“…they were brought safely to land” (Acts 27:44).
It sounds so tame and calm and serene. Sure, there had been a storm and a ship had broken up and people were forced to swim and hold on to scattered planks and other assorted flotation devices to make it to shore, but the understated declaration, “they were brought safely to land,” almost makes it seem serene and simple. There may be no melodrama in the statement, but there certainly was drama on the seas for those who were traveling with Paul to Rome.
The rest of the chapter reveals the significant events:
- From the beginning of the trip they faced contrary winds (v. 4).
- The sailing was difficult and the winds constantly against them (v. 7).
- The sailing continued with difficulty (v. 8).
- The trip was not only difficulty, but even became dangerous (v. 9).
- Paul warned the captain and sailors that the trip was bound to produce much loss of both cargo and life (vv. 9-10).
- Ignoring the warning counsel of Paul, the captain sailed on, but soon the ship was unable to fight the winds and was driven away according to the dictates of the wind (vv. 14-15, 17).
- The winds became a violent storm and since the boat was weighed down with cargo, the sailors began throwing the cargo and other heavy objects overboard (vv. 18-19).
- Because of the storm, they saw neither sun nor stars for many days; “no small storm was assailing us” (v. 20).
- All hope of surviving the storm was given up and abandoned (v. 20).
- The ship’s crew and passengers were without food for an extended period of time (v. 21).
- This situation endured for at least 14 days — all without food (vv. 27, 33).
- Sailors, contrary to the orders of the captain, attempted to abandon ship (vv. 30ff).
- The ship struck a reef and became stuck there, and because of its fixed position, the waves battered and began destroying the ship so that all 276 people aboard had to abandon ship (vv. 37, 41).
- Those who could swim to shore did so; those who couldn’t swim, grabbed whatever flotation device they could (vv. 43-44).
- “And so it happened that they were all brought safely to land” (v. 44).
Again, the end of the story almost sounds serene, but the entire trip was anything but simple and its ending without loss of life was almost certainly unexpected by most.
Yet there is a reason that Luke understates the ending. In the middle of the storm, Paul reprimands the captain and sailors for ignoring his earlier warning and then reveals a vision he had from God:
“Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. “But we must run aground on a certain island.” (Acts 27:22–26)
Here is the point of the story — when God makes a promise, we should not be surprised when He fulfills it. Luke comes to the end of the account and utters no superlatives because its gracious ending was secured not when the men reached shore, but when God revealed His promise to Paul. While gratitude and praise is an appropriate response to the provision of God and the fulfillment of His promises, we should never be surprised when He acts according to His character and promises. He is faithful to Himself and He can do nothing but be faithful to Himself.
You may be in a storm this day, and this story is no guarantee that you will survive — Christians do starve and do suffer and are persecuted. But this story is a reminder that whatever God does in your life and mine in our suffering, He will always be faithful to Himself and whatever He does will be His best for both us and for His glory.