The Apostle Paul: The Storm at Sea

13 “Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And 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 no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:13–20 (ESV)

Dr. Joel Beeke writes, “Nothing is more practical than the doctrine of providence, for it engenders faith and godly fear.”

The providence of God is the active outworking of God’s sovereignty in everything we experience in this life: whether we be believers in Christ or unbelievers without Christ.  

Dr. Burk Parsons comments, “There are no good providences or bad providences, happy or hard providences, but simply providence.”

Through the life of the Apostle Paul, the providence of God is conspicuously evident. None more so than during Paul’s journey to the city of Rome, which Luke records in Acts 27-28.

As we continue our study, Paul and his companions set sail from the island of Crete. It was mid-autumn of the year and not the best time to be traveling upon the open sea of the Mediterranean. However, in spite of Paul’s warning that doing so was dangerous (Acts 27:9-10) the captain of the ship, along with the ship’s owner and the centurion, decided to weigh anchor and set sail for the Cretan port of Phoenix.

It wasn’t long before a tempestuous wind, called a northeaster struck the ship. While the captain attempted to say close to land, the ship was driven uncontrollably by the wind.

The word “tempestuous” refers to a whirlwind of hurricane force. In other words, a typhoon. Typhoons and hurricanes are a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originate over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation. The weakest tropical cyclones are called tropical depressions. If a depression intensifies such that its maximum sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour, the tropical cyclone becomes a tropical storm.  Once a tropical cyclone reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, it becomes either a hurricane or a typhoon.

Forgive me for the meteorological information, but it helps us to understand that what Paul and the others aboard the ship experienced was a horrendous storm. Wave height in such weather conditions can be 37-52 ft.

In today’s text, Luke described all the efforts done to make the ship less vulnerable to the unrelenting elements. The passengers used rope supports to undergird the ship in order to hold the ship’s wooden planks tight. This would help the ship resist the battering waves. They lowered the anchor to slow the ship. When this did not help, the ship’s cargo was thrown overboard in order to make the ship lighter and less prone to hit sand banks. Even the ship’s tackle, which included the main mast and sail, was jettisoned. Nothing helped.

The storm went on for days. Consequently, there was no sun or stars visible which would reveal the ship’s position. Luke stated, “All hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”

What a scene. Perhaps you have experienced an actual hurricane, whether on land or at sea. Perhaps you have also encountered a storm of life. The storm could have been called cancer, a heart attack, COVID 19, or the death of a loved one. In such a storm of life, you may have been tempted to abandon all hope for God’s deliverance.

Please remember that even in the fiercest of storms, God is in sovereign control. He works all things for the purpose of accomplishing His will (Ephesians 1:11).

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!  

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