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—MATTHEW 8:23-34.—MARCH 13.—
SEVERAL of the apostles were fishermen on Lake Galilee. Apparently the Master launched out with them occasionally in order to obtain rest and quiet; for while he was ashore he was constantly active in his mission, teaching the people, healing the sick, etc. Today's lesson includes an account of such a drawing aside from his busy activities. Exhausted, he was asleep in the hinder end of the fishing smack. Suddenly a great storm arose, as is frequently the case on that lake. The mighty waves threatened the destruction of the ship. The violence of the storm may be judged from the fact that even the apostles, who were experienced, were alarmed. The account very briefly tells us that as the disciples awakened the Master, saying, "Save, Lord, or we perish," he arose and rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm. And he rebuked the apostles with the words, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" Many since have read these words with great comfort and profit; not that many have been in perils by sea, but because all are subject to the storms of life, in which mighty billows threaten our destruction. The manifested power to deliver from literal waves gives confidence that the same Mighty One is able to deliver from every trouble. The rebuke of the apostles for lack of faith has come home to the hearts of many of the Lord's people, chiding them and encouraging them to be more faithful, more courageous, more trustful, in the providential care of our Almighty Friend.
Well might the apostles marvel, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him." Not until they had learned that lesson were they prepared to trust him with all their trials, difficulties and interests. And likewise not until we have learned the same great lesson of Jesus' Messiahship, and that to him at his resurrection was granted "all power in heaven and in earth," can we fully trust him and rest by faith in his loving care.
Evidently the apostles all understood that Satan is a spirit being, invisible and powerful, and that, to some extent, he has power over human affairs under certain Divine limitations and regulations. Thus St. Paul designates him the "Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience."—Eph. 2:2.
We remember the case of the Prophet Job and the Bible testimony that God permitted a trial of his faith and allowed the Adversary to have great power over his affairs. We recall that some of that power was exercised through a cyclone, which destroyed the house in which Job's children were gathered.
Possibly the Adversary was permitted to develop the storm on Lake Galilee for the very purpose of the lesson it gave to the apostles. The "Prince of the power of the air" may have thought to destroy the Savior in this manner, as later he evidently had to do with his crucifixion between two thieves. In the one case his effort was thwarted by the word of Jesus. In the other case it was permitted to reach success—because "his hour had come." We may well remember, too, the declaration that Satan, who had been working with Judas previously, fully entered into him, according to the account, on the night of our Savior's betrayal.—Luke 22:3; John 13:27.
This study tells us of our Lord's encounter with some of the inferior fallen angels, of whom we read that Satan is the "Prince of devils." We must not forget that the Scriptures deny that these demons are disembodied men and that they teach most distinctly that they are fallen angels.—2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6.
The Bible tells that these fallen angels at one time were holy, but that in the period before the flood they became contaminated with sin through association with humanity. Since the flood, cut off from association with the holy angels and from liberty to materialize and appear as men, they have, nevertheless, sought to break down the barriers. Not permitted to materialize, they have sought to control, to obsess and to possess humanity—using the human body as their medium, their body, to the extent of their ability to break down the barrier of the human will. The Scriptures continually guard us against having anything to do with necromancers, wizards, witches, mediums, or others, who claim to represent and speak for the dead. The Bible assures us that "The dead know not anything," and that the only hope for them is in the resurrection and that not dead humanity, but fallen angels, strive to communicate with us and through us. We are not in this blaming spirit mediums with being in collusion with the fallen angels knowingly. We believe that they are deceived, as are others. Indeed, the Bible alone gives light on this subject, as we have been able to point out to many mediums whom we have recovered from their delusions.
The two maniacs of verse 28 were crazy because many demons possessed them and attempted to control them in different ways. Intelligent physicians recognize that probably more than one-half of the inmates of insane asylums suffer from this same terrible trouble, demon possession.
Another account tells us how our Lord questioned the obsessed ones and how the evil spirits answered through them that they were legion—that is to say, a multitude of demons were in possession. They besought the Lord that if they could not remain they might at least be permitted possession of the herd of swine. The permission was granted them. The result was that the entire herd of probably hundreds stampeded, rushed down the face of the hill, and were drowned in the sea. When we consider the nature of the hog, it would appear that there were enough demons to supply one for every hog, because, unlike sheep, a hog will stand still while his fellows in the same herd may become greatly excited. Each hog is independent in his action. The number of demons was indeed legion. Unable to break down the barrier of the human will in a general way, they crowd into poor human beings whose will-barriers have been let down.
Continually we warn people, in harmony with the Scriptures, against Spiritism and everything occult, as being of the Adversary. We warn them also that hypnotism and everything which breaks down the human will is injurious and leaves the person the more subject to the invasion of these fallen angels into his mind, his affairs, who, if yielded to, endanger his sanity through obsession.
The result of this miracle shows the power of selfishness. The multitude came to see the miracle—two men who had been crazy, clothed in their right minds. "But," said they sordidly, "What a cost! See the hogs floating in the sea!" And they besought the Lord to leave their country, which he promptly did. The same principle of selfishness may be noted everywhere today. The multitude are moved specially by their temporal interest, while the great blessings of the Lord they pass by comparatively unnoticed. Let so many of us as are disciples of the Galilean Prophet take a different view of matters and have our hearts in harmony with his glorious work of the deliverance of humanity and the destruction of everything obnoxious to the Divine will—even as swine were contraband of the Jewish Law.