Reading Acts 27 today. What a lesson!
Paul, on his way to Rome to appeal to Caesar on trumped up capital offense charges from his Jewish brothers, is aboard a Roman transport ship, the second one since leaving Caesarea, accompanied by the Centurion Julius, more prisoners and soldiers, the ship’s owner, pilot and crew; two hundred, seventy-six in all.
They got a late start (late October/early November) due to (1) the various hearings Paul endured before the Roman Governors Felix and Festus and King Aqrippa, and (2) the observance of the Day of Atonement, the Jewish high holy day. The weather had turned foul, typical for that time of year, but the ship made it all the way to FAIR HAVEN on the off-wind side of the island of Crete.
PAUL: Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of cargo and the ship, but also of our lives. Stay here for the winter!
THE MAJORITY: (Ship’s pilot, owner, and the centurion in charge of prisoners who had the final say): NO. This is not a suitable place to winter. Let’s make for Phoenix. It’s only a short way.
So, they departed, a deceivingly auspicious warm south wind taking them to sea.
And then the TEMPEST broke loose. A Northeaster of epic proportions.Terrifying, devastating. They were only able to pause briefly on the lea side of a tiny island long enough to run supporting cables under the the boat, haul in the dingy and lower the sails. Then they could do nothing but run before the wind and endure the ferocious gale and sea. So fierce was the storm that they had to cast off the cargo, the dingy, and all the tackle just to stay afloat.
For FOURTEEN DAYS they endured this mighty storm of wind and sea and darkness, with not a glimpse of light from sun, moon or stars. They were not able to eat a bite of food. They were terrified. Abandoned. Lost. All hope of salvation gone.
And then God spoke to Paul in a vision: “I have ordained that you must speak before Caesar, therefore, you and all 276 souls with you… will NOT PERISH.”
PAUL: We must run aground on ‘some island’ (not Fair Haven where they could have wintered). Meanwhile, let’s eat a little….
They did, then threw the rest of the wheat into the sea.
CREW: (After “sounding” the depth several times) LAND, HO!!
They released the stern anchors (holding them facing the island) and let the ship go her way. But instead of landing on the beach in the bay, a reef caught her fast by the bow and the stern began to break up under the terrible pounding surf.
SOLDIERS: We must kill all the prisoners! If they escape we will be killed!
CENTURION: (Looking to Paul, remembering the promise of God that none would perish) No! Those who can swim, jump over and swim to shore. Those who can’t swim, grab a bit of flotsam and ride it to shore! GO!!!
Every person arrived safely on shore and then turned to watch the ship disintegrate into the sea. A needless total material loss.
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Wow. This story taught me to “Trust in the Lord with all my heart, and LEAN NOT ON MY OWN UNDERSTANDING, to acknowledge HIM in IN ALL MY WAYS… because He will direct my path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Obedience and trust. God’s way is always best for us. But if we think our ideas are better, choose to go our own way, disregard the warnings in his Word, then we will suffer loss.
Sure, many of the natives and probably the shipmates were blessed in Malta where Paul and the others were marooned for 3 months – God works ALL THINGS together for our good for those who believe him.
But oh the blessing for the the ship’s owner and pilot if they’d have stayed in the safe fair haven when first instructed and warned… if they hadn’t taken things into their own hands… and if Julius hadn’t feared losing control over his prisoners in that town.
How do you and I respond to the warnings and the promises of safety revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him WILL NOT PERISH but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Sure, perhaps we might have another chance at the end of our life (or perhaps not), but what a waste! Yes we may be saved, but what COULD we have done for Him with our lives?
WARNING: There might not be a Paul “aboard your ship” when the end of your life is near. You may just be entirely ON YOUR OWN…