Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 2 2020 - Acts 27:21-44 – Knowing God

Don’t you just hate it when, in the midst of trouble and disaster, someone stands up and says “I told you so!” In effect, that’s what Paul says after several days of storm at sea. The sailors have thrown the cargo overboard and every ounce of their skill was now directed to the saving their own lives – to the point that they had laboured on without food for several days. But, as we read at the end of yesterday’s passage, their hopes were fast fading even of saving themselves (see Acts 27:20). It’s at this point that Paul stood up and told them, “You should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss” (27:21).

If this had been all that Paul had to say, no doubt he would have been thrown overboard after the cargo. But Paul continues by telling them that God sent his angel to assure him that they will all be safe – only the ship will be lost.

After fourteen days of being driven before the storm, the ship carrying Paul and 275 other men came close to land. What a contrast there is now between the behaviour of the sailors and that of Paul. Some of the sailors, knowing the dangers involved in trying to get a large ship safely to an unknown shore in gale force winds, try to save their own lives by escaping in the small boat kept on the ship. Paul, knowing the God who made sea and wind and dry land, and who has guaranteed his safety and that of all on board, encourages them all to take food while they wait for daylight. Before them all, Paul thanked God for the food, broke it and began to eat, encouraging the others to do the same.

This meal in the face of the storm and of an unknown morning has echoes of a communion service. Sailors, soldiers and prisoners join Paul in eating bread together with thanksgiving and in hope. Perhaps they have begun to gain a glimpse not only of the faith of this strange prisoner but of the Saviour whom he served; the Saviour who gives life in the face of death. Can you imagine the testimony of these 270 or so men in the months and years that followed? After it was all over and they were safe, might they, as the sailors in the story of Jonah, have “greatly feared the Lord … and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16)?

As this chapter closes, we have one further testimony to the impression that Paul had made on his captors. When the ship is stuck on a sandbank not far from the shore, “The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan” (27:42-43). Paul’s integrity and trustworthy character saved not only his own life but the lives of all the other prisoners with him in the ship.

Knowing God enables us to have a quiet confidence in him in the face of troubles and to focus our concern on those around us rather than upon ourselves: “The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).

Father God, increase my confidence in your daily care for me that I may not fear even when the earth shakes and mountains slip into the sea. May I rather be an encouragement and strength to those around me. May they also come to trust in you, their sovereign Creator and share in the blessings that come from Christ’s victory over death.

Peter Misselbrook