As I was reading through these verses I came across a passage that was very similar to what I had read in my devotions yesterday morning. I found the similarity interesting...maybe you will too...
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
My commentary says that "Ephesus was a center for black magic and other occult practices. The people cooked up magical formulas to give them wealth, happiness, and success in marriage. Superstition and sorcery were commonplace. The sons of Sceva were impressed by Paul's work, whose power to drive out demons came from God's Holy Spirit, not from witchcraft, and was obviously more powerful than theirs. They discovered, however, that no one can control or duplicate God's power. These men were calling on the name of Jesus without knowing the person. The power to change people comes from Christ. It cannot be tapped by reciting his name like a magic charm. God works his power only through those he chooses."
In my devotions, I was reading in 1 Samuel 4:1-11 where the Israelites are being defeated by the Philistines. The Israelites then decided that they needed the Ark. They thought that it's power would help them, and so in walk Hophni and Phinehas (2 people who despised and disrespected the sacred things of God) with the Ark thinking that this would save them. The Philistines were worried when they heard the great shout of excitement from the Israelite camp when the Ark arrived and yet they had no trouble defeating the Israelites.
Here's an excerpt from my devotions that I think ties this all together...
"I have noticed something specific to religious people who do not walk with God. They cannot tell the difference between legitimate faith and superstition...as a people who had rejected and ignored God for a generation, their first question upon being slaughtered by their enemy was, "Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today?" We can take a great lesson from their presumption that God would be with them if they had the Ark like their ancestors did. The sovereign God loves deeply, but he will not be disrespected. He will not permit us to take Him for granted. He will not honor our neglect. Those who honor Him will respect the symbols of His presence, but they will not worship those symbols. They certainly will not allow them to take His place. Likewise, the cross has no power to save -- only the Christ who graced it with His presence. We must be very cautious to avoid ever approaching the Divine as a talisman."
We may not practice magic or dabble in the occult. We may not worship symbols. But do we treat our Father as a good luck charm? Do we go to Him with our wishes and requests hoping he will grant them while we hold Him at arms length?
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: 1 Corinthians 4-7