Protection In The Storm
Book of Acts Chapter 27
When we left off last week the Apostle Paul had appeared before King Agrippa in order for Festus the Roman Procurator to have some information to write to Caesar.
Agrippa came to only one conclusion which he informed Festus:
Act 26:31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, [This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds].
Act 26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
Festus then had what he needed to write to Caesar: Paul was not set free because "he had requested for Caesar to judge him".
It is shortly after this, that it was decided that Paul would be sent to Rome. Paul was sent to Rome, not for anything that he had done but only because the Jews had said he had done things against the Jewish religion and they wanted him to be killed and would do so if they had the opportunity.
God had already decided Paul would preach in Rome so we will see God’s plan unfold.
It would be good to consider that there was great difficulty in travel in Bible times. Travel was not only difficult but it was dangerous. There were many occasions when people started on a journey and were never heard from again. If they traveled by land, they were in danger from outlaws and thieves. If they traveled by sea, they were at the mercy of the weather, in boats that were ill-equipped to handle bad weather.
When this journey begins a group of people has set sail from Israel to Rome. This journey would begin in Caesarea, in northern Israel, were Paul and some other prisoners were delivered into the care of a man named Julius.
So let’s see how Luke takes us through this journey:
*****Act 27:1 And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band.
Act 27:2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
We should immediately notice again of the word "we".
Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, joined Paul for this trip to Rome and remained with him al least until Paul was delivered to the custody of the soldiers in Rome.
The journey to Rome will involve typical navigational practices and patterns of the first century. Another thing we should know is that due to dangerous weather conditions, no sailing occurred on the Mediterranean during the period from mid-November to early March.
Paul’s voyage was near the beginning of this dangerous sailing period.
The word "band" was in fact, the 10th part of a Legion of Roman soldiers. These "bands" were groups of normally 600 men which makes a Roman Legion about 6000 men.
Aristarchus, as well as Luke, traveled with Paul on this long voyage from Caesarea to Rome.
Aristarchus had been with Paul since his third missionary journey and was a Thessalonian.
As a Roman citizen, as well as a highly educated religious leader, it was appropriate in the eyes of the Centurion and the ship officers, that Paul have attendance and we know that Luke and Aristarchus were at least two of those that attended to Paul..
That ship of Adramyttium would be a ship based in Asia minor but Julius had no intention of selling to Rome in this ship, as it was only a coastal vessel.
*****Act 27:3 And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
Julius was a member of the Imperial guard and we can see that he was courteous to Paul and treated him very well. Unexpectedly Julius had a gracious attitude for people and for life and days on the battlefield can sometimes lead a man to be this way.
It should also be very obvious to us that there had been a local church established at Sidon at this time an God’s people had kept up with things that happened to Paul!
*****Act 27:4 And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
Act 27:5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
Act 27:6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
We will begin to see, as Luke paints with words, a vivid picture of the troubles that came to pass on this trip to Rome.
The first problem arose after the ship left Sidon. It was a straight line distance of over 350 miles from Sidon to Myra.
We must remember these ships were coastal vessels and when sailing would keep visual contact with the coast. Normally Paul’s ship would have continued sailing northward along the coast and then turned westward along the coast of what is now Asia minor.
However the winds did not allow this so the captain of Paul ship turned northwest from Sidon and pilot his vessel for the island of Cyprus and then sailing the east side of Cyprus, using the island to protect the ship from some of those contrary winds.
He then followed the coast until he got to Myra. It was approaching the season when sailing ceased on the Mediterranean so the winds were generally from the West this time of year.
At Myra, Julius transferred Paul and the other prisoners to a ship from the north African city of Alexandria, which is in Egypt.
In the stays of Paul, Rome survived because of the grain of Egypt. These ships were much larger and much sturdier vessels and generally safer in the open seas.
*****Act 27:7 And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;
Act 27:8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.
Act 27:9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
Act 27:10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.
Act 27:11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
It was 150 miles from Myra to Cnidus and another 230 miles from Cnidus to the Fair Havens.
After some difficulty sailing, they arrived at the Fair Havens on the southern side of the Isle of Crete. By this time it was late autumn. The dangerous season for sailing was from September to November. After this date all navigation on the open sea was normally discontinued.
Paul was probably just as qualified to judge sea travel at this time as they were. Paul had been through three ship wrecks already.
2Co 11:25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, [thrice I suffered shipwreck], "a night and a day I have been in the deep";
We know that Paul wrote the book of Corinthians before he was captured in Jerusalem and jailed.
Those words "the fast", which is the "Day of Atonement", placed these events in early October.
In spite of this knowledge and over the protest of Paul the boat officials set sail for Phoenix planning to winter there.
*****Act 27:12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
Act 27:13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
Act 27:14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
Soon, however, they are caught up in the grasp of a vicious winter typhoon.
And from this point, Luke will give to us a vivid account of this storm that was actually recorded in history.
*****Act 27:15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.
Act 27:16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
Act 27:17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
Act 27:18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
Act 27:19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
First: This ship is blown far out to sea completely out of control.
Second: These terrified sailors band the ship with ropes to help strengthen the hull.
Third: As the seas grow higher they throw all the cargo overboard.
Fourth: They also discard all the tackle and the loose objects that cannot be tied down.
And Fifth: After 14 frightful and desperate days Luke describes a time of "no hope for survival".
Those "quicksands" were off the African coast, west of Cyrene, which gives an idea that this ship had no idea of which direction it was heading.
(Again see the map)
*****Act 27:20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
There was no let up in the storm.
Day after day, and night after night, the winds and the waves raged and relentlessly battered the ship and its crew and its passengers.
We can be sure that the rain had not ceased and these were terrible and most miserable days.
The heavy clouds obscured all view of the sun by day and of the stars by night and the constant exposure to all these things caused all hope that they should be saved to be taken away.
But Jeremiah gave us these words:
Jer 17:7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
Paul had not forgotten the things the Lord had told him. Paul knew he would give his testimony in Rome and he would have to survive this ordeal to do this.
Act 23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome".
*****Act 27:21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
Act 27:22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.
Act 27:23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Act 27:24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
That word "abstinence" means that these people had not eaten anything during the storm or at least very little. They had not had much opportunity and had little desire to eat and many of them had probably become seasick.
Paul made a quick reminder of the fact that he had advised them to remain in the Fair Havens, not because he had that I told you so attitude, but because he simply wanted them to listen to him now.
When you’re in that position of "no hope" it is comforting to have assurance that you will not lose your life!
We read in Chapter 23 where Paul had received direct assurance from God that he would bear witness that Rome.
And now this angel had assured him that all on board would also be saved from death.
It is often that we see that God will spare the ungodly because of godly men in their midst!
We must remember the words Abraham asked of the Lord:
Gen 18:23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
There have been many guilty cities and even nations that have been spared on account of God’s people and this is even more true in our day!
We also have proof of this in the New Testament and of the days we live in now:
2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: "only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way".
2Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The Lord had given these words to Paul and He would not now do something differently!
*****Act 27:25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
It is important for us to "believe God" and not to just "believe in God".
The Bible teaches us:
Jas 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
To "believe" God, is to accept God’s Word as the truth!
And we all should have this verse memorized:
2Ti 3:16 "All scripture" is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
We need nothing more than God’s "complete" Word to make our own life "complete"!
*****Act 27:26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
Only God could have had this information. God had assured Paul that he and all the others on the ship would be spared from death. However, there were still going to experience some difficulties, nonetheless, as they were going to be cast upon a certain island.
God will use every opportunity to reach out to the lost of this world!
*****Act 27:27 But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;
Act 27:28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
Act 27:29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
For two weeks this ship and these that were on it had been caught up in this massive storm.
The Adria, refers to the part of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between Italy and Greece and today is called the Adriatic Sea.
It is possible that these sailors heard the noise of waves breaking against a seashore and they believed that they could be very close to land.
That term "sounded" means that they were casting something like a javelin that was attached to a cord into the water that would give them some sense of the depth of the ocean.
A "fathom" was the standard measurement of the distance between the middle fingertips of the hands of an adult man with outstretched arms and is about 6 feet.
20 fathoms would be 120 feet of depth.
15 fathoms would be 90 feet of depth.
This is pretty shallow water in the midst of the ocean but because of the darkness they could not be sure of anything so they were "longing for daybreak" to come so they might possibly see land.
They did not want to run the risk of having the ship torn apart over rocks or grounded on some reef so they cast out four anchors from "the stern" or the rear of the ship.
And nothing else could be done until daybreak!
*****Act 27:30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
Act 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
Act 27:32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
The crew of the ship then decided that they would take their chances and tried to lower boats so they could escape and abandon the ship.
This points out just how grave this situation really was, when a sailor thinks its safer in a small boat, than in the much bigger ship.
Paul knew that if the sailors left the ship it could mean certain doom to all the rest, so the Roman commander commandeered the ship placing it under his direct control.
Accepting Paul’s word, Julius the Roman commander, cut the ropes to the smaller boats allowing them to drop into the ocean.
Paul had been in similar situations before as he had written to the Corinthians.
2Co 11:25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
If all the sailors left, no one on board knew how to sail the ship!
*****Act 27:33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
Act 27:34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
Act 27:35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.
Act 27:36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
Paul encouraged this crew and these passengers to eat some food. They had eaten very little in 14 days. They had continued to fast because they had lost all hope. They did not trust the ship’s captain and certainly not Julius, the Roman commander who had stop them from escaping.
BUT, Paul assured them they would need their strength in the coming days and "Not One Hair" would fall from any head.
Paul assured them that they were under the absolute protection of the "Living God"!
The Bible teaches us:
Mat 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
In other words, It is God who sets on the throne and He keeps a watchful eye on all His "Creation"!
So Paul began this meal by giving thanks that God had provided them with a meal and the time to have a meal.
Some of Paul’s last words to Timothy were these words:
1Ti 6:8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
You see even on our worst day God will still provide our needs!
And "no hope" became "good cheer"!
You see we should always remember that our testimony, even in trying times, can be an encouragement to others!
A Christian always has hope and that hope is in the Lord Jesus!
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
*****Act 27:37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
Act 27:38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
276 souls put their trust in the Lord. God had said not one of these men would be harmed so the Holy Spirit gives us an exact count of each and every head!
The decision to run the ship aground had already been made, so at this point everything that was not needed and that had weight was thrown overboard.
This would insure that the ship would get as close to the shore as it possibly could!
*****Act 27:39 And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
It is good to make note that this small bay on the island of Malta where the ship finally went aground has been called St. Paul’s Bay ever since this time and it is located behind a small island where two seas meet as we will now read.
*****Act 27:40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
Act 27:41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
That phrase "taken up" referring to the anchors, actually means either "cut away or loosed" as they would have never brought the weight of those anchors back into the ship.
The rudder had been secured by bands and these were no longer necessary. The wind was blowing toward the shore so the main sail was raised in order for the ship to get as close to the shore as possible.
The place where these two seas meet was a reef or a sandbar and when the front of the ship made contact it stuck fast and could not be moved.
The rear of the ship was being beaten by the waves and it began to break apart.
*****Act 27:42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
Act 27:43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:
Act 27:44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
We must not forget it was death to any Roman soldier that allowed his prisoner to escape and none could escape if they were all dead.
But, this was not allowed by Julius.
So they all went overboard into the sea and swam, or floated, all making their way safely to shore.
We should not miss this opportunity to have the confidence that Our God can save us from any situation, of any kind, and at any time.
Some of these were Christians but most were not, yet but nothing can stop the Will of Our God from being accomplished.
And there is never a time for God’s people to give up or lose hope!