Paul, other prisoners, Julius the centurion and other travellers with Paul found themselves on an island in the Mediterranean after their ship of Adramyttium was shipwrecked, they escaping as by a whisker.
The island on which they found themselves was called Melita. It was an island lying between Sicily and Africa, twenty miles long and twelve miles broad, sixty miles from Sicily (being the farthest from the continent of any island in the Mediterranean). On this island resided a barbarous people (because they did not, in language or custom, conform either to the Greeks or Romans).
These survivors had swum to the shores, coming on broken pieces of the ship and were sadly wet. As if this was not enough, to complete the deluge, waters from above met those from below, for it rained cats and dogs, drenching them to the skin. As they walked into this island shivering, the people received them warmly, showing great hospitality, led them to a large hall.
Paul and his companion needed warmth more than anything. So the people made room for them around the fire and bade them welcome, without asking either what country they were of, or what religion.
Now the fire was to be made bigger, so that more people could benefit from it. Paul joined the company that went out to gather sticks and was as busy as any of them in doing so. Paul was an industrious active man, and loved to be doing when any thing was to be done, and never contrived to take his ease. He was a humble self-denying man, and would stoop to any thing by which he might be serviceable, even to the gathering of sticks to make a fire. Though he was free from all, and of greater account than any of them, yet he made himself servant of all.
Paul had gathered sticks that were old and dry. And as it happened, there was a viper among them that laid still as dead. But when the sticks came to the fire, the venomous beast felt the heat and being provoked, flew at him that unawares threw it into the fire, fastening upon his hand.
Now Paul stood beside the fire unperturbed, with the viper hanging from his hand. The beast appeared not to put him into any fright or confusion at all. He did not shriek or start, nor, as it would be natural for most people to do, throw it off with terror and precipitation; for he suffered it to hang on so long that the people had time to take notice of it; the scripture upmost in his mind were the words of Christ to His disciples, “they shall take up serpents…”
The barbarous people on noticing the venomous beast on Paul’s hand concluded saying, “No doubt this man is a murderer, has shed innocent blood, and therefore, though he has escaped the sea, yet divine vengeance pursues him, and fastens upon him.” Now the people around Paul drew near and surrounded him to behold this hideous sight.
Before them all, he carelessly shook off the beast into the fire, without any difficulty, calling for help, or any means used to loosen its hold. Those that thought he would have swollen and fallen down dead suddenly, looked a great while, but saw no harm at all come to him – God intending to make Paul remarkable among this barbarous people, to make a way for the entertainment of the gospel among them.
In utter amazement they watched as Paul turned from the flames and walked towards them. On seeing he remained unharmed, they changed their minds and concluded that he was a god – magnifying him as much as they had before vilified him.
Food for thought: (1) Every stormy wind fulfils God’s counsel, to them that love God. (2) It is our duty to be compassionate to those that are in distress and misery, and to relieve and succour them to the utmost of our ability. (3) We should reckon nothing below us but sin, and be willing to condescend to the meanest offices, if there be occasion, for the good of the brethren. (4) Popular opinions are many a times uncertain and labile, turning with the wind.
Scriptural reference (s): Acts 28:1-6; Hebrews 13:2; Mark 16:17-18; Romans 8:28;