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The Voice

Acts 16:16-31

Paul meets a slave-girl tormented by a spirit that predicts the future. When Paul frees the girl from the spirit, her master is furious and has Paul arrested. Pauls is thrown into the local prison but in the middle of the night God miraculously sets him free.

Copyright Gavin Owen 2007

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”

Rebecca put her hands over her ears to try and shut out the noise. But the screaming was coming from inside her head. It was the voice, the voice that she'd heard every day since she was a girl. At first people had said she was imagining it, hearing things. But then the voice started to tell her about the future and everything that it said came true. She couldn't be imagining it. She hated the voice. It was cruel and unkind and it talked to her all the time, day and night, it never stopped. Imagine what it must be like never to have a moment's peace; how could you sleep, how could you think, how could you live? Rebecca wanted to get rid of the voice; she wanted to look for someone who could help her. But she couldn't go looking; she was a slave, she could only go where her master took her and when her master realised that she knew about the future he never let her out of his sight. He took Rebecca to the market place every day and people paid him money to ask her questions about the future. The voice would tell her what they wanted to know and if she didn't give them the answers her master would beat her. It was like being in prison with no hope of ever escaping. Until now.

Today, for the first time ever, the voice sounded afraid. It started the moment Rebecca laid eyes on the two men, strangers in town. The voice began to shout, so loud that at first Rebecca couldn't even tell what it was saying. It just kept screaming the same words over and over again.

“Stop it! Stop it!” cried Rebecca, “I can't understand what you're saying.”

The yelling stopped and then the voice said, “These men are servants of God, they're showing people the way to be saved.”

Rebecca stared at the two men in surprise. They didn't look like servants of God, they seemed ... ordinary. But the voice was never wrong.

“Perhaps they can help me,” thought Rebecca, “perhaps they can get rid of the voice; perhaps that's why the voice is afraid of them.”

She took a step towards the two men and at once the voice began to scream again. It screamed so loudly that she staggered and fell to the floor. That's when her master realised that something was wrong. He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to her feet.

“I'm taking you home,” he said gruffly, “you're no good to me if you get ill.”

Rebecca was desperate; this might be the only chance she would ever have to get rid of the voice. She took a deep breath, then she pointed at the two men and shouted as loudly as she could, “These men are servants of God, they've come to show you the way to be saved.”

Everyone in the market place stopped what they were doing and looked round.

“Are you trying to make a fool of me?” hissed Rebecca's master and he began to drag her away.

Rebecca was in tears, she thought she'd missed her chance, but she was wrong. For the next few days it seemed that wherever her master took her they would run into the two strangers sooner or later. And when they did, Rebecca would cry out the words of the voice again. Eventually her master could stand it no longer. He caught hold of Rebecca by her hair, yanked back her head and raised his hand to strike her. But another hand closed around his wrist, holding back his arm, and Rebecca felt herself being pulled away and spun around until she found herself face-to-face with one of the strangers. The voice in her head began to wail in pain and fear. It was making so much noise that Rebecca felt like her head would burst. “Help me,” she begged the stranger, “Please help me!”

At once, the man took hold of her head in his hands and lifted it up so that he was looking straight into her eyes. “In the name of Jesus Christ,” he said, “I command you to come out of her.”

At once the noise began to fade. It was as if the voice had been torn out of Rebecca's head and was being chased away into the distance. After a few moments there was silence.

“It's gone,” said Rebecca quietly, “the voice has gone.”

“No!” bellowed Rebecca's master, “Now she's useless to me. Guards! Arrest these men; they've ruined my slave girl!”

At the sound of his cry the guards came running. They put the strangers in chains and as they led them away towards the prison Rebecca called out to them, “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.”

“It's alright,” they called back, “God will help us. Just get away from that man.”

Rebecca turned and looked at her master. He snorted in disgust, “I don't want you anymore,” he spat, “Do as he says, get away from me.”

Laughing with joy, Rebecca ran from the market place, she was free. This God that these men served, this Jesus, had set her free. Now she wanted to know, what was this way to be saved? She had to find out more, she had to talk to the strangers.

Rebecca waited until it was dark and then she walked through the streets to the prison. When she got there she pushed open the door of the guard house and stepped inside. The jailer looked up, surprised to see anyone at this time of night.

“Isn't it a bit late for a woman to be out alone,” he asked, “what do you want?”

“Please,” Rebecca began, “I want to see the two men who were arrested today.”

“You're too late,” the jailer told her, “The cells are all locked-up for the night.”

“Then I'll wait,” said Rebecca.

“I wouldn't bother; they're going on trial first thing in the morning. They'll probably end up spending the rest of their lives rotting in jail ... or worse. Go home; stop wasting your time.”

But Rebecca left the guard house, sat down on the steps and waited. Eventually she drifted off to sleep. The next thing she knew she was woken up by a great rumbling noise and she realised that the ground beneath her was shaking. It was an earthquake. The rumbling got louder and louder until the prison itself began to tremble. Rebecca leapt up in alarm and, struggling to keep her balance, she stepped away from the building. A moment later the doors flew open and crashed against the walls with a force that would have crushed Rebecca if she hadn't moved. Then, as quickly as it had begun, the earthquake ended.

A cloud of dust billowed out of the open doorway and through it came the jailer, coughing and spluttering. “The prisoners,” he moaned, “the prisoners! They'll have escaped, I'll lose my job.”

“It's alright,” called out a voice from inside the building, “We're still here!”

The jailer was so astonished that he stopped coughing at once. From the shadows, Rebecca watched as he went back inside the building and brought out the two strangers. Then she listened as he asked them the very question that she had come to ask.

“What must I do to be saved?”

“Believe!” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

In the darkness, Rebecca slipped away quietly. She had her answer. After what she had seen and heard with her own eyes and ears, she was in no doubt. “I believe,” she whispered into the night, “I believe in Jesus.”