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Going From Bad To Worse By Rejecting Wisdom

Acts 27:13-20
When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the 'North-Easter', swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sand-bars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. (NIVUK)

Paul's sea journey to Rome was about to go badly wrong. Travelling in a grain-carrying commercial ship with 276 people on board (Acts 27:37), Paul was a prisoner. As he had not been charged with any crime, friends could travel with him including Luke, who gives us a vivid eye-witness description of the terror and despair on board as the storm increased its fury.

They should not have left Myra, in what is now south east Turkey; but Julius the centurion was under pressure to get back to Rome before the winter storms prevented sea travel, and he did not have enough resources to transport prisoners overland (Acts 27:6). Their progress against the strong north westerly winds was very difficult and they altered course to get some shelter on the south coast of Crete, eventually reaching the port of Fair Havens (Acts 27:7-8). By now, they had given up the idea of getting to Italy before winter and the majority of the passengers and crew wanted to try to reach the protected harbour of Phoenix on the west of the island. Paul strongly advised against it but was overruled (Acts 27:9-12).

The Bible verses tell the story with graphic impact. They were lured out of the harbour by a gentle southerly breeze but soon the winds backed to north east. The rest of the story is a sailor's nightmare. The sails had to be taken down, the towed rowing tender was uncontrollable and hoisted aboard the ship. They tried to slow the ship by trailing ropes and sails as a sea anchor because the ship was in danger of being overwhelmed by the mountainous seas over sand bars. They tried to strengthen the ship by passing thick ropes around the hull, and began to throw the sacks of grain overboard. In desperation, they tried to make the ship more buoyant by cutting the rigging loose and throwing masts and spars into the sea. Panic took hold of the ship followed by exhaustion. The people were resigned to die.

Our situations may not be so dramatic or life threatening, but we have all experienced desperate circumstances where there are no good options. Our only hope is the Lord, and in the next few verses we shall see how He intervened in Paul's situation (Acts 27:21-25). But, for today, let us examine the situation. If we have found ourselves trapped into a no-win series of options, is it because we have ignored the wisdom the Lord has provided? If so, we must first repent. If we have been unable to change the foolishness of others, we must cast ourselves upon the Lord and trust Him.

Lord of all hope. Thank You for Your total care of Your people. I repent of my foolishness, when I have ignored the wisdom You have provided. Help me to trust You for the future, for I have no other hope than You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams