Acts 27:39 And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:
44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
We see here that these sailors did not have maps that showed them where they were. They had been in a storm for 14 days and likely had no way of knowing just where that storm had driven them. They were acting by guessing what was ahead. They saw a creek and decided to head up that creek toward the land they saw.
In verse 40 we see that they committed themselves to getting to the shore. They were probably anxious to get on some solid ground after the rough time they had been in for 14 days. Again, we are reminded of the fact they did not have the confidence that Paul had. Paul was in the same storm, but he was at peace and could take matters in stride, knowing that God was in charge. These sailors did everything humanly possible they could to get out of their current situation as quickly as they could.
In verse 41 we see the dilemma they ended up in because they did not know the area, and they had lost their life boat because of evil men who wanted to use it to escape. They had no way of going ahead and seeing what was there. They found out the hard way that there was a sand bar and they ran the ship aground. They had been moving with some speed and so they became so stuck that there was no way of working the ship loose. We read as well that the sea was still quite rough and the waves played with the hinder part of the ship and broke it apart. Now those on the ship had no place to go but to the island they saw. They had no escape route. They were at the mercy of the people on the island. At this point they had no idea of who lived on that island.
In verse 42 we see that the soldiers wanted to make sure no prisoners escaped. Their solution was to kill them. Prisoners were not worth much to them and they determined that they would be better off dead than escaping. That was the mentality of the soldiers. They did not want to have a record of having prisoners escape while under their watch. In Bible times, it was expected that if a prisoner escaped, those who were supposed to guard the prisoner would be killed for letting them go.
We see in verse 43 that God was in charge. The centurion was not a saved man, but God intervened and the centurion kept all the prisoners alive in order to save Paul’s life. We see again how important it is for a Christian to be a Christian. God blesses others with the presence of one of His children that is faithful to Him.
The centurion commanded that each person should look after themselves and try to make it to shore any way they could. This would be a challenge for all. It was not likely that anyone would want to take off in some other direction after what they had been through over the past 14 days. They would likely all be happy to get on solid ground and hopefully to some place where they could find some shelter.
Those who could swim were told to swim to shore. The rest were to find a board to hold on to and use that to help them get to the shore. We are not told of the nature of the prisoners. We do not know what their crimes were. We do know that the soldiers and the owners had options earlier on, but they rejected them. They could have listened to the apostle Paul and avoided this present situation. God was not surprised by what was happening. He had been working in the hearts of the passengers to help them to see the need to know Him. As far as we know, there were only two saved individuals on this ship at this time. We know that Aristarchus, a brother from Thessalonica, was one of the passengers earlier on the voyage. We do not know if he was still with them at this time. We know that Luke was on this voyage because of the language used. The word “we” would indicate that Luke was there. As we noted in a previous devotional, Luke was the writer of the book of Acts.
There would be more lessons to learn yet for this group of people. God is very merciful and very longsuffering. God shows us again the nature of a saved man and the impact that a truly saved individual can have on others. Paul did not plan this trip. God arranged it for him. God was in charge and He made sure that His name would be exalted among these 276 people. What a blessing it is to simply trust in the true God and allow Him to direct our paths in His way.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.