A Father’s Bad Influence
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure thee by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
— Acts 19:13,14
Today I want to talk to you about the spiritual role of fathers — and the immense impact they have upon the lives of their children. I want to use an example from Acts 19 to make the point, and I ask you to seriously consider the ramifications of what you are about to read. This is not a passage that is normally used to teach about the influential role of fathers, but it tells of a father who started out right but who went astray and, in doing so, led his seven sons astray with him.
Acts 19:13-17 relates this account:
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure thee by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
Acts 19:13 specifically uses the word “exorcists” to describe the activity of Sceva and his seven sons. The word “exorcists” is derived from the Greek word exorkidzo, which depicts those who adjured, implored, and begged demon spirits to obey. With no real authority over the spirits, these exorcists resorted to their spells, charms, incantations, and magical names to try to coax evil spirits to cooperate with them.
Acts 19:14 goes on to tell us that the father of these seven sons was a man named Sceva. It says, “And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.”
“Who was Sceva?” This man’s identity has been a subject of great debate among biblical scholars over the years. There is no record that a “chief of the priests” of the Jews ever lived in Ephesus. Hence, there are scholars who believe the Greek word used for “chief priest” indicates that Sceva was a renegade Jew who had backslidden from his Jewish roots and had become involved in the worship of Artemis at Ephesus. Therefore he was, or had been at some time, a chief priest in the worship of Artemis.
Making all of this even more interesting is the fact that the name “Sceva” isn’t a Jewish name. It is a Hellenized version of a Latin word that means left-handed — which in the vernacular of the First Century was slang that referred to someone who was untrustworthy, perverse, reprobate, a wretch, or a scoundrel. It is entirely possible that the name “Sceva” wasn’t even this man’s real name. It may have been a fictitious name inserted by Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, to express his opinion of this apostate Jew who converted to paganism and practiced it with his seven sons.
If these suggestions are true, the text would then convey the following idea: “And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew — a wretched, reprobate scoundrel who advertised himself as being great and who served as one of the high-ranking priests in the worship of Artemis — a man known for practicing pagan exorcism with his seven sons.”
With all this in mind, it seems likely that this Jewish man named Sceva converted to paganism and practiced occult rituals forbidden by the Old Testament — and then led his seven sons into the same practice. It is the perfect example of a man who has wandered away from the truth — and certainly a poor spiritual example of a father. Because of his own abandonment of the Word of God, this man led his sons right along with him into a backslidden spiritual condition — to the point that they even became involved in the activities of the occult.
When I meditate on this passage of Scripture, it always makes me want to pray for fathers in this critical hour. I pray that fathers will be spiritual leaders in their homes and will lead this next generation in the direction of a deep commitment to Christ and an authentic, intimate relationship with the Person and power of the Holy Spirit.
If you know a father who is leading his children astray by a wrong example, pray for him to change. God can change even the hardest heart. And if you are a father or mother of this next generation, make it a matter of serious prayer and determine to wake up to the awesome responsibility God has charged you with to lead and provide a godly influence for your children and the younger generations in your life. You have the potential of changing young lives as you lead others through your authentic and godly example.
If you are a father or mother, you are able to help teach your children to walk in obedience to Jesus and the Word of God. Let the example of Sceva stress again to you the incredible influence you have on your children. Then make a fresh commitment today to be a godly influence that leads your children in one direction only — on God’s good path that leads to life!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, in this critical hour, it is so important for parents to adhere closely to the Word of God in order to guide this young generation along the path that fulfills Your plan for their lives. I pray for myself and for other fathers and mothers who represent Your Kingdom — that our hearts will remain steadfast and strong in the truth of Your Word. We will not be like Sceva, who led his sons astray because of his own wayward and hardened heart. Instead, we will be true spiritual leaders in our homes so that we can not only teach our children with right words, but also train and lead them by the example of our lives in the direction of a deep commitment to Christ and an authentic, intimate relationship with the Person and power of the Holy Spirit. I make a fresh commitment today to be a godly influence in my children’s lives, always pointing them to the path that leads to life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I accept my divinely ordained responsibility as a parent to lead as a godly influence for my children and the younger generation in my life. I have the potential of changing young lives as I live an authentic example of the character and the ways of God the Father before them. I continually rely upon Heaven’s wisdom to help me teach my children to walk in obedience to Jesus and the Word of God. I make a fresh commitment today to be a consistent example of obedience and love who leads my children in one direction only: God’s good path!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of parents who wandered from the Lord and thereby affected the spiritual direction that their children took in life? What commitments have you made to the Lord to make sure you never wrongly influence those who look to you as an example or a guide?
- Can you think of specific ways you can strengthen the godly example you are called to live before your children and the young generations?
- What did you learn new from today’s Sparkling Gem that has never been explained to you before? How will that truth affect your life from this day forward?