Tempest-Tossed at Sea (Part 1)
"When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So when the ship was caught and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Claudia, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 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. And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. 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. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, "Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you." Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island'" (Acts 27:13-26).

Against Paul's advice, the majority advised sailing a little bit further before winter. At first this seemed wise, especially with the soft south wind that greeted them. They stayed close to Crete but soon such a fierce head wind arose that they were unable to land at Phoenix as they had planned but were forced to let the wind drive the ship. When they had sailed near an island they had just enough relief from the typhoon to be able to take their skiff (i.e., a small boat) on board, though this was not an easy task. They were concerned about the structural integrity of the ship in the extremely rough conditions, so they undergirded it with cables. By this time they were so far blown off their course that they were headed toward the Syrtis Sands (i.e., a large dangerous sand bank north of Africa), which they wanted to avoid at any cost. Thus, they lowered the sails to try to slow down and avoid it as they continued to be tempest-tossed at sea. As day after day of the extremely rough waters and storm continued, they lightened the ship step-by-step. It seems likely they were taking on a lot of water which increased their desire to lighten the ship. They threw non-essentials overboard first (e.g., furniture, etc.). Eventually they would even throw the cargo overboard as these challenging days turned into weeks at sea! But long before then they were depressed, assured that there was no hope for them. The continual tempest, combined with seeing no sun or stars for many days, had devastated their spirits. They didn't know where they were but were convinced they would all drown at sea. Food was available but they either didn't have the time or desire to eat.

Paul, who seems to stand out as a leader in any group, addresses the other 275 men on board. He begins with a mild rebuke (a "told you so," if you will), but he revises his initial opinion since now God has revealed a message of hope. Although this trip would result in the loss of the cargo and ship, no lives would be lost! Such a message would have been encouraging to all (even Paul) since they had given up any hope of surviving. They didn't heed his words before, but he hopes they will now. Paul explained that an angel of the God he belonged to and served delivered this message to him. The great apostle had every confidence in God's message, and he exhorted the men to "take heart" for they would all survive this terrible ordeal. Paul prophesied that they would eventually run the ship aground on a certain island.

As a side note, it seems to be the case that all of the lives on board were spared because of Paul's presence. God had told Paul that he would go to Rome and stand before Caesar. This was yet to be fulfilled, so Paul had to survive the raging waters. How often are the ungodly indirectly blessed (and even spared) because of the righteous among them (e.g., Gen. 18:32)?