Daily Devotion for September 4, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Andrea Bocelli with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing The Lord's Prayer
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
But he who hates correction is stupid.
Paul on Malta - the Viper
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 was cold.
When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live."
He shook off the creature into the fire, however, and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly 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.
Notes on the Scripture
It is, really, almost a miracle that Paul and his shipmates have stumbled onto Malta. The storm blew them almost 500 miles from Crete. Whether Paul's surviving the snakebite was a miracle, however, is open to debate.
One of the most troublesome passages in the Bible, for most Christians, is the passage in Mark 16 where the resurrected Christ appears to the apostles and tells them that they will be able to take up serpents and drink poison without being hurt. While very few people believe that this promise applies to later Christians, it might well have applied to Paul.
But it is just as likely that Paul's recovery was not miraculous at all. Many bites from venomous snakes are not "envenomed", that is, the snake will not inject venom; and very possibly, the snake in this case simply wasn't venomous. There are no snakes on Malta today that can kill a human. In fact, the passage itself does not claim that the snake was dangerous, although the witnesses believed it was.
To further complicate matters, the island of Malta has changed greatly in the past 2000 years. It may have had deadly snakes in the past. Today, in fact, it would be almost impossible to gather enough wood to make a fire, as the island is almost devoid of trees, whereas it was heavily forested when Paul landed there. And one would think that the native inhabitants, who feared for Paul's life, would know whether a particular snake was venomous.
So, miracle or luck? It is impossible to know. What is striking about the story, however, is the symbolism. The serpent has represented Satan since Genesis; even in non-Judeo/Christian cultures, snakes are often considered the embodiment of evil. Not only is Paul resistant to the evil, but also, he casts the serpent into the fire, the symbol of hell. The story makes a fitting conclusion to the allegory of Paul's voyage: Having survived the very real dangers of being lost at sea during a storm, in a small wooden ship, Paul finalizes the tale by destroying the serpent to illustrate Christ's final victory over death.