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This is a bold interpretation of Scriptures.
Some neglected scriptures contradict basic Christian doctrines. Other scriptures have universal value and are acceptable by followers of every religion.

I firmly believe that the truth which Revives, Unites, Liberates, Edifies and Sustains the whole man – spirit, soul and body – is the truth that RULES supreme in the Universe! This Truth, which is scattered throughout the Bible, I am prayerfully trying to unfold here.

I hope the students of the Bible will here discover some great neglected truths that nourish their soul and quench their spiritual thirst.

You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free"!

Τετάρτη, 24 Νοεμβρίου 2010

Magic powers in the Bible

Many enemies of Judaism and Christianity consider the Bible as a book of magic. Consequently, since magic has been widely thought of either as charlatanism or as the work of the devil, they dismiss the entire book.
What, then, is the difference between magic and unadulterated faith in God or pure spirituality? Where do the miracles have their origin? Where does the power for miracles reside? Is it in the soul and spirit of man or in God?  Is every man a magician in the making? Through the following quotations from the Bible, which of course are not the only accounts of magic therein, one may discern the truth.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘When Pharaoh says to you, “Prove yourselves by working a miracle”, then you shall say to Aaron, “Take your rod and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent”.’ So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the Lord commanded: Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.
 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their enchantments. For every man cast down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” (Ex. 7: 8-12)

This is a demonstration of magic powers before Pharaoh. Moses and Aaron transformed a rod into a serpent. But Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers did the same thing! If Moses and Aaron’s magic powers were greater than those of the sorcerers, they should demonstrate it by performing a greater miracle. And so they did. Aaron’s rod (serpent) swallowed up the rods of the sorcerers!
Most Christians believe that in this demonstration of miraculous powers we actually have a contest between God and Satan. I firmly believe...
that God does not get involved in such shows. It is people’s magic (occult) powers that perform the ‘miracles’. No doubt Moses, who had grown up as a prince in the Egyptian palace, had been initiated into the Egyptian occult wisdom. This, in edition to his inherent and exceptional psychic powers and his faith in God, enabled him to become a great miracle worker, i.e. a great magician.

“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Ex. 17: 10-13)
By reading this story one wonders why Moses, a mighty man of prayer, did not pray to God and ask him to give the Israelites victory over the Amalekites. Why did he have to employ two men in order to hold up his hands? What is in man’s hands that Moses knew and used accordingly?
 Obviously Moses knew the magic secrets of how he could use his palms’ energy centers as spiritual transmitters, for blessing or cursing. This originally neutral energy could become positive or negative, depending on the desire of the sender. So Moses concentrated his will power and transmitted a great spiritual energy from a distance in favor of the Israelites, who thus won in the battle against the Amalekites.

“Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us’. So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (Num. 21: 6-9)
Did the Lord ask Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole? I doubt it. Couldn’t God answer Moses’ prayer and remove the snakes, since the Israelites had repented of their sins? Surely the Almighty could do it, if he wanted, i.e. if by doing so he wouldn’t violate any of his sovereign laws that brought about the snakes in the first place. But apparently God didn’t remove the snakes. So Moses devised a magic short cut to solve the problem.
The next question is why a serpent of all other creatures? If God supposedly cursed the serpent because it deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden, why should Moses choose it to affect healing from the biting of real snakes?  Had Moses received some secret knowledge regarding snakes since the time he held the magical rod that became a snake, when he cast it on the ground in front of Pharaoh? Most probably, he had. Besides, serpents were very popular in the myths of most eastern religions and this couldn’t have been incidental.
It is believed that serpents represent the dynamic nature of life. We also know that a stick, with a snake curled around it, is the rod of Asklepios (Aesculapious), the ancient Greek demigod of medicine. Indeed to this day the staff of Asklepios is widely used as symbol of medicine. All this may have something to do with Moses’ bronze snake that put up on a pole. In any case, this is one more occasion where Moses uses magic in order to overcome a problem. I have often wondered if the dispute between the archangel Michael and Satan over the body of Moses when he died (Jude 9) was due to such magical practices by the prophet.

“Then the people of Israel set out, and encamped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. (…) And Moab was in great dread of the people (of Israel), because they were many; (…). So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of the Moabites at that time, sent messengers to Balaam (…), saying, ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. Come now, curse the people for me, since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land; for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed’.” (Num. 22: 1, 3a, 4b, 5, 6)
Balaam was known as having great psychic powers. Balak, the King of the Moabites, had heard of him and he asked him to curse the Israelites, so that he would be able to defeat them. He knew that whomever Balaam blessed would be blessed and whomever he cursed would be cursed. As the story goes, Balaam did not curse the Israelites because he discerned that God had blessed them.
People with magic powers, whether they are aware of them or not, have the potential to do good as well as evil. Such people could, in effect, use their powers in black magic or in white magic, for blessing or cursing, for healing or killing. Unless such a person is totally devoted to doing good, is very dangerous to be around.
We could be protected from someone’s negative energy by faith in God and in ourselves, building a strong, virtuous and loving character. Then we are safely shielded and nobody’s curses can harm us.

“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” (Ex. 22: 18)
 This was one of the judgments that Moses set before the Israelites, in the name of God. According to the scripture (Ex. 21:1), God commanded him to do so. Women who practiced magic should be exterminated. Moses knew very well that they were very dangerous if left to practice their black arts among the people. They could harm them spiritually as well as physically.

“You shall not practice augury or witchcraft.” (Lev. 19: 26b)
  According to the instructions God gave to Moses, the Israelites should not get entangled in divination or witchcraft, for these were pagan practices and they involved the invocation of evil spirits. That’s why they were an abomination to the Lord. God wanted the children of Israel to be holy (Lev.19: 1-2).

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you; I am the Lord.” (Lev.19: 28)
 Cutting one’s flesh on account of the dead was another heathen custom practiced in funerals. The idolaters believed that by doing this they pacified the infernal deities and rendered them propitious to their deceased friends. The people of God should not practice these things, nor should they make tattoo marks upon their bodies. All these customs were akin to witchcraft and were forbidden by Jehovah.

“You shall keep my statutes. (…) Do not turn to those who have familiar spirits, neither seek after sorcerers, to be defiled by them; I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19: 19, 31)
 God’s mandate is very clear regarding all black arts. The children of God should not follow those who claim to know the future, supposedly having spirits (demons) under their command. Neither should they seek help from witches and wizards who allege to have magic powers. If they did this, they would defile themselves.

“The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, ‘Again, you shall say to the children of Israel, (…) And the soul that turns after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, playing the harlot after them, I will set my face against that soul and will cut him off from among his people.” (Lev. 20: 1-2a, 6)
 As in the case of idolatry, Moses is very persistent against all magic practices. He repeats the same things over and over, warning people about God’s severe judgments on the disobedient.

 “A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned; their blood shall be upon them.” (Lev. 20: 27)
 Heavy is the punishment for mediums and wizards! They should be stoned to death.

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one who makes his son or his daughter to pass through fire, any one who practices divination, an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.” (Deut. 18: 9-12a)
 Here Moses gives a full list of the abominable black ‘arts’. The borderlines between them are not distinct. One could put all of them under the umbrella of magic by which man is trying to obtain the favor of spirits (demons) in order to acquire supernatural powers.

“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord slew him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chr. 10: 13-14)
 Very often during his kingship, Saul, the first king of Israel, was disobedient and unfaithful to Jehovah’s directions through his prophet Samuel. It is noticeable here that, of all Saul’s sins, only his seeking guidance from a medium is particularly listed. Such was the severity of this sin! So Saul died in his transgression, falling upon his own sword, after being sorely wounded by his enemies, the Philistines. And, as if this humiliation wasn’t enough, the Philistines, when they found Saul’s corpse, cut off his head and stripped off his armor, which afterwards exhibited in the temple of their idols (1 Sam. 31).

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty five years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. (…) And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of Ben Hinnom, and practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and dealt with mediums and wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. (…)
The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they gave no heed. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who caught Manasseh among the bushes and bound him with fetters of bronze and carried him to Babylon.” (2 Chr.33: 1-2, 5-6, 10-11)
Manasseh was the longest reigning king of Judah and, for some part of his life, the most wicked one. He became a fanatic idolater, bringing in Judah all the abominable idolatrous and magic customs of Assyria and Babylon, in spite of the prophets’ warnings. However, as the following verses testify, while in Babylon, Manasseh "besought the Lord and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And God heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom", where he tried to reestablish the worship of the true God (verses 12-20). It is comforting to know that God forgives even the most severe sins of those who truly repent.

“And when they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the wizards, who whisper and mutter’, reply: ‘should not a people enquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?’ To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light in them.” (Isa. 8: 19-20)
 Isaiah is trying to bring the backslidden people to their common sense: Why should people consult the dead, through mediums and wizards, instead of enquiring of the Lord? This doesn’t make sense. Such people live in spiritual darkness, having no light in them.

“You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save you from these things that shall come upon you. Surely they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.” (Isa. 47: 13-14)
When a true prophet of God brings judgments upon those who turned to magicians for help, none of those magicians can save them. In fact, the magicians cannot even save themselves from the wrath of God activated through the word of his prophets.

“Thus says the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.” (Jer. 10: 2)
Jeremiah exhorts Israel to learn not the ways of the heathen and be not frightened of the signs, i.e. the eclipses of the sun and the moon, and all the unusual phenomena of the stars. They should not be dismayed at them for God is in control.

“Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, ‘No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, (…)’.” (Dan. 2: 27-28a)
 The wisdom given by the true God is far higher than that of the wise men, enchanters, magicians and astrologers. Only God can reveal mysteries, said Daniel to king Nebuchadnezzar. And, sure enough, Daniel received divine revelation to interpret the king’s dreams.

“Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6: 10-11)
This is a magic custom of heathen origin. Shaking one’s dust on someone is a way to bring judgment against him/her. It is surprising that Jesus should give such instruction to his disciples when, elsewhere, he exhorts them to bless and not curse, since God shines his sun on the just and the unjust.

“But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near’. I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (Luke 10: 10-12)
 Luke records the same instruction of Jesus (?) in more details, i.e. a manner of curse on those who wouldn’t accept the message of his disciples. No wonder where the Christian Church derived its boldness to bring anathemas and curses against its enemies.

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. Handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (Acts 19: 11-12)
 Here we have an incident of magic that serves as an excuse to Christian idolatry even today. That’s why in the beginning of this chapter I said that the borderline between magic and unadulterated faith is not always very distinct. We need to ask God for discernment, lest we defile our heart with magic and idolatry.

 “But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, 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 shall 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. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” (Acts 13: 8-12)
St. Paul’s miraculous powers were greater than those of Elymas the magician. So, when the latter obstructed Paul in his mission, the Apostle didn’t hesitate to pronounce a curse against him and leave him blind! Seeing the ‘miracle’, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, believed in Paul’s message…
Are we allowed to curse people, even if they are enemies of all righteousness? Do we have any right to inflict diseases upon them in order to teach them a lesson? Is this the best way to bring about God’s kingdom on earth? I don’t believe so. Love and mercy are God’s ways. Any other way that harms another human being, temporarily or permanently, has severe negative consequences on the soul of those who pronounced the judgment. Sooner or later they themselves will be called to pay for it. That’s why I don’t consider the entire Bible as God inspired, neither all the actions of God’s prophets and apostles recorded there as godly.