In Malta, the large number of people who escaped the shipwreck were treated with compassion by the inhabitants. Their response was unusual, which says something about how visitors and people in need were treated at that time in history. Who can tell the difference that Christianity has made to society?
Paul himself participated in the gathering of sticks for the fire. This is unlike what many ecclesiastical leaders would do today. Perhaps he did it because he wanted to help or maybe he did so in order to be able to speak to some of the locals about the gospel. After all, he usually became all things to all men in order to win some.
It is not clear if the snake came out of Paul’s bundle of sticks when he put it on the fire or from somewhere else on the fire. If his bundle, it could be that we have here an example of Paul’s poor eyesight in not having seen the viper. In any case, the Lord in his providence allowed the creature to bite his servant, and he allowed it in order to introduce his name to the community.
The Lord knew how to protect Paul in the most dangerous of situations. Of course, Paul knew that he was going to get to Rome because the Lord had told him, yet here was a situation when the fulfilment of a promise seemed to be in danger. While the onlookers imagined the viper had been sent as a judgement from the gods, he merely shook it off his hand. His manner indicates his confidence in God. The response of the people indicated that they were superstitious when they imagined that Paul was divine. It is unlikely that Paul would have allowed that opinion to persist.
The Lord also opened other doors in Malta. Although only there a short time, Paul had contact with the governor and with the diseased through his apostolic gift of healing. No doubt he would have told them where the power of healing came from.
It is obvious from this account that the Lord had Malta in mind when he arranged the storm that caused Paul and his fellow travellers such turmoil. We need to bear in mind the possibility that God has plans of great good as outcomes when we go through the storms of life.