27 “When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.” (Acts 27:27–32 (ESV)
Imagine being on a ship at sea in the midst of a raging storm for two full weeks. What an ordeal. This was the case with those on this ship bound for Rome. One can sense that the people involved were hungry, sick, weak, and overwhelmed with despair because of their circumstances.
However, Paul was a rock of faith. This means that Paul trusted in, was committed to, dependent upon, and completely worshipful of the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith, trust, commitment, dependence and worship in the LORD did not change or alter his circumstances, or those with him, but provided him with great resilience and courage while in the midst of his circumstances. Additionally, Paul knew that God was in sovereign and providential control of his circumstances.
Luke’s first-hand account goes into great detail; as one would expect a first-hand account to be. Luke notes that the seasoned sailors on board began to sense that they were near land. Perhaps this was because they heard the waves breaking on the rocks near the shore.
As such, they began to take soundings, which was the means to determine the depth of the sea. The sailors observed that the water was becoming shallower. A fathom is approximately six feet. Therefore, the ship was encountering a water’s depth that decreased from 120ft to 90ft. However, this also meant that the ship might crash upon the nearby rocks. The sailors dropped four anchors from the stern, or rear, of the ship to keep it from drifting. Then the sailors prayed. I wonder if they prayed a variation of the classic Bretton fisherman’s prayer: “Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.”
Author Lynne Baab writes, “What component of your life feels like a wide sea: overwhelming, scary, hard to navigate, with storms that might arise any moment? Is it a health issue for you or someone you love? A relationship challenge? A job or financial issue? Something political? I love the power of the metaphor here, acknowledging that we often feel that our boat in the wide sea is just too small for safety. We need God’s help because on our own, some components of life are just too overwhelming. We need a sense of God’s enfolding, God’s arms holding us up, because some aspects of life are just too scary. We need God’s guidance because the sea looks the same in every direction.”
While the apostle rested in the unfolding arms of the Savior, some sailors decided to take matters into their own hands; regardless of who it hurt. Some attempted to drop the ship’s lifeboat and scurry to freedom and potential safety, leaving the others to their peril. Paul declared to the centurion and the soldiers, ““Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.”
I submit that the third stanza of John Rippon’s hymn, How Firm a Foundation, applies. Meditate upon it today.
When through the deep waters I call you to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless
And sanctify to you your deepest distress
Soli deo Gloria!