ACTS 28: 3-6: “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. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”
OBSERVATION: How often do we misinterpret the circumstances in our lives? This story of the Apostle Paul being bit by a viper is a good example of what we often do. When those gathered around the fire saw the viper bite Paul they exclaimed – “No doubt this man is a murderer…”. When Paul did not swell up or drop dead from the bite they exclaimed – “Surely he is a god…” So what was right? The answer of course is neither opinion was right. The crowd around the fire was trying to interpret the circumstances that surrounded them from their own personal perspective, their own limited understanding. They were not looking at life through the lens of the Word of God. If they had known Jesus, if they had remembered the Word of God, they would have recalled Jesus’ words to His disciples:
“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
This was nothing more than the fulfillment of God’s Word and promise to His disciples. This is not a Scripture that condones or encourages snake handling. Rather, it is a promise that the power and protection of The Lord would accompany His disciples as they proclaimed the Gospel to every creature. Paul’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel was not completed. He still was destined to proclaim the Gospel in Rome. Therefore – nothing could stop him from doing the will of God, not even a poisonous viper!
While I hope we never have to face the same situation, we all need to heed the lesson found in this text. Proverbs exhorts us – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) When we try to interpret the events of our lives through the limited lens of our experience – we will usually come to the wrong conclusion. However, when we seek the wisdom of God’s Word, when we run our experiences through the lens of the whole counsel of God – we will see clearly and The Lord will direct our paths! If you need some encouragement to read your Bible each day – look into the eyes of a viper 🙂
Lord, give me a deeper hunger for Your Word! As I go through each day may I see each person, each circumstance, each challenge, each situation through the lens of the wisdom of Your Word. May I hide Your Word deeply in my heart. May Your Word light my path each day and guide me into Your will for my life. In Jesus Name!