16:16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.
Have you ever heard something or read something and immediately knew it wasn't quite right? Today was one of those times for me. When I read that Paul was followed by this demon possessed girl for several days before finally getting so annoyed that he had to send the demon packing I knew something was wrong. Why would God work a miracle through Paul that was done from a selfish motive? Jesus never used miracles for selfish reasons. Why would Paul be permitted to do so?
So I went to biblehub.com and looked up the original Greek word that is translated as 'greatly annoyed'. It turns out I had reason to be suspicious. The original word is 'diaponeo' (G1278) and it means thoroughly worn out or exhausted with grief. Grief is very different from annoyance. Consider the situation. She wasn't saying anything bad or untrue. The demons used to do the same thing to Jesus. They would call Him the Son of the Most High God. Of course the goal was not to support His ministry but to confuse people. This girl was a fortune teller, a psychic. God strictly forbid Israel from having anything to do with them. Now a psychic is pointing people to Paul, Silas, and Timothy, telling them over and over that they are preaching truth. By doing so truth and error are being mixed in an effort to deceive.
For days they ignore her. They know the repercussions that will come. Their motives for doing nothing are selfish. However after several days Paul can't take it any longer. He must help her. He prays for her deliverance and immediately she is free. Tomorrow we'll read about the fall out but what a different picture one word paints. What a difference it makes when we become familiar enough with the character of God and His followers that we can see when something is off. Jesus said we would find Him when we search with all our hearts. Don't be afraid to question and search when something seems off. Those who translate the Bible are not perfect people. They are human and make mistakes. It's easy to see why someone would assume Paul was annoyed but love is not annoyed by broken people. Love feels sympathy for them. Grief for her caused Paul to aside his desire for selfish gain and did what was best for her. That's what love does.