Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 27:17-32
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 27:17
v17 (continued): The sailors were also terrified of where they might end up if the wind kept blowing from that (northeast) direction, because they were headed straight for an area of the northern coast of Africa called Syrtis Major (modern: Gulf of Sirte) which has a sandy shelf running far out into the sea. In this storm, if the ship became stuck in the sand with the huge waves breaking over its stern it would be beaten to pieces and swamped. Luke then says, “…letting down the vessel they were thus carried along.” His words mean either they towed a “sea anchor” behind them, or that they lowered some or all of the sails to slow down the rate at which they were moving. They probably did both, but may have left up some small amount of sail so they could continue to keep the bow of the ship aimed as far to the northwest (away from Syrtis Major) as possible.

Monday: Acts 27:18-20
vs18-19: On the next day, since they were still being violently driven by the storm, they began throwing cargo overboard. By the third day they were so desperate to lighten the ship, because it was leaking badly and riding lower and lower in the water, they (sailors and passengers?) lifted up what was apparently the heavy main mast of the ship and threw it overboard. v20: Then, having done everything they could to lighten the ship except to throw overboard the tons of wheat still in the ship’s hold (v38), they drifted for many days through that terrible winter storm, which Luke says did not let up but continued to press heavily “upon them.” The sky above them remained continually covered with clouds preventing even a glimpse of the sun or stars the entire time, and Luke says, on board “all hope that we might be saved was now being stripped away.”

Tuesday: Acts 27:21-26
vs21-26: During the storm, everyone went without food, probably because they were too seasick and frightened to eat. But toward the end of their journey Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, indeed you should have obeyed me and not set sail from Crete and incurred this unnecessary damage and loss. And now I advise you to be of good courage for there will be no throwing away of your life, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I also serve, saying, ‘Fear not, Paul, it is necessary for you to stand before Caesar, and behold, God has given (graced) to you all those sailing with you.’ Because of this, be of good courage, men, for I believe God that it will be exactly as it has been spoken to me, but we must run aground on a certain island” (literal).

Wednesday: Acts 27:21-26
vs21-26 (continued): The angel’s statement that God had “given” Paul all those on board the ship indicates that he, along with Luke and Aristarchus, had been earnestly interceding in prayer. An earlier prophecy had already declared that all lives would be lost (v10), yet clearly Paul understood that word as a warning, not a fatalistic pronouncement of doom. He knew that in God’s eyes this loss of life was a tragedy to be avoided, not a “judgment” God wanted to impose. So he went to his knees and fought for them in prayer, until an angel arrived with the announcement that the spiritual battle had been won. The ship would not sink but rather would run aground on an island and no one would drown. Paul relayed this message to everyone on board and by now it surely had become abundantly clear that he truly heard from God. They foolishly disregarded his first warning but as he spoke a word from God a second time, his words must have sparked hope in many hearts.

Thursday: Acts 27:27-28
vs27-28: On the fourteenth night the sailors recognized they were nearing land. For two weeks they had been “carried about in the Adriatic Sea.” Today, the term Adriatic Sea is applied specifically to the sea east of Italy, but in those days the title included the whole central region of the Mediterranean (F.F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, reprint 1974, p.515). They had drifted 476 miles from the little island of Clauda, near Crete, to the northeastern coast of Malta. At that rate the wind had carried them about 36 miles every 24 hours. It must have been the sound of waves crashing on a rocky shoreline that alerted sailors in the dark of night that they were nearing land. Immediately they let down a lead weight on the end of a cord to measure the depth of the water and found that it was 20 fathoms, or 120 feet, deep. After the ship had drifted a short distance further, they took another measurement and found the water was now only 15 fathoms, or 90 feet, deep. This told them they were approaching land, not just passing by. And undoubtedly, as time went on, the sound of the waves became unmistakable.

Friday: Acts 27:29
v29: It was good news that they were close to land, but we need to remember that they were still being violently driven forward by the wind; the sound they were hearing through the darkness was that of waves crashing against rocks. Anyone who has watched storm waves pound against a rocky shore will understand why even the sailors on board were terrified. It appeared this terrible journey would end with the ship and its passengers being smashed to pieces. Sheer rock walls rise straight up out of the ocean in some places along the island of Malta, and in others the beach is strewn with huge boulders. To make matters worse, rocky shoals are scattered everywhere, just beneath the surface. Desperate to prevent the ship from being hurled against the rocks, the sailors threw four anchors out of the back of the ship hoping they would catch hold of the ocean floor before the ship hit whatever lay ahead. The anchors would also keep the prow of the ship aimed toward the shore so the ship would not crash into it sideways. Then Luke says, the sailors “prayed it would become day.” It was still so dark they couldn’t see the shore, so they prayed to whatever gods they believed in to bring the morning light.

Saturday: Acts 27:30-32
vs30-32: Obviously the sailors had no confidence the anchors could hold back the ship because they soon tried to escape in the ship’s rowboat. Sadly, in that moment of crisis they were willing to abandon hundreds of passengers, leaving them to be helplessly dashed against the rocks. But there was no way to flee unnoticed, so as they lowered the boat into the sea they told everyone they were doing it in order to cast out anchors from the front of the ship, which of course, made no sense, but it appears their plan was working until Paul discerned the truth and went to the centurion and soldiers and warned them of what was happening. He told them, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved [from drowning],” and the soldiers responded immediately by slashing the ropes and letting the boat fall away. Given the situation, it would have been wiser to pull the boat back on deck because they would soon need it. But once these frightened soldiers realized what was happening, they reacted with understandable emotion. They simply eliminated any possibility of escape. 

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