The Serpent's Strike
It was Tuesday and early the next morning the recycle truck would come. So I grabbed the plastic recycle bin leaning against our house in the backyard. As soon as I did, I jumped back. The bull snake was less than a half inch wide and only about ten inches long, but just the raising of that head made me jump. Why?
The Apostle Paul didn’t jump when a viper struck his hand and dug in those fangs. He calmly disengaged the snake and tossed it into the fire. When the islanders saw the snake fixed to his hand, they instantly concluded he was a murderer, an evil man who had escaped justice in the sea, but not on the land. They watched and waited for him to swell or suddenly die.
“When they had all made it safely to shore, we learned the island was called ‘Malta.’ The natives showed not a little kindness. Because it was rainy and cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed us all. Gathering a pile of brushwood, Paul put it on the fire. As he did, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened on his hand. When the islanders saw the creature hanging from his hand, they were saying to one another, ‘Certainly, this man is a murderer; for though he escaped the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.’
Then Paul shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. The islanders expected him to swell up or suddenly fall over dead. But when they had waited a long time and nothing bad happened to him, then they changed their minds, saying that he was a god.” Acts 28:1-6
From Luke’s point of view throughout this entire episode of the storm at sea we can learn a lot from Paul about how to conduct ourselves in a crisis. Even after landing on the beach in the midst of cold and rain, he doesn’t hunker down. Instead he helps collect wood for the fire. God’s appointed leader isn’t above pitching in and doing a menial task, even after almost losing his life. But this is not the main stress. The snake strike reminds us that the ultimate conflict in the Bible is between Satan and God, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15).
In Acts the Serpent has been working hard to kill off Paul. From the Jewish leaders trying repeatedly to murder him, both in Jerusalem and in Caesarea, the vicious storm trying to drown him at sea, the soldiers trying to execute him with the other prisoners before they swim to safety, and now after landing safely on Malta, the viper tries to take him out on the beach. Satan has been working overtime to strike God’s servant. The serpent can strike, but he cannot win.
Paul will make it to Rome because God said the Gospel would be declared even to the Emperor and his court. I also learn again in this episode that the opinion of a crowd can change fast. I can’t be controlled by their whims either negative or positive.
LORD, thanks for the honesty in this episode that we will face “snake bites.” Thanks again for challenging me in this episode to remember that Satan can strike, but he cannot block me from getting to the places and the people you want me to reach for Jesus.
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