At the end of Chapter 27, Paul was shipwrecked and stranded on an island, and here we now in Chapter 28 find out that they had made it to a tiny island off the coast of what is now Sicily, Italy called Malta. Malta is now it’s own country and one of the smallest in the world.
Vs 1-5 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. 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.
God Protects Paul
This has not been an easy trip for Paul! He has been wrongly accused over and over, he has had to go before one official after another to claim his innocence, his life has been threatened by assassination at every town, he just went through a terrible hurricane-like storm that tore the ship apart, he and the others just barely made it to land, and then he gets bit by a poisonous snake! But through all of the difficulty, God has had His protective hand upon Paul’s life.
I love this story out of the book of Ezra. Ezra was leading a group traveling back to Jerusalem through some dangerous territory:
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.
~ Ezra 8:21-23
Ezra had bragged to the king about how mighty his God is, and then he didn’t feel like he could go ask for a protective force from the king’s army. That makes me smile.
Another story that encourages me and my fearful heart is the crossing of the Red Sea by the new Hebrew nation. They were being furiously chased by Pharaoh’s army and had their back up against a wall. They came to the Red Sea with no way to get across and escape.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
~ Exodus 14:13-14
The Israelites had no where to go. But Moses knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would deliver them: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today.” How many times when I am in fear, I want to take action! I tend to want to make things happen rather than wait for them to happen. Moses tells the people to “stand still”. Wow, that is so difficult for me! To stand still and wait for God to act – what a lesson for you and me.
And then God delivered them:
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
~ Exodus 14:21-22
Trust in God
Time and time again here in Paul’s life, we see him trust in God’s protection. And we see God’s might hand of deliverance over and over. The natives welcome Paul and the rest of the travelers – 276 of them according to Acts 27:38 – and the native people show kindness to them. That’s a pretty large crowd of people to wash up on the beach in the middle of a storm! Yet God has His hand on Paul. What an encouragement to us! As Paul follows Christ and continues to do His will, God repeatedly blesses Paul.
Here we see King David with the same kind of faith.
I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
~ Psalm 16:8-11
When King David says “I have set the LORD always before me this speaks of a decision David made to put God first in his life. He determined that God would always be his focus, his perspective.” David Guzik
God Directs Paul’s Life and Actions
Vs 6-10 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. In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.
Again, Paul is following God’s direction that he should minister to the people of Malta while he is there. He could have simply tried to take things easy and make this a little vacation from his troubles. But that’s not what God has called him to do. The lesson to us? Follow God’s call! He will lead you and me! As He leads us, He will also provide for us in His perfect will and for His glory. Paul moves about the island healing the sick and praying for them. He is doing the work of The Lord, even while shipwrecked!
Vs 11-15 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
As Paul now continues on his voyage toward Rome, he knows he is headed toward another trial and perhaps his own execution. In spite of all that God does in our lives to defend, protect, and provide for us, we still have fear don’t we? I’m sure Paul did as well. When Paul encounters these other believers, he is encouraged. How I understand that! To see and talk with others that have a solid faith in Jesus is so encouraging to my own soul.
Our Marriage Verse is an Encouragement
When my wife and I started dating, we found Romans 1:12 to be the verse that we wanted to use to help us focus our relationship on Christ. Here it is in the greater context:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— (and then our key verse is vs 12) that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
~ Romans 1:8-12
We are encouraged by the faith of other believers, and we need to encourage the faith of those around us. My wife and I encourage each other’s faith by praying for each other and with each other, we hold each other accountable, and we spur one another on in trusting God for the future.
Our Hope and The Hope of Israel
Vs 16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
Again, God shows care for Paul by using those people around him. Paul was not stuffed into a terrible jail cell but was allowed to dwell by himself in nicer quarters.
Vs 17-20 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
Paul has committed no crime, he has done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, he is being persecuted simply because he preaches Jesus Christ.
Paul says “for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain”. What is “the hope of Israel”? This hope is Jesus Christ, who was rejected by Israel, died for the sins of all, and was resurrected again on the third day so that all of us (including Israel) could have eternal life. That has been Paul’s message all along, even on this latest journey:
But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
~ Acts 23:6
I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
~ Acts 24:15
Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?….that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
~ Acts 26:8, 23
Paul tells us earlier in Acts that all we need to do to be saved is to believe in Jesus:
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
~ Acts 16:30-31
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
~ Acts 4:12
Jesus is not only our hope, in fact He is our only hope! There is no other.
Some Accept While Others Do Not
Vs 21-31 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”
So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,
‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts
and turn, So that I should heal them.” ‘
Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.
Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
The people ask for an explanation of “this sect”, and Paul teaches them the truth from God’s word. The quote Paul uses is from the prophet Isaiah, in Isa. 6:9-10, where he prophesies that some would not believe. This still happens today when people hear that Jesus can save them. Some who hear will believe God’s word and accept Jesus as their Savior for all eternity. Others will deny Jesus and will spend eternity in hell. It is the choice of every single person. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make your choice.
Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
~ Joshua 24:14-15