The Snake God Sent

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He’d told the story of his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road countless times. He had, perhaps reluctantly, described what he had been doing with his life before that encounter. But perhaps there was no time to tell that story that was any more significant than this moment on the Island of Malta.

Paul and his companions are shipwrecked on the island. They had set sail for Italy at the beginning of winter—not advisable, but the captain had been in a hurry. Cargo in a hold isn’t worth much unless it gets to market. In this case the cargo didn’t get to market at all. The ship and its contents floundered and the crew now found refuge on Malta.

The islanders were friendly, but superstitious. As Paul gathered wood and then put it on the fire, a snake slithered out and bit him.

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'” (Acts 18:4).

How ironic! Did Paul, having brushed off the snake with no ill effects, then sit down by the fire and say something like this: “Actually I AM a murderer and should have died for my crimes, but God...”?

The incident begs us to ask why else God would have instructed a poisoness snake to bite Paul, and on an island where that event had such significance?

Sometimes we don’t have far to look for an opportunity to tell a God-story. But I might have been more prone to nurse my “wound” or suck out the poison or try to be brave in the face of the pain, or get closer to the fire because I was wet and cold, than to use that divine moment to talk about the grace of God in my life.

The Scriptures don’t say what Paul did. We only know from his track record that he never missed an opportunity to speak for the Lord no matter what the circumstances were. In this case, once it had been established that he wasn’t going to die for his crimes, the islanders thought he must be a god (28:6). Now THAT opportunity Paul would not have passed up!

In 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect....

You may have heard the “stop, look, and listen” instruction at some point in your life—a safety feature when crossing streets and railway tracks. For the believer, speaking a word for the Lord requires that same instruction with one added feature: “stop, look, listen, speak.”

You never know when you might get the opportunity to tell your God-story.


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