7 “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 three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.” (Acts 28:7–10 (ESV)
God’s providence is defined as the rule of God in both heaven and earth, governing the activities of mankind and of nature. Throughout Paul’s life, particularly during his journey to Rome, God was working; even in the many difficult circumstances the apostle and his companions encountered.
Luke continues the narrative by introducing a man of Malta known as Publius. Luke called him a “chief man” which means either a prominent or an important individual on Malta. Perhaps he was a government official.
Publius was also a hospitable man for he entertained Paul, and at least Luke, for three days. It was during these visits that Publius’ father became ill with a fever and with dysentery. He suffered from some kind of intestinal illness. One commentator states that Publius’ father suffered from a “gastric fever (caused by a microbe found in goat’s milk) that was common on Malta and referred to as “Malta Fever.” Dysentery, was often the result of poor sanitation, and was widespread in the ancient world.
Paul took the liberty of visiting Publius’ father. He prayed on the man’s behalf, and also laid hands on him and healed him. The man was immediately cured.
This prompted other people on the island who were sick to also come and see Paul. They too were cured.
As a result, the islanders of Malta honored Paul and his companions. It was at this time that arrangements were made to secure another ship bound for Rome, for Luke mentions that the Maltese people provided many supplies as Paul and the others were ready to set sail. Further details about the ship will be forthcoming when next we meet.
While Rome was Paul’s desired destination, he recognized the providence of God in ministering to the people of Malta. So too should we acknowledge that circumstances we might conclude as interruptions, are in actuality divine appointments.
Soli deo Gloria!