Pastor Miles DeBenedictis
The God Ordained Storm
We’re going to start today a new series in the Book of Acts called “Journey To Rome,” in Acts Chapter 27 and 28. As we have moved away from Paul’s trials here in this passage, and now we’re moving to the section of Scripture where Paul is on his way to the city of Rome. We’re zeroing in on the very end of the Book of Acts. If you’ve been here for a while, you know we started the Book of Acts in November of 2008; that’s a long time ago. So, we’re moving somewhat slowly, but we’re almost done. The end is in sight; no more detours.
Acts Chapter 27 is where we’re going to be, but to give context, would you turn just a little bit back, to Acts Chapter 26 at Verse 28, Acts 26:28. Paul is standing trial, here in Acts 26, before the king of the region, by the name of Agrippa. And it says:
“Then Agrippa said to him, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’
“And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’
“When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those that sat with them; and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, ‘This man has done nothing deserving of death or chains.’
“And then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar,’” there in Rome.
“And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. And so entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coast of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. And the next day we landed in the city of Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and he gave him liberty to go to his friends to receive care. And when we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found an Alexandrian ship to sail to Italy, and he put us on board.”
Lord, as we look at this passage today, we pray that You would give us insight and application. We believe that You will because Your Word is living and powerful, and it is sharper than any two-edged sword. And, Lord, You’ve given us Your Word so that we would be instructed, that maybe we would be reproved and corrected, but more than anything, Lord, that we would be Your people who are ready for good works. So, ready us today as we look at this passage. Give us insight as we follow with Paul on this journey to Rome. We ask in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
Have you ever been in a storm? And when I say that, I’m not necessarily talking about a weather pattern; I’m actually talking about one of life’s storms. How many of you have been in one of life’s storms before? All of you, basically, have.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation that seems hopeless, and seems helpless? I know, from seeing some people nodding their heads, that you’ve been in that place before. Just about everyone here knows what I’m talking about, going through one of those storms of life, one of those situations where you seem like you’re headed into a storm that is unavoidable. Maybe you’ve been carried along into a situation like that by others, and along the way, you were pointing out the potential dangers, and saying, “I don’t think this is a good plan. I don’t think we should go in this direction.” And yet, you didn’t have much of a choice; people didn’t listen to what you had to say.
If you can identify with that this morning, then you can identify with Paul’s situation here in Acts Chapters 27 and Chapter 28. Paul is in a situation that he can’t keep himself from moving in this direction, and there’s nothing that is stopping this, even though, as we’re going to see in this passage today, he tries to put up the arms and say, “Hey, I don’t think this is the best plan.” There in Chapter 27, Verse 1, the first opening words, the eleven words that start the chapter, it says, “And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy.” “And when it was decided” – the drama that is going to unfold in these next forty-four verses, and on into Chapter 28, is a drama that was decided and planned by others.
So, Point Number 1 on your sermon guide, if you have it handy this morning,
Sometimes Our Path Is Planned For Us
Sometimes our path is planned for us. And sometimes that path leads toward an unavoidable storm. But when you begin to look at the Bible, when you begin to study what the Bible has to say, you begin to understand that that word – “sometimes” – in Point Number 1, could actually be crossed out. So, would you just cross out that word – sometimes, because, as you begin to look into the Scriptures and study what they have to say about God, you begin to see that our path is planned for us. Our path is planned for us. And, although the path here in this passage in Acts Chapter 27 seemed like it was planned by Festus or Julius, the Roman centurion, ultimately, what we see in this, behind the scenes, are the hands of God. His fingers are on it; His fingerprints are left upon it, because God is at work.
Later on, the Apostle Paul would write, in one of his letters to a church in the city of Ephesus, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God ordained beforehand that we should walk in.” God has created us in Christ for good works, which God ordained beforehand that we should walk in. So God has a plan, God has a path that He has prepared for us. Not just the Apostle Paul recognized this, but 1,000 years before the Apostle Paul, King David wrote in Psalm 37, Verse 23, Psalm 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord,” they’re ordained by God. And then, David’s son, Solomon, considered by some to be the wisest man who ever lived, God gave him great wisdom – he literally could be called a “wise guy” – and in Proverbs, Proverbs Chapter 16, Verse 9, he says there, “The Lord directs the steps of man. A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” And not just in Proverbs 16, but several proverbs later, when we get to Proverbs Chapter 20, Verse 24, there Solomon again says, “A man’s steps are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way?” A man’s steps are of the Lord.
And so Paul recognized it. He writes of it in Ephesians, having experienced it throughout his life. David wrote of it, no doubt saw God working things out in his life. Solomon could see the truth in it. And we need to recognize that our steps are planned; our path is planned. Now, there is an aspect of our nature, and I would conclude that it is our sinful nature, that does not like this. And we live in a culture, we live in a nation that really doesn’t like this, because, in just a few days we’re going to be celebrating a holiday that’s only celebrated here, the 4th of July, and it is the celebration of what? Independence! And some 230-plus years after that first Declaration of Independence was signed, we have changed what independence means – to be so individual that every single one of us are individually independent and self-determinant. And you know what I say, that this is a part of our sin nature, because we see it at the youngest ages, when children are little toddlers. You may remember, a few months ago, I played a video here at the church that we had taken of our daughter, our two-year-old daughter, Evangeline. And it was just a series of videos of her telling us, “I do it all by myself. I do it all by myself.” And that is still, to this day, it is a perpetual saying from Evangeline. Just about every single day, I go to get her out of her bed: “I do it all by myself.” I try to put her up in her car seat: “I do it all by myself.” I try to put on her car seat, whatever it is: “I do it by myself,” until she can’t do it by herself, and then she realizes, “I need help.” Sometimes she’ll tell me that…but rarely, because most of the time: “I do it all by myself.” And so we live, as a result of the fall of humanity, in this place of wanting to be by ourselves, and do it by ourselves, and the captain of our own ship, and the determiner of our destiny. And we don’t want anyone over us who’s going to be directing what we’re going to do. So the idea, especially for the modern American mind, the idea that God directs the affairs of humanity really bothers a lot of people.
And there’s actually a huge debate that goes on in the church, having to do with this as well – two different theological camps. And maybe you find yourself on one side or the other. I try to maintain a balanced position in the middle, but there are those who consider themselves Calvinists, and they hold to a strong view of the sovereignty of God and His directing of all things. And on the other side – both are Christians – on the other side is a group called Arminians. They – one follows John Calvin, another follows Jacob Arminius – guys that lived hundreds of years ago. And Arminius, he believed more in man’s responsibility and man’s will. And so you find people who are good, well-meaning Christians on either side fighting with each other. And the reality is both are revealed in the Scriptures. And so we have to recognize that there is a way, although it may be mystery to us, it makes sense to God, where these things go together – the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. But there is a place in us that does not like to think about being directed, so much so that in our day it has become a forefront debate in our nation – the self-determination of humanity, down to something that only God could determine, to the point where people say, “I don’t want to be identified as male or female. I will determine for myself what my sexual identity and gender is.” Do you see what that is? That is man saying, “You will not rule over me!! I will determine who I am and how I live!!” It’s phenomenal how far we’ve taken this in our culture today.
But the reality is, as we look at the Scriptures, whether you see Paul’s words in Ephesians or David’s words in the Psalms or Solomon’s words in the Proverbs, our path is planned for us, our path is planned for us. And sometimes, in God’s way of determining things and planning things, He plans that you or I would go right into a storm – the perfect storm. And I don’t know about you, but when I consider that, when I think about that, the first thing that comes to my mind is, “WHY?! Why would You direct me to go into something that is a crisis, a traumatic situation, a difficulty, a hard thing?” And yet many of us have experienced that. Looking back on it – hindsight is 20/20 – we can see how God directed things, but there is a part of us that just says, “ Why? Why would You do that?”
Well, we recognize that it’s hard to answer questions of why, especially in that area. But I love that passage, Proverbs 20:24. I already mentioned it; Solomon’s words there in Proverbs 20. In another English translation, the New Living Translation, it renders it this way, it says: “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” Is there anyone here today like me that wants to try and figure out everything along the way? I’m one of those inquisitive people that always ask questions. My dad told me that when I was a little kid the question I always asked was, “Why? Why? Why? Why?” Everything, “Why?” “Why is the world this way? Why do we do things this way? Why?” I’m still asking that question – Why? It probably drove my dad crazy, and I think it probably drives my Father in heaven crazy sometimes. I’m asking, “Why? Why? Why?”
But we need to recognize, and I think we’ll see, as we begin to go through the drama of Acts Chapter 27 and 28, Point Number 2 on your outline:
God Uses Storms To Bring Salvation
God uses storms to bring salvation. Now, there are some of you sitting here today, that you find this point applies to you in a very unique way, because you would not be here today, and you know this to be true, had it not been for a storm, had it not been for a crisis, had it not been for a difficult diagnosis, a separation, a loss. Some sort of dramatic, traumatic crisis brought you to the point where you decided, “You know what, I don’t know where else to turn, and so I’m going to go to church.” And I see some of you nodding because you know that that’s the case. You see, God uses storms oftentimes to bring salvation, and I would even say to bring His salvation, or further revelation of who He is.
We see this in the Gospels, don’t we? There is a story there, where Jesus was with His disciples – hard day of ministry, at the end of the day. He says, “All right, guys, get in the boats.” Remember, four of His disciples, at least four of them, were fishermen. And so they’re on the Sea of Galilee, and they get in the boats, they get in boat, and Jesus is tired, He goes and sleeps in the back of the boat. In the midst of this, a great storm comes up. And His disciples, in the midst of the storm, they do everything in their own power to deal with the problem, right? Isn’t that like us? Do everything in our own power to try and take care of it, to try and fix the situation. They are fighting and fighting to get the water out of the boat, and to keep the boat in the water, and across the sea. And that’s what they’re trying to do. Finally, when they’re at their wits end, they come to Jesus and wake Him up, and they say, “Don’t You care? I’m dying here!” Have you ever prayed that prayer? [laughter] “Don’t You care, I’m dying here?”
And He stands up, and He says, “Peace! Be still!” And everything is calm, and now they’re at their desired destination like that. [snap].
And what happened? Greater revelation of who He was. They looked at Him, and they said, “Who is this Guy, who even the winds and the waves obey His voice?”
So, God uses storms to bring about salvation or greater revelation of who He is. And we will see that here in this passage. But there are those of you here today, who are saying, “I would not be where I am today had it not been for that storm.” And it was not an enjoyable experience. It was not a good thing. But, ultimately, it brought about salvation.
“And so it was there,” Verse 1, “when it was decided.” “When it was decided.” Paul had appealed to Caesar; Festus had no other thing that he could do but to send him to Rome. And so there it was, at the beginning of Festus’ rule there in Judea, he decides, “All right, you know, I’ve heard your testimony; now King Agrippa has heard your testimony; it’s time to send you along. I’ve got other business to deal with. I don’t want to be dealing with this. And so, you’re out of here. We’re going to put you on a boat. I’ve decided that we’re going to set you up with this guy, Julius, he’s a centurion of this Augustan Regiment, and he’s going to take a group of prisoners to Rome, because they all have to go to appear before Caesar. So you’re one of the guys, and you’re going.”
Now, historians tell us that Festus came to power in the summer of AD 60. This is actual history; this isn’t just a story. So, Festus became the governor of Judea in the summer of AD 60, at the beginning of July; so right about this time of year, in fact. And we know that one of the first orders of business was to hear the Apostle Paul. And a couple of weeks after he came to power, then a group of Jews came down from Jerusalem to hear the Apostle Paul. And then not long after that, King Agrippa hears him. And so Acts 26 is happening during the month of July AD 60. And now some time passes, and so many Bible scholars believe that this began, this journey to Rome began in about the middle of August in the year 60 AD, that Paul was set on a boat headed for Rome.
And it wasn’t just Paul; notice what we see there in Verse 1, and in Verse 2, there’s a repeated word that is used. It says, “And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy.” Then Verse 2, it says, “So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea.” The author of this book, a guy by the name of Luke, he also wrote the Gospel of Luke. He’s a doctor, a real close friend of Paul’s. We believe that he was the church pastor of a church called The Church at Philippi. A close associate of the Apostle Paul; a smart man. And he’s with Paul while he’s in Caesarea. And now he gets on board the boat with Paul, heading to Rome.
But it wasn’t just Luke; notice it says, “We were meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. And Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.” Aristarchus was one of the guys who came to faith under Paul’s ministry when he was a missionary in a city called Thessalonica. And he was a disciple under Paul’s ministry. And so now Paul, with two close friends – Paul’s not alone, Luke is there, Aristarchus is there – they’re set on this boat to go to Rome.
And it’s right in that time – the middle of August, 60 AD – and that may seem like an inconsequential sort of note, but it’s important. And we’re going to see that it becomes very important as we go on. Because, if you study weather patterns, and I realize you’re probably not those who study weather patterns, but if you study weather patterns for the Mediterranean Sea, you find that there’s certain times of year where it’s okay, it’s safe to sail on the Mediterranean Sea, and other times where it’s not. Those who study such things will tell us that from about April until August it’s safe, it’s okay on the Mediterranean. But from about August until the middle of November it’s kind of borderline, and you don’t really know what you you’re going to get. But from November until the end of March no one would sail on the Mediterranean Sea. And so they’ve got sort of a time crunch here. And they’re already in that borderline thing. But Festus says, “I don’t want to deal with this anymore, so we’re putting you on a boat; you’re going. I’ve got other things, other problems I’ve got to deal with.” And he certainly did in Judea.
And so Paul gets put on a boat. Verse 3: “The next day we landed at Sidon.” Sidon was about 70 miles to the north of Caesarea. A short, single-day journey on one of the sailing vessels. “And Julius,” the commander, the centurion that was overseeing a group of prisoners, and had a detachment of Roman soldiers with him, “Julius treated Paul kindly,” the Greek word philanthrōpōs. “He treated Paul kindly, and he gave him liberty to go to his friends to receive care.”
Now, this is phenomenal. In fact, this is incredible that Julius would do this. Now, one of the first things we should recognize, and many Bible commentators point this out, when it says, “Paul went to his friends to receive care,” the words “receive care” seem to imply that Paul was sick. And so, this guy, Julius, allowed him to have liberty, dealt with him kindly to go and visit his friends. But, Paul was a prisoner of Rome, and a Roman centurion would never have done this. Why? Because the centurion’s life would have been on the line had he lost one of these prisoners. And yet, it must have been told to him by Festus that, “Hey, listen this guy, he’s innocent. This is kind of just a, you know, we have to do this sort of thing; but treat him kindly, he’s an old dude; he’s been beat up quite a bit, so, you know, take care of him.” And so, Paul is given liberty, for a time, to go and be taken care of by his friends.
“And when we had put to sea from there,” Verse 4, “we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary.”
Now, on your sermon guide, on the back is a map. And I hope you’ll take a look at this, because it’s really helpful in understanding what’s going on here in this passage. You might have a map kind of like this in the back of your Bible; but if you look in the lower right-hand corner, you’ll see Jerusalem, and then Caesarea, and then they take this trip up to Sidon, and then they go north of Cyprus, passing by Cilicia and Pamphylia, in the upper right-hand corner there. So we’re seeing this route that Paul is going on here, as they’re headed to Rome.
So they put to sea from there, and they “sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because,” look at this, “the winds were contrary.” The winds were contrary – another way of saying it was: the wind was antagonistic.
Anyone ever sail in here before? Lift up your had high if you’ve sailed. When I was a kid, I really wanted a Jet Ski. Anybody relate? Wanted a Jet Ski. So I tried to talk my dad into getting a Jet Ski; and he bought a sailboat. [laughter] And he said to me, “Jet Skis, you have to pay for gas. Wind is free.” [laughter] And so we got a Hobie Cat. And my dad had sailed when he was younger, and wanted to get another Hobie Cat. And so, we get a Hobie Cat, and we go sailing; so I learned a little bit about sailing. And sailing can be fun, but there are times where it’s just like you want to hit your head against the mast. And so, there are times where the wind is contrary. And a little small boat you can turn into the wind, you can tack in certain ways where it’s not dreadful, you know, you can get it to move as you want to.
But, as we unfold this passage of what is happening here, the wind, if you look at your map, the wind is coming from the left on your map, it’s coming from the west – a westerly wind. And what direction are they trying to go? West! So they’re having some issues here. So, they fly under the cover of Cyprus. They’re using the Island of Cyprus to, you know, do away with the wind a little bit, so that they can skirt around it. So they pass Cilicia, which was Paul’s home region. They pass Pamphylia, Verse 5, it says, “When we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra,” you see Myra there. It’s right there underneath Pamphylia. “We came to Myra, to a city of Lycia. And the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.” Notice that – “They put us on board.” Paul doesn’t have a choice. Luke doesn’t have a choice. He has to do what he’s told here. He’s under the authority of this centurion.
Now, in the 1st Century, on the Mediterranean Sea, there was not commuter ships; there was no, “Hey, let’s buy a ticket from Caesarea, and get to Rome. And we have a short layover there in Syria, and then we’ve got another layover over here. You know, we’ll just spend some time, we’ll just pick up another commuter, another connection there.” It didn’t work like that. The only ships on the Mediterranean were trade ships, merchant ships, working vessels.
Now, this Roman centurion, he had authority from the Roman government, because of his position, he could commandeer a portion of any boat that he wanted to for his business. And so this is exactly what he does. They get to this trade port there in Myra; and this was one of the ports where there would be all kinds of ships coming and offloading their wares, and changing ships, and moving around. And he begins to look around, the centurion does, to find a ship that is going to Italy – they’ve got to get to Rome. And so they find one. And Paul gets put on this boat. And from everything that we can tell in this passage, this boat originated in Alexandria, which was the main port of Egypt, down in the south. And Egypt was the granary of the Roman Empire. It’s where all the grain was grown, and so it would be shipped up, down the Nile River, up to Alexandria, put on boats, and then dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. And it would go north to a place like Myra, which was right there in Asia Minor. And then it would be offloaded, and grain would be taken to Asia Minor and other parts of the Roman Empire, or it would be transferred to other ships, to go to Rome, to the capital city.
And so Paul gets there with Luke and Aristarchus and Julius, and all of his Roman soldiers, and then the other prisoners that are on board the other boat, and they change ships. They say, “Okay, we’re commandeering a portion of this grain vessel,” that had come from Alexandria, that was headed to Rome. 26:32
Now, we do know, archeologists tell us that these grain vessels were huge wooden ships – single-masted wooden ships filled with grain, heavy, sitting low in the water. And this was a huge ship, we know because Verse 37 tells us there were 276 men on this boat, 276 people. And that included Paul and Luke and Aristarchus, and the Roman centurion, Julius, and his soldiers, and then the other prisoners that were committed to Julius to get to Rome, they’re all put on board this boat there in Myra.
Well, continuing on, Verse 7, it says, “When we had sailed slowly many days, they arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone.”
So, look again at your map. From Myra to Cnidus, it’s not a very long distance. In fact, you’re looking at a distance of about 60 miles. But it took them many days to go that distance. They’d gone one day from Caesarea up to Sidon, which was 70 miles, and then many, many days to move this. So you can tell the winds are against them, the winds are moving from the west. And historians tell us that these big grain vessels, one big square sail, giant ship, sitting low in the water, was unwieldy, very hard to maneuver.
And so the wind was against them. And so they finally get to Cnidus, there, and then they go down, and they’re pushed down below Crete. The most direct route would be to go north of the Island of Crete, but because the winds were contrary, and the ship is hard to maneuver, now they find themselves being pushed down below Crete. They pass off the eastern side of Crete; Verse 8, it says, “Passing with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.” That sounds good, doesn’t it? Fair Havens. “Yes! Oh, finally! We get to Fair Havens!”
No, not so much. Fair Havens had a nice name – bad place. It’s like Bishop, California. [laughter] Sorry. If you’re from Bishop, I apologize. I’ve been there once, for the Mule Days parade, when I was in 8th grade. Okay. Anyways. Continuing on. [laughter]
So they get to Fair Havens. Verse 9: “Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because,” notice this, “the Fast was already over.” Now, this gives us what we call a temporal marker. This gives us a time identifier, because the Fast is speaking of a Jewish holiday that we know of. And that Jewish holiday was a holiday called Yom Kippur. How many of you have heard of Yom Kippur before? Yom Kippur happens in our calendar sometime in September or October. Now, if this is indeed the year 60 AD, like many historians tell us it is, then we can determine the exact date of this event, when they were in Fair Havens. And it happened on Wednesday, September 22, in the year 60 AD, that Paul, and Luke, and Aristarchus, and Julius, and the Roman soldiers, and all the other prisoners, and all the other men of this ship – 276 of them – were on the boat, in port, in Fair Havens. And now, the Fast had past. So, between them leaving in mid-August, now they’re at the end of September. And we know, historians tells us, and those who study weather patterns of the Mediterranean, that it’s not a good time to sail. The wind has already been against them.
And so there they are in Fair Havens, a south-facing port in the Mediterranean Sea; not a good place, Verse 12 tells us, to winter in. You don’t want to be there, because the waves and the tides and the winds cause such a difficult condition for the boat to sit there in port.
And so notice Paul advised them, Verse 9. I love this. Now, it’s amazing to me that this man, with no wealth, no power, no position – in fact, he’s a prisoner – now is given opportunity to give counsel and advice to the helmsman of the ship, the owner of the ship, and the Roman centurion. God has given him favor. Notice his counsel, Verse 10: “…saying, ‘Men, I perceive that this voyage will end in disaster and much loss, not only the cargo of the ship, but also our lives.’” That’s optimistic.
Now, we need to back up and remember for a moment who this guy, Paul, is. In a letter that he had written prior to this event, called 2 Corinthians, he tells us that he had already experienced, before this point, being shipwrecked three times. This guy’s got some PTSD. [laughter] He’s been through this before. So this old dude stands up, he says, “Listen guys, I beg you, let’s just stay here. It’s okay. We don’t need to get on that boat. I’ve been through this before, it doesn’t end well. It’s bad. Let’s just stay here.”
“Nevertheless, the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman,” the captain of the ship, “and the owner of the ship than the things spoken of by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means that they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and the northwest, and winter there.”
It was a better harbor. Look on your map. Notice from Fair Havens to Phoenix, we’re talking only 35 nautical miles. Not a big distance at all – 35 nautical miles. No big deal. The problem is the winds have been out of the west the entire time, contrary to them. They’re in a big unwieldy vessel. They cannot maneuver that, so they’re stuck in Fair Havens. But the captain says, “We’ve got to get out of here. If we get stuck here for the winter, we’re done. So we just need to go 35 nautical miles. Not a big deal. You can practically see it on a clear day. So we just need to get there. If we get there, we’ll be okay. We can stay there for the winter. We’ll stay there for October and November, December, January, February, and March, and then in April, we go again.” This is what they did in those days.
Verse 13: “And when the south wind blew softly.” Oh, the winds changed; and they changed for the good…favorably. “When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, they put out to sea, and they sailed close by Crete.”
So here’s the picture: They’re stuck for many days, many weeks, there in Fair Havens. The winds are blowing in a bad way, out of the west. They can’t get to where they want to go, but they don’t want to stay there. And then one morning, they wake up, and now the winds are softly blowing from the west – perfect conditions. They’re blowing from the south; they’re on the southern tip of Crete; they can just sail over there, be a one-day journey. Everything will be good. Right? Wrong.
Look at the next verse, Verse 14: “But,” you might want to underline that in your neighbor’s Bible. “But not long after,” which would probably be in the middle of the day, “a tempestuous headwind arose.” The word “tempestuous” in the Greek language is typhōnikos – hurricane-force winds. And this wind was a well-known wind by the seamen that fared there on the Mediterranean. They had a name for it. You know it’s bad when the guys have a name for the wind. Right? “Yeah, this is a Santa Ana.” You know, when you’ve got names for winds – BAD. Right? And so they said, “This tempestuous headwind arose, called Euroclydon.” Doesn’t that just sound bad…like Euroclydon, it’s like “O-o-o-o gosh, that’s bad.” That means nor’easter – northeast. A strong, typhoon-class wind, out of the northeast, coming from Asia Minor, straight down at them. The wind had been blowing at the west for a long time, now all of a sudden it shifts to the south, but then it makes a quick shift all the way from the northeast in one day, and boom, they’re in trouble. Why? Because now the wind is blowing against them, getting into Phoenix, and they cannot maneuver this big ship to get into there.
Point Number 3 on your outline, if there’s one thing that we can be certain of in this life, Point Number 3:
Winds Change And Storms Come
Winds change and storms come. But remember – God has purpose even in storms.
“So when the ship was caught,” Verse 15, “and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda,” or Cauda, “we secured the skiff with difficulty.” Now, again, on your map, you cannot see it, because it’s not on this map, but directly south – 21½ nautical miles – directly south of the city of Phoenix is a small, 6-mile wide island, called Cauda.
And so they were caught by the wind, this northeasterly wind coming down from Asia Minor, blowing against them. They could not go into the port there in Phoenix, and so they just let it go. They let her drive; let the wind carry them. And then they ran under the shelter of this island, Cauda. So the wind is coming from the northeast; they go underneath this island; they’re hoping that they can use the island as a windbreak to try and secure the things.
Now, if you’re on a large sailing vessel, you pull behind you a little boat called a skiff, a dinghy. That’s your last hope if things start to go bad. And you pull this thing behind you, and if you get into strong winds and a very difficult situation like this, you don’t want that small skiff to take on water because it creates drag, and can actually cause a huge problem for you. So the first order of business is to secure the thing; get it on the deck of the boat. So that’s the first thing they do. These guys pull it in, and they secure the skiff with difficulty. It’s not easy.
“And when we had taken it onboard, they used cables to undergird the ship.” So, not only did they secure the skiff, the next order of business, here they are in this big wooden vessel with a single mast, that, in windy conditions like this, puts so much stress on the body of the boat, they can break apart. And so what they did apparently, in ancient times, is they would cable the boat, they would put these strong ropes underneath the boat, and cinch them up, to try and bind things together.
And so here they are, doing everything they possibly can. “They used cables to undergird the ship; fearing,” Verse 17, “lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so they were driven.”
Now, look down on your map, in Region B-4. You see that thing that says, “Great Syrtis?” There’s huge sand banks, even to this day, sandbars, kind of like a reef, if you will, of sand there, that many ships, Roman vessels, would be blown into by the Euroclydon. And there have been archeology, you know, finds there, of many ships, Roman ships that have been destroyed there. What would happen is a ship would get stuck in the sand, and then be beat upon by the water, and destroyed.
And so here these men, the crewmen of this boat, they go, “We don’t want to end up down there.” And so they do everything that they can. One translation says that they put out a sea anchor to give drag. And so here they are trying to make sure that they don’t end up down in the Syrtis Sands; it was not a good place to be.
Verse 18: “And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship.” So then they start getting rid of everything, everything they can get rid of. Notice it says, “They lightened the ship.” But then, look at this, “On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our hands.” What’s this mean? All hands on deck! 276 men on board the boat; “Everybody’s on deck. We’re getting everything we can that is not necessary off this boat.” Ditch it all! To try and make it ride higher in the water. Lighten the ship.
“Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope,” notice this, “all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.”
Point Number 4 on your outline, if our hope is in ourselves:
If Our Hope Is In Ourselves, God Will Allow Us To Become Hopeless
If our hope is in ourselves, God will allow us to become hopeless. And sometimes He allows storms to come for that very purpose. “My hope is built on nothing less than Miles Elliott DeBenedictis.” [laughter] If that’s the case, yeah, storms will come. There’s a great passage of Scripture in the Old Testament that applies to this perfectly. It’s found in the Psalms. If you turn to about the middle of your Bible, you’ll find the Psalms. There’s 150 of them. The 107th Psalm, turn there. Psalm 107, starting at the 23rd verse; Psalm 107:23 – “Those who go down to the sea in ships.” This might apply. “Who do business on great waters.” Yeah, this applies. “They see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind.” Wait!! What?! “For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble.” These helmsmen, these crewmen, their soul melts because of trouble. “They reel to and fro, and they stagger like drunken men, they are at their wits’ end.” And when they are at their wits’ end, “Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distress. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. They are glad because they’re quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
If our hope is in ourselves, God will allow us to become hopeless.
Luke continues. Acts 27:21 – “But after a long abstinence from food.” Listen, if you’re being tempest-tossed, you don’t want to eat. “After a long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them all.” I love the Apostle Paul. “And said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me.’” He cannot help to give a “I told you so.” Right? “You should have listened to me, when we were in Crete, I said this would happen. You should have listened to me. You’re all hungry; we’re at our wits’ end; all hope is gone. You should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you. So listen up. I told you before, this would happen, so now listen to me.” He’s got a little bit of credibility at this point. “Now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For…” How could Paul speak with such earnestness? “For there stood by me this night and angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve.” I love that. “The God to whom I belong and whom I serve. And this angel stood by me and said, ‘Do not be afraid.’” Now, who do you say, “Don’t be afraid” to? Those who are afraid. “Don’t be afraid.” Why?
And now God, through an angel, reminds Paul of something God already told him in the past. You see, in Acts Chapter 23, God told Paul, just after he was first arrested, and almost killed by a group of angry men, God told him, “You have witnessed of Me here in Jerusalem; you will witness of Me in Rome.” So God now reminds him. Verse 24, “…saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted all of those who sail with you.’” And so Paul says, “Therefore, take heart, men, for I believe God that He will do just as it has been told to me.”
Point Number 5 on your outline:
God Makes His People Beacons In The Storm
God makes His people beacons in the storm. God wants His people to be bright shining lights in the storms of this life. You see, every person, whether they’re a Christian or not a Christian, experiences storms. We all go through the same things. If you’re not a Christian today, and you ever hear a pastor or a preacher say to you, “If you come to Christian, you won’t have any storms,” he’s a liar. Not true. Christians and non-Christians go through the same sort of storms, the same sort of difficulties. The difference is, the Christian has hope in God. And so God wants to make His people to be beacons in the storm, shining as bright lights. Jesus said He wanted His people to be like a city set on a hill, that cannot be hid; a bright light. And so that people would see peace and steadfastness and confidence in the midst of storms; that they would see that in us.
And so Paul says, “Take heart, men, for I believe that God will make it happen, as He has said.” Verse 26, “However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
Point Number 6 on your outline:
In A Storm, Sometimes A Crash Is Inevitable
In a storm, sometimes a crash is inevitable. But remember Point Number 2 – God uses storms to bring salvation. And that’s exactly what we’re going to see in our study next time, as we finish up Acts Chapter 27, and go into Acts Chapter 28. The very thing that God is going to bring from this storm is salvation. God uses storms to bring salvation.
Perhaps today you feel tempest-tossed. Maybe, in fact, you actually came to church today for that very reason. You’ve never really been a Bible seeker; you don’t really know if you believe in the things of Jesus yet. But you came here today because you’re tempest-tossed; you’re going through a crisis, a trial. Or perhaps you’re a Christian, and you’re in the midst of that thing; you’re tempest-tossed. Remember this important point: Our paths are planned for us. And for the Christian, it is true that all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose. And sometimes God directs us into storms, but He directs us, Christians, into those storms so that we can see His revelation of who He is, His salvation. He directs us into those storms so that if our hope is misplaced and in us, that it will be redirected to hope in Him. And that, through that, we can shine for Him in the storm.
And so, would to God, that He would encourage you today if that’s the place that you’re in.
Read ahead in Acts Chapter 27; I think you’ll be blessed by what you see. We’ll study it together next time.
Let’s stand together, and we’ll close in prayer and a song.
Father God, thank You, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the fact that these things, written 2,000 years ago, have application for us right now. And there are people standing here who are going through the worst storm they’ve ever experienced in their lives. And I pray, God, that You would help us to recognize and to see that, even in the midst of that, You have something that You’re doing, even if we can’t completely understand it, we don’t completely grasp it. But, Lord, I pray that we would have a greater revelation of who You are, and that we would see Your salvation, and shine as lights for You in the midst of it, we ask; for we ask it in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people said, “Amen.”