After all the excitement of the last chapter, today’s reading actually seems a little anticlimactic, even mundane. We find out that they had shipwrecked on the island of Malta, which is about 58 miles south of Sicily (just off Italy). There are just a couple of incidents here, which we can note.
First, as they were gathering wood, a viper jumped out of the wood and latched itself onto Paul’s hand. Apparently the natives recognized the snake as extremely poisonous, since they expected him to fall over dead at any moment. Their theory was that although he survived the storm and the shipwreck, Divine Justice was not going to let him off the hook. But of course Jesus had said that this man was going to Rome to testify, so that wasn’t going to happen.
I just love his nonchalant attitude towards the snake. He might not have recognized the snake (not being familiar with the area), but he should've picked up the “vibe” that the natives exhibited. He just shook it off into the fire—“pesky vipers!” No fear. No anxiety. His Lord had said that he would make it to Rome, and that was good enough for him.
Then they were introduced to the governor of the island. Unfortunately dysentery—caused by lack of proper sanitation, was pretty common in the ancient world. Paul came in, prayed, and healed his father with a touch. Of course that opened the floodgates, so everyone who was sick came to Paul to be healed by him. They became the celebrities and heroes of the island.
So is there any application here? Well, once again we see that when the Lord tells us something, we can bank on it. Just like with Joshua’s experience, we’ll always find that “Not one of the Lord’s good promises” to his children will fail. Every one will be fulfilled. When he says something, none of the powers of Heaven, Earth, or Hell can say anything different.
Also it’s touching that even along the road to Paul’s great destination, he saw everywhere he was as an opportunity for ministry. Yes, he was on the way to Rome and everything was focused on that, but in the meantime he saw people in need and he did whatever he could for them.
When I see someone in need in front of me, do I see them primarily as a distraction from what’s important? The people along the road to my “big job” are not distractions. They're the ones to whom I’m supposed to minister, the ones whom I’m supposed to serve right now.
Yeah, I know I’m supposed to do that. And I’m working on it.
Lord Jesus, please change my attitude towards the people around me. They're my ministry. As much as I do for them, I’m doing for you.
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