Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday, September 18 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 37-38; Proverbs 16; 1 Thessalonians 5.
Today's scripture focus is Mark 5:1-20

The Gerasene Demoniac
5 They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, 3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. 6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. 19 And He did not let him, but He *said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

I'm sure we are all pretty familiar with this story.  It's a well known miracle that Jesus performed, so much so that bits of it have been used in Hollywood movies or drawn on as inspiration for other stories.  I remember in particular a movie I watched (not a very good one, either) where you hear this voice, or rather a multitude of voices, coming from a man saying "My name is Legion; for we are maaaaaaaannnyyyyy," which sounded really creepy.  I'm not sure how realistic this would have been, but I suppose it is possible that all the demons inside the man spoke to Jesus in unison.   Anyway, that's beside the point.

David Legge, in Satan to Jesus Must Bow, talks about the two errors people make in their belief, or lack of belief, in Satan:

Now let me ask you before we go on any further: do you believe in a personal devil? Most people in the world do not. Many people who profess faith in Christ cannot, their reason won't allow them. I don't believe it is unreasonable, but they do.

Now some try and explain away this miraculous instance by saying that this man was insane, that's all. I think that people in his own day and generation believed that about him, that he was just the madman of Gadara. 

Now, though this man's behaviour conformed to what was commonly understood in his day as insanity, there was something else going on in his mind and heart. Now here's a lesson that I don't want us to miss: whilst we must be careful to never ever label a mental illness as possession - never, ever to do that - we must equally acknowledge the possibility, indeed the probability, that our society puts the label of 'mental illness' on what may in fact be a classic case of demon-possession. The reason they do that is that they simply don't believe it's a possibility. So we must beware, we must beware of two opposite errors about the devil: one, the error of disbelieving in him; and the other error we must beware of is an excessive, unhealthy interest in him. C. S. Lewis put it well when he said: 'They', that is the demons themselves, 'are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight'.

We must beware of an unbelief in regard to the personality of the devil and his minions, the demons, because as one has well said: 'Unbelief in the devil has often proved to be the first step in unbelief in God'. I think it's obvious that the devil exists, and demons, because his grubby fingerprints of an unclean spirit are all around us.

This man had an unclean spirit - an unclean spirit characterised itself with moral filthiness, and often caused much harm to the person who was possessed. I ask you the question: is it only incidental that with the rise of paganism, occultism, Satanism, over the last number of years in our world, that there has also been a rise of drug abuse, pornography, obscenity, homosexuality? It is not coincidental, it is a sign that Satan and his principalities and powers have a controlling influence in our day and generation, just as they did with this man.

We need to waken up today as God's people to the force that Satan is in our world today. We ought never to underestimate the destructive power of Satan and his demons. Our enemy would destroy all of us if he could - do you believe that? Peter said: 'He is a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour'. He's also at work, the Bible says, in the life of unbelievers, making them children of disobedience Ephesians 2 tells us. Now I know that this demoniac, and both of these men as Matthew tells us, are extreme examples of what Satan can do - but they ought to reveal to us the danger of dabbling with dead things, with sinful things, with Satanic things. It ought to cause believers in Christ to resist the devil, that he will flee from us - have nothing to do with him!

Harry Ironside made this telling comment: 'We cannot but reflect on the possibilities of evil when we realise that one man could hold more evil spirits than 2000 unclean hogs' - think about that. The force of Satan today is the same as it ever was.

I had a conversation with my sister a while back about how little demons and their influence were talked about all the time that we were growing up, so now it seems superstitious and almost old-fashioned to talk about demon possession, even though both of us as Christians are very aware that demons are real and that they do influence people all the time.  I think particularly as Westerners, it can be hard to remember that because demons don't need to be conspicuous.  They can hide easily because our culture is so full of distractions and illusions and a constant need to fill our appetites with more food, better clothes, a bigger house, a nicer car... we give them much too easy a job.

Anyway, happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Mark 5:21-34
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Isaiah 39-40; Proverbs 17; 2 Thessalonians 1

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