Exodus 7:8-13 – The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,  “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”  So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake.  Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts:  Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.  Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.
Exodus 7:20-22 – Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood.  The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.  But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.
Acts 16:16-18 – Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.  This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”  She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
I have never quite understood how the magicians of Egypt could perform the same miracles as Moses and Aaron… at least a few of them. Well, we know that they weren’t exactly the same, but they fooled enough of the people enough of the time so that they were considered the same.
Let me back up.
The Scene: Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh and his court. Just after Aaron threw his staff to the ground, it became a snake. That would have impressed me. But it didn’t impress Pharaoh. What did he do? He summoned his wise men and sorcerers and magicians to do the same thing. And they did. Well…sort of. Aaron’s staff ate all of their staffs. God’s little way of reminding folks who’s sovereign and who’s not.
Then there was the scene at the Nile River. It was there that Moses and Aaron turned the Nile’s water into blood. Gross. That would get my attention. Not Pharaoh. He rounded up his FX artists again and, just like before, they did the same thing as Moses and Aaron.
This isn’t confined to just the Old Testament. In the New Testament we learn of a slave girl “who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.” And like so many of the demons who recognized who Jesus really was, this slave girl’s “spirit” understood that Paul and company were “servants of the Most High God,” and were telling the people “the way to be saved.”
In one sense it was good that she (or rather, her spirit) recognized who Paul and his companions were. But at the end of the day, it was still a demonic spirit and, by definition, was up to no good. That’s why Paul cast the spirit out of the girl in the name of Jesus Christ.
Not all that glitters is gold. Not all miracles are of God. Not all spirituality is Christian spirituality. Not all visions are from God. We make a grave error indeed when we assume, undiscerningly, that signs and wonders are automatically from God. Too much in God’s Word tells us otherwise.
That’s why humility is key here. We have to have a teachable spirit. We have to obey God and his Word. Scripture alone must be our final, ultimate, and sufficient authority, not our experience and feelings. The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:1,
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
This is wise counsel. And it’s the only sure way that we’ll stand firm to the end.
Grace and Truth,