Satan knew that Lydia’s salvation (v.14,15) was the start of something big, because he’d seen God call Paul to her home country (v.9,10). So the devil had his empire strike back by sending a demon-possessed girl in Paul’s way (v.16).
Divination (v.16) is the noun form of the verb divine, which means to speak for God (cf.Ezek.13:7). Pagans had diviners to speak for their gods (Isam.6:2), but people had to pay to consult with this damsel. She was a soothsayer, the kind of diviner (ISam.6:2 cf. 2:6) that tells the future. She brought her masters “much gain,” meaning a lot of people paid to see her, meaning she had a lot of influence in the community, something Satan is about to use against the community.
Why’d Satan think a soothsayer could stop Paul? Soothsayers were associated with “priests” (ISam.6:2) and religion. Most people who consult soothsayers have a religion. They just do what the Philistines did and combine it with soothsaying. That’s what Satan was trying to accomplish here too, so he had the damsel say things that made it sound like she and Paul were on the same team (Acts 16:17).
Satan got the Jews to combine Judaism with divination (ISa. 28:8; Isa.2:6; IIKi.17:17). They were already sacrificing animals. Satan just got them to combine Judaism with paganism & sacrifice their kids. In the New Testament, he tried to make it look like the Lord played on his team by having his demons preach the gospel (Luke 4:41cf.Jo.20:31) so he could add divination to the gospel later. The Lord tried to silence them (Mark 1:25), but they just wouldn’t quit (Mark 3:11,12). They only quit following the Lord when God put the kingdom program on hold, and raised up Paul to preach grace. Then they began following him. Satan recognizes dispensational changes that pastors often miss!
Once the demon started after Paul, he just wouldn’t quit, following him “many days” (v.18). Paul waited to cast the demon out of her so this influential woman could gather a crowd. That way, many people would see him reject the devil’s testimony by silencing it. She followed Paul and his helpers for many days (v.17), making them a type of grace believers throughout the many days of this dispensation. It didn’t take long before Satan got Christianity as infiltrated with divination as Judaism. Idolatry is part of divination (Zech.10:2), and Catholicism has had idols for 1700 years. Catholic leaders preach the gospel just as those demons did in the Lord’s day by teaching “Christ died for our sins” so they can add things to the gospel like idolatry and works.
Another way Satan tries to stop us is to sic the law on us (Acts 16:19-21). This was a trumped-up charge. Rome had no problem with Jewish customs (Ezra 3:4; Luke 1:9; 2:27). But it gets harder to win your court case if there’s an element of truth to your charge. Paul did say there was another king besides Caesar (Acts 17:7), the king of the Body of Christ (Col.1:12,13). But he wasn’t saying Christ was king of the Romans and that they should obey Him. But many Christians say Americans should obey Christ, and some want to overthrow the government in the name of the God of the Bible. God told the Jews not to rebel against governments (Jer.29:7), but when the Jews did (IIKi.18:1,7; 24:1), it later hurt the work of rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem (Ezra 4:19-21). And if you tell Americans to obey Christ when it comes to homosexuality, abortion, gay marriage and transgenderism, etc., men will associate you with Christians who want to overthrow the government and keep you from building “the church, which is His Body” (Eph.1:22,23).
How’d the Jews overcome their problem? A couple of things made a new king decide to let them rebuild, and one of those things is that he knew Jews prayed for his city. That made him finance the rebuilding (Ezra 6:3-10). And if we are known as a church that prays for our leaders (ITim.2:1,2), they’ll let us continue to build the church.
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Satans Empire Strikes Back” Acts 16:16-24