Summary: Principles to remember when things go wrong.
A Study of the Book of Acts
“Shipwrecked and Snakebit”
Have you ever heard someone described as being “snakebit.” That term is used to describe someone who no matter what they undertake to do, it is doomed to failure or some kind of catastrophe. Paul must have felt somewhat like this himself.
When we left our intrepid travelers last week the ship on which Paul and his friends were traveling had hit a sandbar “where the two sea meet” (v. 41). The front of the ship was anchored in the sand and the back of the ship was being torn to pieces. But according to verse 44 each and every one of the passengers and crew made it to safety. It was only after they made to shore that they learn where they were. Acts 28:1 tells us that, “Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta.
Principle to remember when things go wrong,
1. NO MATTER HOW THINGS MAY LOOK GOD IS STILL WITH US
In the midst of troubles, storms, and trials of every sort we need to be aware that God is still with us and that he is still in control. Paul’s shipwreck was no mistake, there were miracles to be done and people to be saved.
It is not different than today, God take us through tough times and we are left wondering where he is in the midst of it all. Everything seems to crash in.
Those who had made it to shore were wet and miserable, according to verse two, “And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.
The natives of the island quickly gathered at the shore to offer assistance to the passengers of the ship as they made it to shore. I can imagine that some of these natives even went into the water helping those who were exhausted and the non-swimmers, to the beach. Here they built a large fire to warm the shivering survivors. Not only were the passengers and crew chilled from the cold waters of the sea buy it was raining as well.
Perhaps Paul may have thought to himself, “Good grief things can’t get any worse.” Well you know what usually happens when you think that, things can always get worse.
Verse three says, “But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.” When gathering wood for the fire, apparently Paul gathered more than just wood. A viper apparently lying dormant among the sticks, came to life as Paul placed the wood upon the fire and fastened itself to Paul’s hand.
I want you to notice Paul’s reaction to the snake bite it was simple and decisive. Verse five says that, “But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.” Paul did not in a moment of panic fling the creature from himself without regard to others around him, those endangering them.
Neither did Paul do anything super-spiritual like immediately kneel in prayer or call for an impromptu prayer meeting, he did say some pious last words or preach a sermon. He seems to have simply gone on with what he was doing.
I want you to notice that the natives have a nice little theological explanation for what had happened to Paul. In verse four when they see that he has been bitten it is said, “So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.”
According to them Paul is undoubtedly a murderer and although he has escaped death in the storm, fate in the form of the snake has now caught up with him. They held to the tenet still held by some today, “Calamity is always a proof of evil.” They thought that calamity was the evidence of divine punishment. They mistakenly thought all wickedness is punished in this life. The watch him waiting for what they knew must come, swelling and death. But as they watched and saw no harm come to him they realized that this was not the case and they changed their minds. Verse six says, “However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.” Notice how fickle public opinion is.
Paul’s miraculous deliverance is such a surprise to the natives that they now conclude that Paul must be a god. That is quite a change of mind, in that just a few minutes before they had concluded that Paul must of have been a horrible criminal to have been bitten by the snake.