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Battling Against Wisdom

Acts 27:5-12
When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, 'Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.' But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both south-west and north-west. (NIVUK)

This was to be Paul's last sea journey. He was sailing to Caesar's court in Rome, in company with indicted criminals, escorted by a centurion and soldiers. Paul had not been charged with any crime so he was allowed travelling companions, among whom was Aristarchus (Acts 27:2) and the physician-historian Luke (note: 'we' in Acts 27:1-28:16). The destination was God's plan (Acts 27:24), but the journey was not going well.

They had set off too late in the year and the strong north westerly winds were early. From Sidon, their route had to be modified: instead of sailing north west, they set a northerly course until close to the coast of (what is now) south east Turkey, in the lee of Cyprus. From there they went west to Myra (south west Turkey). Click here for a helpful map. From Myra the ship lost even more time. The ship was battling the worsening weather, and the centurion, the skipper and the ship owner were all battling wisdom.

In their minds, they wanted to get to Italy before winter. But that option was fast disappearing. As they edged westwards along the relatively-sheltered but rocky south coast of Crete, they reached Fair Havens. It was a useful summer port but lacked the protection needed from the violent north east winds which usually blew through the winter. Phoenix, on the other hand was a deep-water bay with good protection and four sources of fresh water. But to get there the ship would have to attempt to sail west into the strengthening north west winds. Paul said that it was foolish to even try, but the centurion decided that they should set sail for Phoenix. The ship's company and passengers (276 in total – Acts 27:37) also voted against Paul's wise assessment, risking the cargo of grain from Alexandria (Acts 27:6-38) and their lives.

It is good to be determined, but very foolish to battle against wisdom. The Lord gave the captain, ship owner and centurion opportunities to make different decisions. They should have stayed in the well protected port of Myra. But they allowed their commercial greed and military objectives to overrule wise navigation, and God's messenger. Pride, pressure, money and Satan can all make us think we can live independently from reality and wisdom. Judas Iscariot is a classic example (Luke 22:3-6). So, accept wise advice, the urge of conscience and the Word of God; do not be propelled into irreversible folly. Do not battle against God's will because you think you know better even if others agree with you. Stop!

God of all wisdom. Thank You for revealing all I need for eternal life and godly living. I repent of those times when I have allowed myself to despise Your wisdom and be propelled by evil foolishness. Please forgive me and help me to learn to practise the wisdom which comes with obeying Jesus Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams