Act 28:1-6 Once everyone was accounted for and we realized we had all made it, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. (2) The natives went out of their way to be friendly to us. The day was rainy and cold and we were already soaked to the bone, but they built a huge bonfire and gathered us around it. (3) Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its torpor by the heat, struck his hand and held on. (4) Seeing the snake hanging from Paul's hand like that, the natives jumped to the conclusion that he was a murderer getting his just deserts. (5) Paul shook the snake off into the fire, none the worse for wear. (6) They kept expecting him to drop dead, but when it was obvious he wasn't going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!
The island of Malta is 60 miles south of Sicily. It had excellent harbors and was ideally located for trade. The islanders on Malta were of Phoenician ancestry.
Dawn brought sight of land for Paul and his shipmates, They did not know that it was Malta. A beach on the land looked like a safe place to ground the ship. What they didn't know was that beneath the waters was a treacherous reef. They cut the four anchors, loosed the rudder ropes, and hoisted the mainsail. Then it happened. The prow of the ship stuck fast in the shoal and the stern was battered to pieces by the surging waves. There was nothing to do but abandon ship and grasp anything afloat to aid in swimming ashore. Paul and the other prisoners barely escaped execution. The soldiers wanted to kill them, fearing they would swim away and, once on land, would slip out of their grasp. Julius, the centurion, stepped in. Luke tells us that he wanted to save Paul. Was this allegiance to his duty to deliver the apostle to Rome, or in gratitude for what he had done to save their lives? I think the latter. He knew that they would not have made it if it had not been for Paul's leadership, prayers, and the blessing of his Lord. The apostle had made another friend. The account of what happened on Malta is further evidence of how the Lord will use everything for His glory and our effectiveness.
But something happened to Paul while building the fire that was even more convincing than his practical helpfulness. A viper was forced out of a crevice in one of the pieces of wood by the heat of the fire. It fastened itself to Paul's hand. This was a vivid picture: a leaping fire, the apostle in chains, a serpent dangling from his hand, and the natives of the island, as well as Paul's shipmates, looking on in horrified fright. The natives who had kindly greeted the survivors now expressed the superstition of their culture. The viper's attack was surely the just punishment of one they perceived to be a murderer on the way to his execution.
Paul, with customary calmness, shook the viper off his hand and went about his duties of helping others. The natives watched, waiting for his hand to swell and death to come. After a long time, when Paul was still joyously alive and active, the natives decided that this was no murderer but a god!
How does this apply to my life? There are several things that I would like to note:
Paul was still alive because of God's favor! Every where Paul went, he had enemies because of his preaching, but he also had dependable, trustworthy friends. I want to live my life so that God is able and willing to give me favor with men. There are so many things that need to be done in God's kingdom, but he is looking for men and women who will love the Lord God with all of their "heart, mind, soul, and strength" and "love his neighbor as himself." When we do that, expect God to reward that type of love with favor with God AND man.
Secondly, Paul never thought work was below him. He didn't have to, but he got right in and helped start the fire and bundle sticks. True, godly, pure leaders are not lazy. They are willing to do anything it takes to make someone or something successful!
Thirdly, as he placed wood onto the fire, and very venomous snake latched on to his hand and attempted to poison Paul. The poison SHOULD HAVE killed Paul. In fact the villagers watched and waited for Paul to die. He didn't! He shook off the snake into the fire. I noticed it said that the snake "wouldn't let go." It was stubbornly, and potentially fatally, latching onto Paul and refusing to let go. If Paul hadn't of shaken it off into the fire, I believe it would have killed him. But by faith, he took action and did something about the snake.
As I read that, God spoke into my heart that there are things in our life that poison our spirit and and stubbornly hold on to us. It could be failures from the past, it could be offenses from years gone by, it could be dislike or hatred of a person, it could be unforgiveness...again, I could go on and on. But the bottom line is, I must shake that poisonous creature into the fire. It is time to move on! It is time to walk in victory and to stop making excuses for the reason that I am allowing that poison into my life. I must adjust my attitude and begin to live like Jesus in every area of my life. How long will I allow the poison to effect my relationships with: my wife, my children, my co-workers, my church family, my friends? It is time to take action! It is time to move past your past! God can and will use your past today and in the future, if you stop allowing the poison to effect your spirit. King David cried out, "Lord, renew a right spirit within me" and God did. He will do the same for me!
"Lord, once again, I need your help. As I daily read your Word, you are showing me areas that I need to allow your Holy Spirit to work on inside of me. There are too many times that I allow a poisonous situation or person to stay attached to my spirit for days, weeks, months or years. This ought not to be! A poisonous spirit hinders my relationship with you and every other relationship that I have. Please forgive me for not "shaking the snake into the fire" and moving on joyfully with my life. I ponder, linger, relive situations where I have been hurt over and over again. I am sorry Lord, I am wrong. I cry out to you like King David did many years ago, 'create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Right now I make the decision to shake this poison off of my life and spirit and I will live victoriously. The way I shake this off of and out of my life is through your Word, prayer and meditation. I STOP talking about how I was wronged, and instead talk about how blessed that I really am. I decide today to focus on the good things in my life. I do that through thanksgiving and praise. Thank you Lord for revealing this to me this evening. I love you Lord, and thank you for helping the poison to be removed from my life! In Jesus name, amen!"