“That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, ‘Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!’ They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium and, grabbing two of Paul’s associates on the way, the Macedonian, Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go in too, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred. ‘By no means go near that mob.'” Acts 19:28-31 (The Message).

Stand back and survey the scene. What do you see? An uncontrollable, unruly mob, working themselves up into a frenzy and on the brink of ruthless violence against anyone who happened to resemble the objects of their wrath! Paul’s ministry in Ephesus had resulted in a wholesale turning to the Lord, with a startling outcome, a bonfire of occult books, but that didn’t mean that there were not many unbelievers left in the city.

This time it was not the Jews who led the riot but Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths who were losing business because, through the power of Jesus many had turned away from idol-worship. Humans were acting like hooligans, but who was the instigator? Satan, of course! This is just the sort of thing he would initiate to get people to lose control of themselves and go on the rampage. Whether the trigger was religious or financial, it didn’t matter; the outcome was the same.

Paul wanted to step in and quieten the ruckus but his friends would not let him. The mob would have torn him to pieces there and then.

“Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamoured to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down. ‘Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!’ — and on and on, for over two hours.'” Acts 19:32-34 (The Message).

Isn’t this typical of human behaviour? Join in the fun, even if you have no idea what it’s all about! How well Isaiah diagnosed the hearts of human beings! “We all, like sheep, have gone astray….” Isaiah 53:6a (NIV).

The scary thing is that God holds everyone accountable for what they do, even if it is thoughtless and irresponsible behaviour like these people were engaged in. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. We are responsible for our choices because every decision we make has consequences for ourselves and other people. We do not live our lives in isolation. What we do affects others.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV).

Thoughtless and irresponsible actions are included in “the things done while in the body”, like the actions of these Ephesians who had no idea what it was all about. This riot was, in the end, not really about the goddess or about what Paul was teaching. It was about the silversmiths losing their business because many of the Ephesians had come to their senses and realised that this goddess was nothing but a hoax.

This story should be a warning to us that we do not allow ourselves to be deceived and to sell our souls for “hot air.” God gave us the ability to think and to make choices and decisions that affect our eternal destiny. Let’s not waste this gift by falling for lies.

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Luella Campbell

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