When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said, “This man must be a murderer! He escaped the sea, but Justice will not let him live.”
The Lord delivers me from every evil attack.

Acts is a book that needs to be read by Believers to fully appreciate its message. At the end of his Gospel, John writes that the signs and miracles he recorded were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31) Acts reveals that the ministry of Jesus continues, now working through anointed Believers. Ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things through faith in Jesus. It proves that God will confirm His Word with signs and miracles. And even in the face of threats, or persecution, nothing can stop the spread of the Good News. With this in mind, take fresh a look back at Paul’s shipwreck on Malta. (Mark 16:19-20, Acts 4:29-33, 6:7, 19:19-20)

God told Paul that he would share the Gospel in Rome. After being taken into custody by the Roman authorities in Jerusalem, he was taken by ship to Crete. After leaving Crete, the ship was trapped at sea for 14 days in a hurricane. During the storm, an angel appeared to Paul and said, “Have no fear, Paul. You must stand before Caesar.” The angel also assured him that everyone on the boat would be saved. (Acts 27:1-24)

Paul On Malta

Have no fear, Paul.
You must stand before Caesar.

Note that the angel said nothing about the storm. It did not even enter into the discussion. Paul was to preach in Rome. No storm would prevail against the Word of God. You can be no safer than in God’s perfect will. You are God’s dwelling place on Earth. He loves you and will make sure you are protected if you trust Him. An angel may not appear during your trials, but you have something far better, God’s Word, that declares that NOTHING will separate you from His Love. (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1, Proverbs 4:1-27, Matthew 28:19-20, John 17:15-23, Romans 8:35-39)

Paul told the men on the ship, “Be Happy!” These were strange words to people who had endured two horrible weeks without food, and with little hope of escaping the tempest. Paul revealed the divine nature of his mission, and the certainty of their survival. This was a glimmer of hope for them. Then he told them to eat. Giving thanks to God, he broke the bread and distributed it. Imagine the scene, the ship and crew were at the mercy of a hurricane, and here was a preacher thanking God! All of them took the bread and were encouraged. This was not Paul acting foolish. He had God’s Word that all would be saved. Paul knew they would need strength to make it through the final hours. More importantly, they needed hope that they would survive. And they needed something to anchor their faith – God’s Word preached by Paul. Faith comes from hearing God’s Word, and hearing by that same Word. The men did not have a Bible handy, but they did have a man of faith available when they needed the Word. Also, note the thanksgiving Paul offered when distributing the bread. When your faith is being tested by the storms of life, or the enemy attempts to undermine your faith in God’s Word, do what Paul did – Rejoice! Praise changes things – getting your focus on God, the solution, and off the problem. (Psalm 18:1-3, 42:11, Matthew 7:24-27, Acts 27:22-44, Acts 16:22-28, Romans 10:17, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Hebrews 13:15)

The Holy Spirit revealed to Paul that sailing at that time would be disastrous. Paul shared this with the captain of the ship. The captain simply ignored the warning and set sail anyway. Paul’s spiritual insight was not based on fear, or experience – he was no sailor. This was divine spiritual knowledge that could have saved the ship from being lost, and the crew from a lot of hardship. Note the change of the crew’s attitude towards Paul after 14 days of misery. When Paul encouraged them that they would be saved, they listened to his instructions from then on. You always have a choice. If you learn to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, many problems, dangers, and disasters can be avoided. (Proverbs 3:1-6, John 14:15-21, Romans 8:5-14)

The sailors suspected they were nearing land and started dropping anchors, praying for daylight. Some men even attempted to abandon ship, but Paul warned them that only those that stayed on board would live. In the early morning the ship ran aground on a sandbar. With the ship stuck, the waves began tearing the ship apart. However in the daylight, they were now close enough to see their destination and safely swim to shore. Those unable to swim could make it by clinging to debris from the ship. All 276 people survived the ordeal. The ship and its contents were a total loss, but as God had promised, everybody on the ship lived. (Acts 27:27-44)

Snake Bites Paul On Malta

Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you.

The island natives started building fires to warm the drenched survivors. Paul was helping them by gathering wood. As he placed the wood on the fire, a viper fleeing the heat bit Paul on the hand and hung there. Paul simply shook it off into the fire. The people of Malta knew that this type of snakebite meant immediate death. They watched Paul carefully, waiting for him to exhibit the usual symptoms. After a lengthy wait, and Paul no worse than before, they started assuming he was divine. When you walk in God’s truth people begin to notice. (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:9-12)

The mythology of the Greeks personified justice, calling her Dike. When the natives witnessed the irony of Paul escaping certain death at sea, only to be bitten by a deadly viper on the beach, they concluded this must have been some sort of divine justice. They assumed Paul must have been a murderer, or an evil man who deserved to die. Even the most primitive, or spiritually dead people understand that there is some form of justice in the universe, a supreme authority that balances the scales. Whether you believe its the God of the Bible, or a box of Cream of Wheat, it is self evident that there is good and evil present in this world. To deny this spiritual Truth, is to deny yourself. For you are a living, speaking spirit in a body. God gives you a choice between two spiritual fathers – the Creator, who is Light, Life, Truth, Freedom, and Love Himself, or the destroyer, who is darkness, death, selfishness, slavery, and the father of lies. Choose wisely. (Deuteronomy 30:18-20, John 3:3-21, 8:31-44, 10:10, Romans 10:8-13)

Paul was not harassing the snake, trying to show off, or in any way acting foolishly. The snake was simply fleeing the fire and attacked the nearest person which happened to be Paul. In the natural, things looked pretty bad for Paul. Fortunately, there is a higher Truth, something more powerful than a snakebite, God’s Word. Paul’s experience with this snake was the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic Word – They will be able even to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them; and they will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them. (Mark 16:18) This is not a license to put on a sideshow, or tempt God. This is a promise of protection from the enemy. Note also the second part of the phrase, laying hands on the sick, was exactly what Paul would do next after the snake incident. (Luke 4:12, Acts 28:1-9)

Snakes have long been associated with sin, the devil, and death. After leaving Egypt, the children of Israel started confessing that were going to die in the wilderness. This brought fiery serpents into the camp. The snakebites brought quick death. The people repented and asked Moses to pray for them. God instructed Moses to prepare a brass snake and place it on a pole. Whoever looked at the brass snake would live. This is one of the most significant Old Testament types of what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus became sin (snake) on a cross (pole), and whoever looks to him (Jesus/brass snake on a pole) would be healed. Brass represents divine judgment – meaning sin has been judged. There were no qualifiers then, and none now, whoever turns to Jesus is healed – spirit, mind, and body! The power of the enemy was broken by Jesus on the cross. Paul, a brilliant student of Jewish Law and tradition under Gamaliel, may have even recalled this incident after this event. Jesus delivered Paul and you from fear and death. (Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-17, Colossians 2:13-15, Hebrews 2:14-15)

Having survived several demonic attacks – a storm, shipwreck, and a snakebite, Paul took what was a horrible set of circumstances and used them to glorify his Heavenly Father. While being entertained by Publius, a leader on the island, Paul discovered that Publius’ father was very sick. He prayed for the man, laid his hands on him, and the man was made whole. Before long, people from all over the island were coming to be healed. For three months, Paul was able to minister to the people and heal their sick. The people responded enthusiastically to the Good News and supplied Paul and the crew with everything they needed for the rest of their journey. God did not send the storm, or the snake, but in the end He took what was meant for evil and turned it into a huge victory for the Kingdom of God. You may experience some hardship as a Believer, but in due season, you will see an overflowing harvest, and victory in everything, if you do not give up. (Genesis 50:19-21, 1 Corinthians 10:9-13, Galatians 6:8-10, Ephesians 1:2-23, 6:10-13, 2 Timothy 4:17-18, 1 Peter 5:6-11)

God’s protection promises fill the Bible. In fact, Jesus specifically mentions snakes in both Mark 16:17-18 and Luke 10:18-20, declaring that Believers have been given authority over all the power of the enemy, and can walk among snakes and scorpions – which was exactly what Jesus did while on Earth! The promise is not limited to snakes and scorpions. It includes any person, thought, or thing Satan uses in an attempt to hurt a child of God. Like Paul, you need to fill your spirit with God’s Word, and renew your mind to know how much God loves you. This is most perfectly represented by Psalm 91. Read it often and remember that God has your back. (Genesis 3:14-15, John 12:27-36, Colossians 2:9-15, James 4:1-8, 1 John 3:7-11, Revelation 1:17-18)

Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, There shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your tent. For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never].

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.

(Psalm 91:9-16 <AMP>)

This Psalm covers every conceivable situation, and shows the extraordinary love God has for His kids. You must make these 16 verses Truth in your life. Read them often until you know that you know that it is God’s will that you are always safe under His Mighty Hand. When you know how much God loves you, you will never be afraid. (Ephesians 3:14-21, 1 John 4:15-21)

This man must be a murderer.
Jesus tasted death for you.

The people of Malta judged the world by what they picked up through their senses. What they could see, taste, hear, feel, smell, was the basis for all their knowledge and superstition. When they saw the poisonous snake hanging on Paul’s hand, based on their knowledge, he was a dead man and a victim of divine justice. But Paul was living under a greater spiritual revelation. He knew that Jesus, his Savior, had defeated sin, sickness, and death on the cross. He had God’s promise that he would preach at Rome. When Satan tried to interfere, Paul simply shook it off and continued his ministry. It is no surprise that later Paul would write, The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly Kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18, Hebrews 2:6-15)

 

Some Other Suggestions For Overcoming Fear/God’s Love/Psalm 91:
The Terribly Scary Storm – Boris Kitty Children’s story God’s Love is bigger than any fear

Where Was God During 9/11 – My blog post on God’s protection promises and Psalm 91.

For additional Psalm 91 resources

 

May God Richly Bless You!
Thanks for visiting!

 

Image Source: Shipwreck – Free Christian Clip Art
St Paul Bitten by a Viper on the Island of Malta – Marten de Vos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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