“Elymus the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed [Saul and Barnabas] seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith (Acts 13:8).”
With magic, magicians seek to get the gods to conform to their own will according to the famous anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, but in worship, worshipers surrender their own will to that of the gods or God. Perhaps most of what we call religion is really the practice of magic, or wizardry, or witchcraft.
“But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at Elymus and said, ‘O son of the devil, enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and fraud, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.’ Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand (Acts 13: 9-11).”
How could Paul say such things and do such things?
Would the Spirit of Jesus in Paul ever say such things and do such things?
Well, Jesus did say to some Jews, “You are from your father the devil… He is the father of lies.” The devil is not the father of people; he is the father of lies about people, that is false people, frauds. It all began at the tree in the middle of the garden: “Take knowledge of good and evil and make yourselves in the image of God.” The Pharisees considered themselves to be champions at taking knowledge of the law and using it to make themselves in the image of God; they were self-righteous; they were religious magicians.
So, would Jesus say such things? Yes. Would he do such things?
Jesus appeared to the Pharisee of Pharisees as a blinding light on the road to Damascus, saying “Why are you persecuting me?” And then Saul, who is also called Paul, went blind and sought people to lead him around by the hand (actually a man named “Ananias,” in the house of “Judas,” on the street called Straight).”
Jesus would do such things and Jesus in Paul would do such things . . . But why?
Was it retribution? Or, perhaps, something more like discipline?
Discipline has gotten a bad name in our day, but every parent knows that if you never discipline your children, you will really hurt your children. We all need discipline and not just self-discipline. If you simply discipline yourself with yourself, it’s just more self in need of discipline. The fruit of the Spirit that we call “self-control,” is not “the self” in control, but the self under the control of the Spirit. The Pharisees were the champions of self-discipline. They disciplined themselves in order to save themselves and so were most imprisoned to the illusion that they thought was themselves—the imposter, the fraud, the son of the devil.
We each need discipline; we need Good will to violate our bad will in order that we might one day have a Good Free Will—that we might love as we’ve been loved.
When I eat from The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to make myself in the image of God, I think that I am what I have done. When I’m fed with the fruit from the Tree of Life, I trust that I am not what I have done, but what God has done and is doing in space and time.
It is what I most long for in my children, that they would each see themselves as I see them: They are not what they have done but a miracle.
You are not what you have done but what God has done and is doing. This realization will come to you as pain, and you will experience it as suffering—it must be done to you; you must suffer it. But once you know it for what it is, the pain will become the most delicious of pleasures; it’s Grace. And this knowledge is not something you have done; it’s Faith. And this Faith is not something you have created; it is the work of a Word.
If I really want my children to know my love, I have to let their world fall apart—all that they have done—and then speak a word: “I do not love you any less, but now you know my love a little more.” The ultimate discipline is Grace creating Faith in Love. God is Love and God is our Dad . . . and you are something that he has done and is doing . . . at a tree in the middle of a garden at the edge of this age and the age to come.
James Finley tells of witnessing a “secret ritual” at an alcohol treatment facility. An interrogator asked a patient, “What do you love the most?” When he answered, “my wife,” or “my children,” the twenty or thirty recovering alcoholics that all sat in a circle surrounding this man cried “Bull S#!T.” But when he finally answered “alcohol,” they all stood, applauded, and then waited in line to give him a hug as he fell apart weeping.
At that moment, according to Finley, the man was vulnerable but invincible, childlike but mature, alone but connected to all, knew nothing but was known, dying, and yet, being born. “What do you love?” asked the interrogator. Now he knew: He loved Love and Love was in his wife and in his children and in the people that surrounded him as a kingdom constantly at hand. It wasn’t the end of his journey but just the beginning; it takes a lifetime to die.
“We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Christ may be manifested in our mortal flesh,” wrote Paul. It’s called discipline.
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons (Hebrews 12:7-8).”
Did you get that? If you’ve never suffered, you’re “illegitimate.” But no one is “illegitimate” for all have suffered; no one is a bastard.
“Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees (Hebrews 12:12).”
So, Paul looked at Elymus and said, “O son of the devil, you will be blind for a time.”
Are we to ever say such things?
Well, NO… if we have not seen that we are blind.
But maybe, Yes… if we know that we were blind like Paul and know that only God can make a blind man see.
“For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Even Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).” He lifted his head and cried “Why have you forsaken me?” Where was he? He was on the tree in the middle of the garden, and he had descended into your soul even as he said, ‘This is my body, and this is my blood.’” He is not only the One who disciplines, but the One who is disciplined with you and within you.
He turns every self-centered lonely magician into a worshiper lost in love (Rev. 5:13).
Blindness is not the end of Elymus; worship is the end; Jesus is the End.
So, “lift your hands and strengthen your weak knees!”