I was reading Acts 27 and the seafaring language was a wonderful reminder of days when I lived on a sailboat. Some days were lazy, drifting along in puffs of wind on a glassy sea. Other days were tempestuous, the sea raging and the boat beating into waves that seemed to grow ever higher. There was one rough overnight passage we made along the coast of New Jersey. When daylight came we saw that the dinghy we’d trailed behind our yacht was missing. The rope had snapped.
It was a disconcerting feeling to be separated from what would need to be our lifeboat if it ever came to that.
As for Paul and the sailors he was traveling with, I’ll post the verses from Acts 27 beginning with verse 13-
In the Tempest
13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands , they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us , all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.
Skip to verse 27
27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. 28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 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 skiff and let it fall off.”
It is hard enough for sailboats these days but back then square rigged sails couldn’t point into the wind even as much as triangular sails. In either case, with no engine all you could do is throw out an anchor or two for drag, and try and tack away from the shore (making progress by long zig zags) by pointing into the wind as much as possible.
Now think about these sailors. It’s been TWO WEEKS! They haven’t eaten properly, then they ate nothing at all. You can’t cook when the seas are that rough. You can’t sleep, and all hands are needed to keep changing the sails for tacking. This is strength-sapping to the extreme and you are exhausted to begin with. You are literally battling the wind and waves, which, remember is late fall now so it is cold. [“After the Fast” is Yom Kippur, in Oct.] It is LOUD. A tempest isn’t quiet. The rigging squeals, the masts creak, the boat pounds into the waves, the spray hisses, the cargo shifts. The seas roar. Captain yells, and the men moan. It is loud. They threw off cargo, they threw off rigging, which meant spare sails, ropes, and other items needed for sailing the boat. They even tied the ship together with ropes! (“undergird the ship”) When all seemed lost, they got ready to let down the lifeboat.
These men were tired, cold, hungry, scared, and knew they were about to die. They had thrown off everything they could, and if they’d had Jonah on board, they’d likely have thrown him off too. When you are in that condition for as long as you are, it is survival mode. Your whole world narrows to getting through the next minute, coming up intact from the last wave peak and dreading sliding down the next trough. A lifeboat becomes your only vision, your only hope. Your only chance…and Paul told them to let it go.
Imagine the drama of that moment. The only thing between life and death in their view was that lifeboat. It’s your escape hatch. Mentally it’s your balm. It’s your savior. And yet…they listened to Paul. They cut it away.
Would you cut it away? Have you cut away all backups, lifeboats, safety nets? Do you take that leap daily of stepping out in faith, trust, and love for the kindness of our Savior who providentially cares for us? Are you making Jesus your only hope, your only life? He promised them life, and He promised you life eternal. His promises are good. He will never leave your or forsake you.