Friday, May 17, 2013

Acts 27:13-44 The Storm and The Shipwreck

Today the centurion and ship crew learn that they should have listened to Paul. They think that they got what they wanted so the ship sets sail along the shore of Crete. Unfortunately for them, Paul was right and a big storm, a “northeaster” sweeps down from the island. Things quickly get scary and the crew starts dumping cargo to lighten the ship. They take such a beating that on the third day they throw the ship’s tackle overboard. Eventually, everyone gives up hope of being saved after some time without seeing the sun or stars.

Luke tells us that they have gone a long time without food. This is when Paul decides to say “I told you so”, but he also gives them hope. He tells them that the ship will be destroyed but no one will be harmed. He knows this because an angel of God told him so.

On the fourteenth night, around midnight, the sailors sense that they are approaching land. They take measurements and find that the water is becoming shallower. They do what they can to reduce the damage and pray for daylight. Then they pretend to lower anchors while trying to escape. Paul tells the centurion that without the sailors he can’t be saved, so he orders his soldiers to cut the ropes and prevent the sailors’ escape.

One more time Paul addresses the crew, telling them to eat because they will need the food to survive. He tells them not a single hair will be lost on any of them. Then to show his faith in he just said, he breaks bread, gives thanks and eats. Everyone eats as much as they want and then throw the grain overboard.
Daylight comes and they don’t recognize the land, but decide to run the ship aground. The ship struck a sandbar so hard that the bow wouldn’t move and the stern was broken into pieces. The soldiers plan to kill the prisoners so that they can’t escape, but the centurion comes to their rescue to spare Paul’s life. He ordered those who could to swim ashore first and those who couldn’t to get there on planks or pieces of the ship. Everyone arrives safely.

If you are unfamiliar with sailing terms, like me, I looked up some definitions. Weighing anchor is raising the anchor from the sea floor and pulling it to the side of the ship. The ship’s tackle is equipment, like anchors, cables and baggage that are not essential for the ship’s survival. A sounding is when a measured, weighted line is put into water to check for depth. A rudder is used to steer the ship.

What struck me first as I read today’s passage was Luke’s choice of words as the beginning, “…they thought they had obtained what they wanted…” (Acts 27:13, NIV).  They thought they had gotten what they wanted, not that they got what they wanted, but they thought they got it.  Sometimes we think we get what we want when we get something new or something is decided in our favor, but soon realize that this isn’t what we wanted at all. How great the new house seems, bigger, fancier and better than the last one, until you meet the neighbors! You know the ones, the one who lets his dog use your lawn as a bathroom, or the really nosy neighbor or the one who insists your lawn needs to be cut the same day as theirs. Maybe the “better” house wasn’t really what we wanted or needed, as we miss the fantastic neighbors from the “old neighborhood.” And we reflect on a parent or friend telling us that the new house might not be the best choice. Hmm, maybe we should have listened!  

The other thing that struck me is that the sailors pray for daylight, but then try to escape. They seem to be moving in the right direction, displaying signs of faith. It almost looks like they have finally started to listen to Paul, but then they ruin it by trying to escape. They wanted to save themselves, because they didn’t think anyone else would, God included. Now I’m not saying that we pray for God to act and then sit around waiting, but we do need to trust Him to act. In this case I think the sailors should have continued to work to protect the ship, crew and passengers as best as possible, and trust that God would work with them to keep them safe. Paul said no one would be harmed, God had told him that, but the sailors still did not trust God. They feared for their lives, why else would they have tried to escape.

How often do we pray for something, but not trust that God will answer? We try to ensure the turnout that we want with our own manipulation of the circumstances or people. The problem is that sometimes that means we get what we think we want, not what God wants for us. We may miss out on something amazing, because we have not put our trust in God. Admittedly, we don’t always get what we ask for, but God always gives us what we need. God will always answer our prayers, we may not like the answer, but He ALWAYS answers.

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