Acts 28:1-16 – Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. 7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. 11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.” After their harrowing ride on the cyclonic sea, and the wreckage of their ship on the sandbar of the sandy Malta beach, they were at last safe. But where were they? They, upon arrival did not know where they were at. (Acts 27:39) They were just happy to be on land.
The islanders showed them a high level of kindness. How wonderful after all they had been through. The word here translated as “islanders” is the word “barbaros.” Luke was actually calling them barbarians. However, the word did not mean what it might mean to us. It was not because of how they acted or dressed, but because of their language. They were of Semitic ancestry from Phoenicia. Barbaros was a word the Greeks used to describe people who did not speak Greek. To the Greeks their language sounded like “bar, bar, bar” and thus, barbarians. Unfortunately, the Greeks would consider these people inferior because they did not speak Greek, though we see by their gracious welcome to those stranded on their island, they seemed of a superior nature in what mattered most. They not only extended a hand of friendship, but made a fire to warm the soaked shipwreck survivors. Too often in our days, when people immigrate to our country, they have been mocked because of their inability to speak the language, or inability to speak it well. Many of these immigrants end up proving to be great citizens and people of high integrity, and often, employers. Think about it.
“Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.”” The strength of Paul is amazing. After all he has been through over the last two weeks, after surviving the raging seas and the destroying of their ship, he did not leave it to the islanders to serve him, he started helping right away. Nothing keeps Paul down! Oh to be so mature in the Lord, oh to have the inner strength he had!
As a result of him wanting to help, he was bitten by a viper. Family, we can be sure that if want to help the devil will strike, and he used the viper to try to kill Paul. This brings to mind the saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” Sad, but too often true. Yet we must not become discourage if we are bitten by the one we serve. Ultimately, it is God we serve. It is He we seek to please, it is His pleasure that is our reward.
The islanders were well familiar with the snake. Likely, friends and family of theirs had been bitten and died. They fully expected Paul to also die. As was common for that time, they believed that misfortune, and an early death, were likely received justice for wrongs committed. They knew of the Greek goddess Themis whose name meant justice, and who was supposed to be the divine being who brought justice, law and order. They thought that Paul, being a prisoner, was likely a condemned murderer who had escaped death by the sea and that he was bitten by the viper because justice could not be denied. Even today we know that superstitious thought of karma still exists. Yet, we know that all who are left with only their bare actions, all of them, to testify before God on judgement day, will not escape righteous judgement.
God was gracious to Paul and his shipmates. They survived the seas and were blessed to come to an island with gracious natives.
Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we move from one trial, or one danger, to another? Sometimes troubles come like the waves of the ocean, one after another and seemingly unending. We can’t catch our breath before another wave crashes over us. Family and Friends, the devil never gives up. If he can’t wear you down to commit suicide, he’ll send something else against you. If a life-threatening incident is survived, he will try to kill you in the car ride home. If someone hurts us emotionally, and we recover, we can be sure someone is right behind that person. The devil does not give up. But neither do people like Job, or like Paul. Some people are just strong. One of my aunts lived through many health crises’ after another. She lived for years and years on kidney dialysis. She survived several strokes while on dialysis. She lived through many disappointments in life. I marveled at her strength, she never gave up. I thought several times “Oh, I don’t know if I would want to continue on.” She was strong. She always resisted. Yes, it was her nature. But it was strength that was multiplied when she came to Christ. She knew she was going to heaven. She fought hard for this life and she looked forward with joy to the next. My Tia Lupe, a strong fighter to the end. To this day I am amazed at her. I am amazed at Job and at Paul. You won’t read a book about my Tia Lupe, but rest assured that God looked down and was pleased with her, His precious daughter. Was she perfect? Oh no, she would tell you that. She did her best and trusted God to bring her home. So Family, let us keep in mind Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Also let us keep in mind Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Yes, Paul wrote that. He kept his eyes focused on the prize and on his God. (Philippians 3:14) He trusted in Jesus and He was never let down. Now, He is with the Lord. And so will all of us likewise be if we continue in faith in Jesus. In that day, we will walk in the reality that our troubles, our sufferings on earth, were nothing compared to eternal life with God. Praise God!
Psalm 150:6 – Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!
Micah 7:7 – But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
Micah 6:8 – He has shown You, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of You but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Your God.
Numbers 6:24-26 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”