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Sep 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 18, 2016 – Acts 27

“See? I Told You So!”

When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. Acts 27:1

Intro: There are storms in both the second chapter of Acts and the last chapter

The first storm was the Spirit of God descended on the apostles
– we read that he came with the a noise of a violent rushing wind (Acts 2:2)
– linking the two storms may prove enlightening
• but that’s not the direction we’re going today

Daniel Boorstin in The Image informed us that the “old English word ‘travel’ (in the sense of a journey) was originally the same word as ‘travail’ (meaning ‘trouble,’ ‘work,’ or ‘torment’).”

– until recent history, ships went down frequently
• there were nearly 100 notable shipwrecks in 19th century
• and most of them included hundreds of casualties
– Luke’s insertion of “we” tells us what we could have guessed anyway
• that what we have in this chapter is the firsthand report of an eyewitness
• since this is chapter is presented as a story, I will tell the story

1-3 The time came to set sail for Italy

Paul was transferred into custody of a centurion, Julius, for transport to Rome
– we know the home port of the ship they boarded, but not its name
• the ship’s destination was not Rome, but could get them halfway there
• so they sailed north from Caesarea, hugging the coastline
◦ after a day’s sailing they reached their first stop, which was Sidon
◦ Tyre and Sidon had always been a central trading hub (cf. Eze. chapter 27)
– Julius turned out to be a nice guy — he let Paul meet up with friends in Sidon
• travel, making and meeting with believers had been Paul’s life
• so this brief visit after a two year incarceration in Caesarea must have been refreshing

4-6 Sailing from Sidon they had their first encounter with bad weather

The ship was forced to change course and sail between Cyprus and the mainland
– typically the trade route Paul had sailed had been to the island’s southern side
• the way he went on first voyage out and returned on his second and third voyage
◦ this time, they had to use the island for protection from rough seas
◦ the reason given: the winds were contrary
• when were the winds not contrary to Paul?
◦ his entire ministry was a labor against resistance

I’ve had two miserable sea adventures, both on the same yacht
– the first instance was about this time of year–when lobster season opened
• on our way home, we got caught in a heavy storm
◦ crossing the channel between San Clemente Island and Catalina we were fully exposed
• I went up to the flying bridge above the pilothouse, roughly fourteen feet above the ocean’s surface
◦ when we dipped into the troughs, the crest of the waves was over my head

Paul’s ship continued to hug the shoreline until landing at Myra
– there they changed vessels when Julius found a grain ship sailing for Italy

7-12 With no break in the weather, they sailed on with difficulty

The ship continued to crawl east to Cnidus, keeping the mainland in view
– the weather slowed them down
(and also prevented them from crossing the open channel from Asia Minor to Achaia
• it would be easier to sail to the island of Crete, making use of its protection
◦ also, the distance from the northern end of the island to the mainland was not as great
• but this also cost them precious time
◦ Luke’s time-reference was according to the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur
◦ that would be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement
(this year it falls on October 11-12, which bad for travel on the Mediterranean Sea)
– Paul decided it was time to speak up
I perceive – this was not a revelation, but personal experience
◦ he had traveled thousands of miles on this sea
◦ and he had been shipwrecked more than once – his insight was valuable
• but the pilot and captain disagreed – their goal was along the coast and not far
◦ Phoenix was a safer harbor to ride out winter and closer to their goal
◦ Julius’ response was typical — we tend to take the counsel we want to hear

13-20 Not long afterward, a perfect day for sailing dawned

But no sooner were they out to sea, than they were hit by a hurricane
– this was a well-known and dreaded weather pattern
• quickly they were blown off-course and away from the island
◦ the hurricante was impossible to fight, so they gave way to it
• Luke doesn’t say they let ship be driven, but ourselves
◦ it was not just a matter of a ship at sea
◦ it was their lives they surrendered to storm’s force
– they found momentary relief in the shelter of small island
• even then, it was extremely difficult to secure small skiff
◦ a boat used for transport between the ship and shore
◦ they either secured it next to the ship or hoisted it onboard

We ran into a similar situation when caught in the storm off shore. We were towing a diving boat, but in the strong swell the line gave way. We had one chance to retrieve it. The yacht’s pilot slowed the engines and allowed the waves to carry us back toward the boat, carefully keeping the bow facing the surf. He had to wait for the right opportunity to power backwards and only briefly because otherwise we would have started taking on water over the transom. Dan Snipes–for you who know him–was the hero that day. He dove into the choppy water and swam to the boat, grabbed the line and struggled aboard to power back to the yacht. Even then, it was with difficulty that we made contact and finally made the boat secure. Moreover, before we had finished tying off the boat, the yacht had to surge forward again to right itself in the swell.

At this point on Paul’s vessel, the crew was rushing from one emergency to next, in which they:

  1. Braced the ship with support cables to prevent it from coming apart
    – either by looping them underneath the hull and around the ship tying it together
    – or by using a line to tie the bow to the stern
  2. Dropped anchors to create drag and hopefully catch if they entered shallow water
    – again, they let themselves be driven along
    • they had no choice, they were at the mercy of the storm
  3. The next day they began to jettison the cargo – all but the food supplies
  4. Then the day after, it was the ship’s tackle and gear that went overboard
    – Luke notes a detail — the sailors dumped tackle and gear with their own hands
    • why was that important?
    ◦ perhaps because this was their treasure
    ◦ necessary equipment they had gradually acquired

They weren’t able to outrun hurricane or plow through it to the other side
– they were caught in it and carried along in its chaotic grip
• they were in darkness day and night
◦ so they had no way to get their bearings
◦ no relief from howling winds and pounding waves
◦ no rest from toil despite being drenched and chilled

from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned (v. 20, for “gradually,” “at last”)

• some passengers were able to hold out hope longer than others
• but eventually their flame was quenched
◦ like the darkness, despair came over every soul on board

21-26 After days without food, Paul had announcement

A 19th century Presbyterian preacher, T. Dewitt Talmage, put it like this, “After a two week’s tempest, when the ship was entirely disabled and captain and crew had become completely demoralized, an old missionary took command of the vessel.”

– when Paul said you ought to have followed my advice,  it was not like saying, “I told you so!”
• he first had to establish his credibility – he knew what he was talking about
◦ this announcement would be more difficult for them to believe
◦ but the basis for its trustworthiness was the same as before — Paul’s experience
• his announcement began and ended with, Be encouraged
◦ he guaranteed that there would be no loss of life – only the ship would go down
◦ how he knew these things; an angel of God visited him – he belonged to this God and served him
(visions occur in leisure, angels appear in emergencies. Have you ever experience unexpected help from stranger? Could it have possibly been an angel? [Heb. 13:2])
◦ the angel’s message to Paul was don’t be afraid
not only he would survive, but God granted (“gifted” or “graced) him the lives of all those with him
there would be no “survivor’s guilt” for Paul

27-44 At midnight, the sailors’ nautical senses told them they were nearing land

They dropped a line and found the water was twenty fathoms deep
– a little further, it was only fifteen fathoms
• the ship was still being driven rapidly and not the ocean’s floor was rising rapidly
◦ they pretended to be dropping anchors from the bow
◦ in reality, they were preparing to lower the skiff and take their chances rowing to shore
• but Paul wasn’t fooled and warned the centurion
◦ slash! slash! the swords of Roman soldiers chopped the lines and the skiff drifted away, empty
– before daylight, Paul began encouraging them again
• they needed to eat and store energy for the challenge ahead
◦ but before eating . . .

Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. (v. 35)

◦ after eating, they dumped the remainder of their food supplies into the sea
– at dawn, they saw they were near the shore of an island no one recognized
• they spotted a bay where they hoped to run the ship aground
◦ but entering the bay, the ship’s bow stuck in a rocky reef and the strong surf began to break up the stern
• the soldiers were preparing to kill the prisoners, but Julius intervened
◦ those who could swim were told to jump in and make for shore
◦ others were told to grab anything that floated and head for the beach — and all were brought safely to land

Conc: I thank God for Annie Dillard–the gifted storyteller

In Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, She reminds those of us who love God, to love his creation
– to walk in it, to look closely, to learn what we can what we see in nature
• space with its galaxies, stars and pulsars does not belong to astrophysicists
◦ plant and animal life and childbirth do not belong to biologists
◦ the natural world does not belong to the rich and famous
– the Psalms tells us that the God who created the world, is in his world
• this is where he displays his power and glory; where he reveals himself

Your way was in the sea
And Your paths in the might waters (Ps. 77:19)
In whirlwind and storm is His way
And clouds are the dust beneath His feet (Nahum 1:3)

Do our souls hunger and thirst for God?
Then let’s sit with Jesus in nature,
looking to the sky as he points out how the birds of the air behave
and listening when he tells us to observe the weed blossoms
that grow naturally–beautiful

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