Bible Study Blog

Four Curious Examples

by Lenny Cacchio

God doesn’t always speak through his prophets. There are at least four instances in the New Testament where God’s message is made known through what we might think of as surprising sources.

1.  The Magi. These are the “wise men” that Matthew mentions in the Nativity story. History tells us that the Magi were essentially astrologers who originated in the Zoroastrian religion of Persia. Our English word “magic” is derived from a similar root as the Old Persian word “magus”.  In the Greek world, which was one of the dominant cultures of the Middle East in the First Century, the word “magian” often carried a negative connotation, as hinted at in the book of Acts (Chapter 8), where we are introduced to the Samaritan charlatan Simon Magus. Yet, it was through these Magi from the East that Herod received the startling announcement that the true King of the Jews had been born.

2.  Pilate’s wife. We know neither her name nor much about her except for what some subsequent traditions have purported. Her moment in history is in Matthew 27:19. This one significant event happens when Pilate finds himself struggling with how to deal with the confluence of Jesus’ obvious innocence, the political pressure applied by corrupt religious leaders, and the mob scene demanding action under the threat of a riot. Pilate’s wife enters the scene through a written message to her husband: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."

Pilate’ wife was telling the truth and giving a warning. and it raises a curious question related to Amos 3:7: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” Was Pilate’s wife an unwitting prophet?

3. The High Priest. John’s gospel relates a comment of Caiaphas the High Priest (“You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish") and of this John says, “Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.…” (John 11:50-52).

The High Priest, as we know, was one of the chief instigators of the persecution and execution of Jesus with the motive of retaining his political power at the expense of seeking truth and justice.  Yet here he is, spouting out inspired prophecy about what Jesus’ purpose was all about. “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation should perish.”

4.  The Girl at Philippi.  In the city of Philippi Paul is preaching the Gospel of Jesus, when he captures the attention of a young female soothsayer. She proclaims, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." Day after day she makes this proclamation until she becomes such an annoyance that Paul finally has to rebuke the demonic spirit behind this and driving it way.

What should we make of this? Is it as Jesus said, "Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50)? 

Maybe it's to realize that God can use whomever he chooses, whenever he chooses, wherever he chooses? Maybe God will get his word out regardless of the receptiveness of the people, using messengers that hostile people might give an ear to? That he in fact will do nothing without first revealing his plans, whether to true prophets or unwitting ones?