot and “no little disturbance”, God had a crazy plan to grow an amazing local church that worked together to display the love of Christ in Jesus. And not only that, but through this riot, God had a crazy plan to shape his servant Paul, so that in all things and at all times he would have an unshakable hope in the provision of God.
I’m glad I wasn’t there to stop the riot. (haha – would have been a funny sight though).
I’m not at all suggesting we should seek injustice or manipulation of the name and power of Jesus, nor sit idly while others do, but it strikes me how God has plans that we may think are a bit crazy. Maybe things seem a little crazy in your life at the moment. Take some time to ask God how he is shaping you, and trust that even in life’s craziness, God works for his good purposes. You never know what unexpected results he might be bringing.