[May 09]--What is Magic?

1 Kings 14:1-11

I wanted to discuss this question, because there’s a lot of misunderstanding about both the word and the concept. When we think of the term, we tend to visualize some wizard or witch (in a movie or TV show) waving a wand and muttering some incantation, and yes, that would be magic. But it has a much broader meaning, and there are lot more people who buy into a magical worldview and lifestyle than we might realize.

First, let’s define the term. When I use it, I’m referring to a belief in supernatural (or spiritual) forces which can be manipulated by human beings. They believe in a supernatural realm which surrounds us and influences things all around us. The materialist only believes in things that can be detected by the five senses or by scientific instruments. Most people would reject this, and assume that there’s more to this universe than physical matter.

But don’t Christians believe in a supernatural realm? Absolutely, but here is the main difference. The magician doesn't really believe in an omnipresent omnipotent personal God who created everything. He either believes in lesser spiritual beings, or he sees the supernatural as mainly a collection of impersonal forces. You don’t pray to electricity: You manipulate it for your own ends.

If a magician believed in personal gods, then these gods were just really humans magnified. They were more powerful than us and had insight into things we didn’t know, but with the right strategy they could also be manipulated, or even fooled into doing your bidding.

We, on the other hand, believe in the Lord who created everything and who's all-knowing and all-powerful. He's not a force to be harnessed like electricity. He's a Person, indeed the Source of all personality. He has a will and emotions, and he desires some things as opposed to other things. This means that we can relate to him as a person. That’s why we can call him “Father.”

In a few days we’ll examine much more closely the contrast between magic and worship of the true God, but for now I wanted to use today’s reading to illustrate this discussion. Jeroboam had a problem, namely that his son was deathly ill. He sent his wife to talk to Ahijah the prophet. But notice his directions. He told her to disguise herself so the prophet wouldn’t recognize her, and to take along some gifts for him. Presumably the king knew that he was being disobedient to what God had told him, and he also knew that if the prophet knew whose son was sick, he wouldn’t give a favorable response to the king’s desire to see his son healed.

Apparently the plan was to have the queen fool the prophet into giving a favorable prophecy and thus somehow manipulate him. But this plan betrayed a severe misunderstanding about both God and his prophets. Prophets were not magicians, they were mouths for God (literally that’s what the Hebrew word means, a “mouth”). They could only tell people what the Lord told them to say, not what they'd like to tell them or what the listener would like to hear. And also the king had a pretty small understanding of the true God, a very limited view of the Almighty. I guess they didn’t think he was omniscient, since they thought he could be fooled by a simple disguise.

But what about us? Are we guilty of the same type of error? Well, do you think that God can be manipulated into doing your bidding by performing the right prayer, or by making promises to him? Do you try to “make deals” with him? Do you act as if he doesn’t know everything about you, including that sin? Only you and the Lord can really answer those questions.

Lord Jesus, you alone are worthy of my worship and adoration. When my vision of you is too small and wrong, please correct it. I only want to worship the true God, not someone I made up.

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