Strangers on the shore
Lord, bring me near to Your heart and let me go out into the world with a deep knowledge of Your love for me.
Read: ACTS 28:1-16
 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.  The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.  Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.  When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.”  But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.  The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.  There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.  His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.  When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.  They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.  After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island-it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.  We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days.  From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.  There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.  The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.  When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
Reflect: HOW DID THE PEOPLE RESPOND TO WHAT THEY SAW?
Paul’s experiences on Malta and on the latter part of his journey to Rome are punctuated with the kindness and generosity of strangers. The warmth of the help given to the ship’s company by the locals is much appreciated (2). Paul’s stock goes up when he doesn’t die after being bitten by the viper (6), and then, after he prays for Publius’s father, others come in droves and are healed–another sign that God continues to be with Paul and his companions. The islanders clearly hold them in high regard (10), as do the believers in Puteoli and Rome (13,14). It’s easy, in this passage, to forget that Paul is a prisoner, under guard, and on his way to defend himself before Caesar. Even verse 16, which reminds us of his status, shows how highly he is regarded. Being on the receiving end of this kind of thing is an enriching, encouraging and humbling experience; and strangely, its absence, and a lack of appreciation of someone’s circumstances, can be considerably unsettling. It’s a reminder to us to be ready to exercise the gifts of encouragement and generosity (Rom. 12:8) when we meet those who need them.
To whom could you extend kindness this week? Make a practical plan to do so.
My Loving Friend, let my life in You be one of action and not mere words.
Syndicated via Scripture Union