God even uses snakes.
OCTOBER 10, 2023
God even uses snakes. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life. A program all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching that’s honest, straight-forward and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open it to the final chapter in the Book of Acts. I know, I know, you thought we would never get to this. We’ve been studying Acts, I think, right after the flood that Noah had to deal with, and we’re finally bringing it to a conclusion. And when we finish with the Book of Acts, we’re going to move into the Book of Proverbs, the great and wonderful wisdom of God for the daily life of the believer. So, in the 28th chapter of Acts, we get a vignette and I’m going to read it to you in a minute. As you know, for the last two or three weeks, we’ve looked at storms. And Paul and how he dealt with those storms, and yesterday, we saw how his faith is confirmed for him, and it is confirmed to us too. Paul was on his way to Rome, where Paul would be tried before Caesar. And that storm arose, and it was interesting to look at that, and how Paul dealt with the storm. Ship made an unscheduled stop on the Isle of Malta. That is, they ran aground and were forced to swim to the land where they stayed for three months. Now, one of the kind of delightful things that we’ve discovered about Dr. Luke, the writer and the historian and the chronicler who wrote the Book of Acts is that he gives his readers sometimes these little vignettes of church history which at first glance seem kind of unimportant but on closer examination proved to be invaluable for our instruction. And Acts 28: 1 through 10 is one of those vignettes. Let me, I was reading not too long ago about a woman who bought an antique cabinet at an auction. It was a fairly nice piece of furniture, but nothing special. She didn’t realize her bargain until she was cleaning the cabinet and discovered a secret compartment, and it contained $28,000. These vignettes are kind of like that. You just want to pass them by and say, well, that is interesting, but the more you look at it, the more it begins to teach us in some significant ways. So, let me read to you the first few verses of this 28th chapter of Acts.
After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and it was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, put them in the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened to his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt he’s a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook the snake into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up suddenly and fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for those days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever. And Paul visited him and prayed and putting his hands on him healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases came and were cured. They also honored us greatly, when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed for the voyage.
So, you’ve got a vignette there. It only took two or three months. Paul couldn’t move out. The boat was in trouble. They needed to work on it. But Paul decided to simply do what God called him to do in a very small place. Somebody said that a woman in a small town looked up and saw the magnificent sunset and said, what a magnificent sunset for such a very small place. Well, that’s what’s happening here. God does some things that are really important. A viper, a snake, comes out of the fire that Paul had built and bit his hand. In fact, hung on to his hand and the people who were watching said, he’s going to swell up and die because God is just, and God punishes sinners, and he’s obviously a sinner. Paul went on and cooked the hot dogs and the s’mores, and nothing happened, and they changed their opinion. And there’s something here that we need to remember, that we need to be careful about judging from circumstances. We do that all the time. We look at people’s lives and if things are going bad, we say it’s because of the Biblical doctrine called divine, earthly retribution. And you get what you deserve. No, actually, you really don’t, in either direction. God has been merciful and kind and good to me. And that’s because I’m pure and obedient and ordained. No, that’s not true. He’s been merciful and kind when I didn’t deserve it. And that means that God is unfair. And I’m glad that he is unfair. You remember the man that was born blind? And the disciples, it’s in the Gospel of John, and the disciples said, Man, he must have done something really bad to be blind. And Jesus said, that’s not true. He was blind so God can be glorified. And he healed the man. The rest of that story is kind of wonderful because the religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus. And when blind people see because of Jesus, it’s kind of hard to dismiss him. And the rest of that story is really funny, but it was judging by circumstances. Are you going through a very dark time in your life right now? I get that. We live in a world that’s fallen, and even Christians go through dark times. I believe that every time a pagan gets cancer, a Christian gets cancer, so that the world will know the difference. Every time an unbeliever goes through a marriage problem, a Christian goes through a marriage problem, so that the world can see the difference. And you can’t judge by the circumstances. A snake bit Paul. Man, he must have skipped his devotions that morning. He must have done something, no, no, no. As a matter of fact, the circumstances do not often reflect the reality. I have a friend who’s a football player, a professional football player. And his career came to an end because in one of the games, his leg was broken. I visited my friend in the hospital and we were talking and he said, Steve, I know that this is discipline. I know that I’ve done something wrong. I know that God is lovingly, as a father, allowing me to be disciplined, but I don’t know what it’s about. And I told him, look, when God disciplines, you always know why he’s disciplining. If you can’t find a reason for your broken leg, the reason is the halfback who hit you. And that’s enough for you to know. Don’t ever judge by the circumstances. Sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen. And they don’t usually happen because you are either bad or good, sometimes they happen because we live in a fallen world, sometimes they happen because God has another plan and you’re a part of it, sometimes they happen just because you made a dumb move. My late mentor, Fred Smith, after a man had lost his business, said, I don’t know what God is teaching me. Fred said, he’s teaching you that you’re dumb. Guys, I’ve got to go, but you think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. Well, here we are fully diving into this final chapter of Acts. The last one, yes, but there’s still so much good stuff for us here and we’ll be feasting on that at least through the end of this week. Hope you will join us again tomorrow. So, a question for you, do you have your act together? I know I do. as far as you know, anyway. All right, real talk. None of us has our act together and to be honest, the pressure to act like we do is overwhelming, but there’s good news. God invites us to drop our masks and discover how his love and grace propel us into the real relationships we thought we’d never have. Steve talks about this in a special booklet called Hidden Agendas based on his book of the same name. Get your free copy of that booklet right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. To mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Again, just ask for your free copy of the Hidden Agendas booklet. Finally, if you value the work of Key Life, would you support that work through your giving? You can charge gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter, just text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.