1999-06-03 - Snakes and Storms
Acts 28:3-4 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.4 And when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, "Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live." (NAS)
Paul and the ship's company and crew have just lived through a merciless 14-day long storm. Though they did not see the sun during those two weeks, Paul never lost sight of his Lord. Time and time again Jesus forewarned Paul of things he could not have known. He told the soldiers that there was no need to kill the prisoners as they had planned, but all would be saved through the storm. Time and time again Paul's words amazed the minds of soldiers and sailors alike. As Paul waded up on the beach his heart must have been warmed by thankfulness to his Master.
Tired, cold and wet, one by one they each arrived on the beach. A few began searching for firewood to warm themselves and dry their clothes. As the Apostle throws a bundle of sticks on the fire, a startled snake strikes Paul's hand. Before anyone could blink, the seemingly natural conclusion is drawn. Paul has escaped death at sea, but will not be spared. He has obviously done something deserving of death. And, Death is here to claim him.
John 9:2-3 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. (NAS)
The original 12 disciples were no different. "Who sinned?", they asked. Someone had to have been responsible, for this punishment to have been dispensed. Jesus' answer must have caused a mental train wreck to their way of thinking - ours too before we get too proud. The situation was either permitted or ordered so that the power of God could be displayed. The blind man, who had probably accepted this way of thinking too, was liberated with a freedom that is difficult to put into words.
Well, when Paul didn't bloat up like a balloon and drop dead, he had a new problem. Now, the local folks tried to make him a god. Paul must have been mortified. The temptation to give them a royal tongue-lashing from deity must have been there. Once he could get a word in, Paul would speak to the people and redirect their focus to Jesus as the reason for the amazing things they had seen. It might have also been tempting, especially after the two weeks' worth of ordeal to simply, quietly brush the whole matter aside. But Paul had a chance to speak on his favorite topic again. Before they left the island, he would lay hold of the opportunity, gladly telling all who would hear of his gracious Master and Savior.
These situations where both engineered for God's glory. God was indeed glorified in both - once by blindness and once by snake bite. Tragic events often bring people together, some that might not have otherwise been included are often there too. In difficult times, when we are obviously not in control, we are more willing to accept the concept of God. Our pride is humbled and our abilities are shown to be the limited things they really are. Enter the Lord to reach out to touch lives and mend hearts.
Isa 55:6-9 Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (NAS)
If you have been through storms and snake bites, don't lose hope. If you are sure that everything that has happened is because of something you did, and God would never forgive you - think again. The simple truth is that God loves you and stands ready to forgive you and accept you just as you are. And it is entirely possible that He has orchestrated everything to display His mighty hand in your life.
Lord Jesus - teach us expectancy in the storms that we might not miss the displays of Your power. Give us the grace to love the sinner, just as You loved us when we where still Your enemies. Amen.
Grace & Peace,