“Prepared” is the only word today to counter the unexpected. This seems paradoxical. How can one be prepared if what will come is unexpected? In the three perfect storm scenarios we study, one key common denominator is the preparedness of the three protagonists involved: Jesus, Apostle Paul and Prophet Jonah. Today we read Paul’s experience at sea, encountering a hurricane and shipwreck.**
HOW DID APOSTLE PAUL RIDE THE STORM? Like the other two examples we have read, he was well prepared in the Word of God and in the Spirit, remained calm, with the peace of Jesus in him, and even offered authoritative and accurate prophetic advice to the Roman Imperial centurion who was in charge. He did not have to worry or respond to the threatening storm. He continued his usual normal life of staying in the presence of God, praying and listening to the Lord’s instructions.
Take note of the change of attitude of the centurion. Paul was proven correct on his earlier prediction of the danger at sea. The centurion decided to listen to him after Paul was proven right -the life threatening storm arrived and hit them with the disastrous impact just as Paul had predicted. Finally, the whole ship-load of 276 men on board reached land safely despite the loss of the ship and the life boats too. Where did Paul acquire such accurate discernment and ability to do (say) the right thing at the right time?
Paul himself gave this answer: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10)
~~~~~~~~~~~~Acts 27 (NIV) (Quoted in parts; boldness added)
When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over …5 When we had sailed across the open sea …, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course…
Paul gave his first warning but the leader would not listen
9 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, 10 “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.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship… the majority decided that we should sail on, …
Paul’s warning came true: the dangerous storm came and hit them
14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster (Euroclydon), swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm … 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
Paul’s second advice and testimony: prophecy and assurance it will come true
21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
Paul’s third advice and warning: This time they listened and believed
27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, … 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea… 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
Paul’s fourth advice and act of faith: This time they followed
33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board…
Paul’s prediction came true: Everyone reached land safely, not one perished.
39 When daylight came, …But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
*DAY OF ATONEMENT: Occurs in the fall, the tenth day of Tishri. In A.D. 59 this would have been October 5 (Marshall 1980:406).
**The ancients divided the navigational year on the Mediterranean into four periods. Sea travel on the Mediterranean ceased between November 11 and March 10. The dangers of “winter sailing” are: scant daylight, long nights, dense cloud cover, poor visibility and the double raging of winds, showers and snows. Paul, some other prisoners and Paul’s companions (including Luke) were put on a cargo ship sailing to Italy. The ship sailed at this dangerous time and encountered with Euroclydon, a cyclonic tempestuous northeast wind which blows in the Mediterranean, mostly in autumn and winter. The winds may or may not have rain mixed with them and come from the northeast often with a cyclonic circulation. They usually come up quickly, unexpectedly, and intensely. This was the great storm that wrecked their ship around AD 59.