A Divine Appointment (Part Two)- Acts 28:1-10

As we resume our story in Acts 28, Paul has reached the location of his divine appointment, which we find is an island called Malta. We first find the hand of God at work here in that this island was originally settled by the ancient Phoenicians, who just “happened” to speak a language derived from ancient Canaanite, very similar to Hebrew, so Paul (a Hebrew) would have been able to understand them and they would have been able to understand him. The natives welcome the travelers and build them a fire to warm them. Paul is helping with the fire and, as he gathers wood, a viper bites him and fastens on his hand. Is Paul’s divine appointment with a poisonous snake? Has God done all of this to have him die now? Not quite, the snake is merely another “detour” and it has a purpose, as we will see shortly. The islanders react to the snakebite by concluding that Paul must have been a murderer. Now why would they conclude this? Their belief was in the Greek gods, and they believed that “Justice” has not allowed Paul to live. The word justice here is capitalized in the NIV because justice here is someone, the goddess dike, who they believed delivered divine justice to any who had escaped punishment for a crime, which they now believe Paul has done. But the snakebite does not kill Paul, he merely shakes it off and suffers no ill effects. When he does not die, the islanders assume that he is a god, more powerful than dike and able to ward off her punishment. Though it is not mentioned here, it is difficult to imagine Paul not taking this opportunity to tell the islanders that he was not a god (as in Acts 14), but to tell them of the God he served. God here allowed Paul to be bitten by a snake and survive the snakebite for a reason, he was at work in Paul’s appointment toward something much greater than Paul’s momentary comfort. We next find, in verse 7, that Paul is then welcomed into the home of a man named Publius, who was the “governor” of the island. Paul is entertained hospitably there for three days. During this time, Paul encounters Publius’ father, who is sick with dysentery and bed-ridden. Paul prays, lays hands on the man and he is healed. Word then spreads of this, and all the sick on the island are brought to Paul and healed. Paul’s divine appointment here was not with the snake, but with Publius. God had miraculously steered this ship to Malta through the storm in order for Paul to meet Publius and heal his father. Was this healing, then, the purpose behind Paul’s appointment? The answer is yes and no. The healing was part of the purpose of Paul’s appointment, but not the main purpose, for we learn from subsequent historians that Publius was later to become the first bishop (pastor) of the Christian church on the island of Malta, which still lists Catholicism as its official state religion today. The purpose behind Paul’s appointment and all the miraculous happenings in this story was the salvation of one man and the establishment of a Christian church on the island of Malta. This “detour” in Paul’s life was in fact no detour at all, but was part of God’s plan, and Paul was in God’s hands every step of the way. In the same way, in our lives we have many “divine appointments”, and they are often not for our own comfort or pleasure, but for the benefit of others. May we all look to Paul as an example, and take full advantage of every opportunity, of every divine appointment which God leads us to, knowing that we are in His hands every step of the way.

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