Take up serpents - Several MSS. add εν ταις χερσιν, in their hands - shall be enabled to give, when such a proof may be serviceable to the cause of truth, this evidence of their being continually under the power and protection of God, and that all nature is subject to him. This also was literally fulfilled in the case of Paul, Acts 28:5.
If they drink any deadly thing - Θανασιμον (φαρμακον ) being understood - if they should through mistake, or accident, drink any poisonous matter, their constant preserver will take care that it shall not injure them. See a similar promise, Isaiah 43:2.
They shall lay hands on the sick - And I will convey a healing power by their hands, so that the sick shall recover, and men shall see that these are sent and acknowledged by the Most High. Several instances of this kind are found in the Acts of the Apostles.
That the apostles of our Lord should not lose their lives by poison is most fully asserted in this verse, and there is neither record nor tradition to disprove this. But it is worthy of remark, that Mohammed, who styled himself The Apostle Of God, lost his life by poison; and had he been a true apostle of God, he could not have fallen by it. Al Kodai, Abul Feda, and Al Janabi, give the following account.
When Mohammed, in the seventh year of the Hejra, a.d. 628, had taken the city of Kheebar, from the Arab Jews, he took up his lodgings at the house of Hareth, the father of Marhab the Jewish general, who had been slain at the taking of the city by Alee, the son-in-law of Mohammed. Zeenab the daughter of Hareth, who was appointed to dress the prophet's dinner, to avenge the fall of her people, and the death of her brother, put poison in a roasted lamb which was provided for the occasion. Bashar, one of his companions, falling on too hastily, fell dead on the spot. Mohammed had only chewed one mouthful, but had not swallowed it: though, on perceiving that it was poisoned, he immediately spat it out, yet he had swallowed a sufficiency of the juice to lay the foundation of his death; though this did not take place till about three years after: but that it was the cause of his death then, his dying words related by Al Janabi, and others, sufficiently testify. When the mother of Bashar came to see him in his dying agonies, he thus addressed her: "O mother of Bashar, I now feel the veins of my heart bursting through the poison of that morsel which I ate with thy son at Kheebar."
Abul Feda, Ebnol Athir, and Ebn Phares say, that the prophet acknowledged on his death-bed, that the poison which he had taken at Kheebar had tormented him from that time until then, notwithstanding blisters were applied to his shoulders, and every thing done in the beginning to prevent its effects. Al Kodai and Al Janabi relate, that when Zeenab was questioned why she did this, she answered to this effect: "I said in my heart, If he be a king, we shall hereby be freed from his tyranny; and if he be a prophet, he will easily perceive it, and consequently receive no injury." To support his credit, he pretended that the lamb spoke to him, and said that it was infected with poison! See Elmakin, p. 8. It was therefore policy in him not to put Zeenab to death. It has pleased God that this fact should be acknowledged by the dying breath of this scourge of the earth; and that several of even the most partial Mohammedan historians should relate it! And, thus attested, it stands for the complete and everlasting refutation of his pretensions to the prophetic spirit and mission. Vide Specimen Hist. Arabum, a Pocockio, p. 189, 190. Le Coran traduit par Savary, vol. i; p. 135, and 212. See also, The Life of Mohammed by Prideaux, 93, 101.
They shall take up serpents - When it is necessary for the sake of establishing religion, they shall handle poisonous reptiles without injury, thus showing that God was with them to keep them from harm. This was literally fulfilled when Paul shook the viper from his hand. See Acts 28:5-6.
Any deadly thing - Any poison usually causing death.
Shall not hurt them - There is a similar promise in Isaiah 43:2.
God is just as willing to restore the sick to health now as when the Holy Spirit spoke these words through the psalmist. And Christ is the same compassionate physician now that He was during His earthly ministry. In Him there is healing balm for every disease, restoring power for every infirmity. His disciples in this time are to pray for the sick as verily as the disciples of old prayed. And recoveries will follow; for “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” We have the Holy Spirit's power, the calm assurance of faith, that can claim God's promises. The Lord's promise, “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18), is just as trustworthy now as in the days of the apostles. It presents the privilege of God's children, and our faith should lay hold of all that it embraces. Christ's servants are the channel of His working, and through them He desires to exercise His healing power. It is our work to present the sick and suffering to God in the arms of our faith. We should teach them to believe in the Great Healer. MH 226.1
The Saviour would have us encourage the sick, the hopeless, the afflicted, to take hold upon His strength. Through faith and prayer the sickroom may be transformed into a Bethel. In word and deed, physicians and nurses may say, so plainly that it cannot be misunderstood, “God is in this place” to save, and not to destroy. Christ desires to manifest His presence in the sickroom, filling the hearts of physicians and nurses with the sweetness of His love. If the life of the attendants upon the sick is such that Christ can go with them to the bedside of the patient, there will come to him the conviction that the compassionate Saviour is present, and this conviction will itself do much for the healing of both the soul and the body. MH 226.2
And God hears prayer. Christ has said, “If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Again He says, “If any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.” John 14:14; 12:26. If we live according to His word, every precious promise He has given will be fulfilled to us. We are undeserving of His mercy, but as we give ourselves to Him, He receives us. He will work for and through those who follow Him. MH 226.3Read in context »
In giving light to His people anciently, God did not work exclusively through any one class. Daniel was a prince of Judah. Isaiah also was of the royal line. David was a shepherd boy, Amos a herdsman, Zechariah a captive from Babylon, Elisha a tiller of the soil. The Lord raised up as His representatives prophets and princes, the noble and the lowly, and taught them the truths to be given to the world. MH 148.1
To everyone who becomes a partaker of His grace the Lord appoints a work for others. Individually we are to stand in our lot and place, saying, “Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8. Upon the minister of the word, the missionary nurse, the Christian physician, the individual Christian, whether he be merchant or farmer, professional man or mechanic—the responsibility rests upon all. It is our work to reveal to men the gospel of their salvation. Every enterprise in which we engage should be a means to this end. MH 148.2
Those who take up their appointed work will not only be a blessing to others, but they will themselves be blessed. The consciousness of duty well done will have a reflex influence upon their own souls. The despondent will forget their despondency, the weak will become strong, the ignorant intelligent, and all will find an unfailing helper in Him who has called them. MH 148.3Read in context »