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Summary: A study of the book of Job 23: 1 – 17

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Job 23: 1 – 17

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “Even today my complaint is bitter; My hand is listless because of my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat! 4 I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would know the words which He would answer me, and understand what He would say to me. 6 Would He contend with me in His great power? No! But He would take note of me. 7 There the upright could reason with Him, and I would be delivered forever from my Judge. 8 “Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; 9 When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. 10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. 11 My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. 12 I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. 13 “But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. 14 For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. 15 Therefore I am terrified at His presence; When I consider this, I am afraid of Him. 16 For God made my heart weak, and the Almighty terrifies me; 17 Because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness, and He did not hide deep darkness from my face.

What is the proper Christian response to magic? Is it right for a Christian to use sleight of hand and illusion–aren’t these instruments dishonest and deceptive? Doesn’t the Bible forbid magic?

When the Bible uses the term “magic” (Revelation 22:15, Isaiah 47:12, NIV, Acts 19:19, NASB) or “magician” (Genesis 41:8, KJV) it is clearly dealing with a person’s involvement in the supernatural, usually with the collaboration of evil spirits. The context of the Bible prohibitions makes it clear that God does not want people to dabble in games with the devil. Today’s manifestations of these forbidden activities are such things as Ouija boards, tarot cards, the occult and horoscopes. The Christian has no business playing with these, since they open the door to demonic influence.

There may be confusion due to the fact that certain words have two meanings. “Magic” has the meaning of witchcraft or sorcery, but the word also means sleight of hand and illusion, the surprising, fascinating and entertaining performance. Obviously the Bible is talking about the first of these meanings and not the second.

One could raise the objection that it is wrong for the Christian to do any performance that could so easily be misinterpreted as sinful by someone who doesn’t know. Doesn’t the Bible warn us to “avoid all appearance of evil”? (I Thessalonians 5:22, KJV) Couldn’t innocent magic tricks be easily confused with forbidden activity?

In fact, a better translation of I Thessalonians 5:22 is “avoid every form of evil” (NASB) or “avoid every kind of evil” (NIV). In dealing with right and wrong, one must always be careful of appearances, but it is not the appearance that makes something right or wrong. The emphasis on appearance is the essence of hypocrisy! If the issue were that Christians are to refrain from doing anything that looks like sin or could be misinterpreted by someone who does not know, then we would never be able to do anything with confidence. According to this thinking, our Lord Jesus was correctly rebuked for eating with publicans, for forgiving prostitutes and for touching lepers. Certainly these actions confused many people, but the Son of God knew His mission and performed His ministry in spite of possible objections.

Another objection is that it is not right for the Christian to use trickery in presenting the truth. No matter how you slice it, magic involves deceit (illusion). Of course some “Gospel magicians” try to get around this objection by never actually saying their hand is empty when it isn’t, but they say, “my hand looks empty.” This skirts the issue, since the intent is for the audience to believe that the hand was empty (or that the bunny materialized from thin air, or that the red scarf actually turned white, etc.) The deceit was there, regardless of whether the performer told a lie with his words or with his actions.

Here we must deal with the nature of truth. At any given time, a presentation of truth only represents a portion of reality. I carry a photograph of my wife that everyone claims is a very candid likeness, yet it deceives in certain ways. For one thing, my wife is not black and white and gray; for another, she is more than two inches tall and is not flat. But the image abstracted by this photograph captures her expression and personality very honestly. It is an honest–though partial–representation of the truth. The issue is whether the Gospel magician conveys the impression that he is doing supernatural things, or whether he honestly acknowledges that what he is doing is trickery.

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