“Word for Today” – Acts 28 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 28, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Paul - Malta 1From a murderer to a god – this is the estimation of Paul by some islanders in our reading for today from Acts 28.  Paul and his shipmates have just washed up on the shore of Malta after being shipwrecked by a storm (cf. Acts 27:27-44).  Once safely ashore, Paul and his companion Luke recount their experience with the indigenous people thusly:

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, 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. (verses 2-6)

That’s quite a shift in these islanders’ evaluation of this man from Tarsus!  And it makes Paul quite a sorry god.  For any man who can at one moment be a common murderer and at the next moment be divine is not much of a deity.

The islanders at Malta, it seems, are fair-weather fans of all things divine.  When a man is doing poorly, they treat him as a dissolute thug.  When he is doing well, however, they are right there to cheer him on and even hail him as supernatural.  It all depends on the fortuitous state of the man’s life as to whether or not he is called “god.”

We, of course, are much more enlightened about and faithful to the divine than were those superstitious islander brutes at Malta.  Or are we?  May I suggest that we, like those islanders, are all too often fair-weather fans of divinity?  At a happy moment we may praise God for his marvelous work in our lives.  But then again, in the midst of a hard trial, we may curse God for sabotaging our plans.  At a time of need, we may call out to God in desperation.  But then again, in a season of seeming self-sufficiency, we may all but forget that God even exists.  We too are fair-weather fans of divinity.

Thankfully, even though we act as fair-weather fans of God, God never acts as a fair-weather fan of us!  No, God is not a fair-weather, but a faithful fan of his people.  Moses describes God’s faithfulness like this: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).  Steadfast love indeed!  After all, God has shown love to those who have rejected him, disobeyed him, cheated on him, and even disbelieved in his very existence.  Yes, our God is not anything if not steadfast.  Indeed, he is so steadfast that he even sent his Son, knowing that we, as sad fair-weather fans of divinity, would kill him.

The islanders took a man and made him a god in Paul.  The proclamation of the Scriptures is that there is a God who made himself man in Jesus as testimony to God’s steadfast love.  Do you trust him in good times and bad?  Do you praise him – not only when he saves you, but when the snake of life bites you?  Hold steadfastly to God.  For he is holding steadfastly to you.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 27 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Ephesians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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