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God’s Word for You

Acts 27:8-11 The Gales of November

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 25, 2021

8 With difficulty, we sailed along the coast and came to some place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. 9 A great deal of time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because it was already after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to bring disaster and great loss to ship and cargo, and also to our own lives.” 11 But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship instead of listening to what Paul said.

In these verses, Luke preaches the account of Paul’s warning to men who do not heed his words. This will happen in the lives and preachers and missionaries and ordinary Christians as well. This doesn’t mean that we should hold back from giving advise or warnings. When we hear it said in Job that “If men are bound in chains and sins, he tells them what they have done—that they have sinned arrogantly. He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil” (Job 36:8-10), who is it the Lord speaks through? Who is it who tells them, corrects them and commands them to repent? It is pastors, missionaries, parents, and Christian friends who follow the directive of Jesus in Matthew 18, if someone sins, what do you do?

  First you go,
  Then two go,
  If that leaves you in the lurch,
  Take it to the Church.
(see Matthew 18:15-18)

“First you go” is to go and show a sinner his fault. “Then two go” is who calls him to repentance if he refuses to acknowledge that he has sinned. “Take it to the church” is what happens if he continually says that he has not sinned. But if he does repent, even if he sins and sins and then repents and repents, God forgives. As many times as he repents, God forgives. This shocked Peter who thought seven times would have been generous (Matthew 18:21-22).

In our text, it was a dangerous hour. Luke was an experienced traveler, but he had never heard of this town (he calls it “some place called Fair Havens”). That name doesn’t occur anywhere else in ancient classical literature, and today its location is guessed at because of a small roadstead on the southern part of the island just west of Lasea. This is on the tip of the point of land that juts out from the center of the southern coastline of Crete. It was evidently a small harbor, but the captain didn’t like the idea of riding out the winter there in some ancient Cretan fishing village with its dozen goats and Minoan ruins.

Luke was concerned about the date. The “Fast” was the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:29-31, 23:27-29). The date was the tenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 16:29), which always falls in late September or early October. Since a sea voyage with contrary winds would take weeks, this was a very important point. According to the note in the Concordia Study Bible, “The Romans considered sailing after September 15 doubtful and after November 11 suicidal” (p. 1709).

There was a discussion between the Centurion and the ship’s officers at this point. The Captain should have had the final authority for his ship, but the pilot (or sailing master) was equally responsible for the maneuvering of the vessel in harbors and in dangerous waters. Moreover, there was a Centurion here who was from the Augustan (Imperial) Regiment who was an officer of the Roman grain service of which this ship was a part. Any or all of them could be held accountable for delay or damage to the cargo. Paul was allowed to say something, perhaps because of his experience as a traveler. He had already been shipwrecked three times (2 Corinthians 11:25), and in one of those cases he had spent “a night and a day in the open sea” clinging to floating wreckage. We have been told about eight voyages Paul took by sea up to this time:

  1. 38 AD, sailed from Caesarea to Tarsus (Acts 9:30)
  2. 43, sailed with Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26)
  3. 46, sailed with Barnabas to Cyprus and Perga (Acts 13:3,13)
  4. 48, sailed back to Antioch (Acts 14:25-26)
  5. 50, sailed with Luke from Troas across to Greece (Acts 16:11)
  6. 50, sent by sea from Berea to Athens (Acts 17:14)
  7. 52, sailed from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19)
  8. 52, sailed from Ephesus to Caesarea (Acts 18:21-22)

Since Luke was with him during the voyages in 50-52, and would probably have told us about mishaps, we can be fairly confident that Paul was shipwrecked during three of the first four adventures on this list, unless he was shipwrecked more than once on the same trip. Paul’s opinion was that if they tried to leave, it would mean loss of the ship and the loss of their lives. But the Centurion was led to believe that they could make it.

This brings us back to our first point: There will be times when we have good, correct, and accurate advice to give, but people still won’t listen to us. That doesn’t mean we should keep from speaking up. Remember that Moses was given good advice by his father-in-law who came to visit one day and said that Moses was doing too much of the work that others could help him do (Exodus 18:14-24). Ruth found a good husband when she listened to Naomi’s advice and made a bold proposal (Ruth 3:1-9). And Naaman the Syrian was saved from his leprosy and from his unbelief by a servant girl who spoke up (2 Kings 5:1-10,14-15). For Paul and his companions, the gales of November were fast approaching. They had spoken up, and their advice was turned down, but they couldn’t do anything about it. They had to stay with the ship, ride into the approaching storm, and pray for God to deliver them.

  You snatch me up and drive me before the wind
  You toss me about in the storm.
  But you are a shield around me, O LORD.
  I lie down and sleep, I wake again,
  Because the LORD sustains me.
(Job 30:33; Psalm 3:3,5)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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