But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.…
No other storm has become so famous as this. Of no other shipwreck has so much been written. Yet every year a storm has swept the Adriatic, and unnumbered ships have sunk beyond the reach of tempests; but this one, whose name we know not, is alone historic. It was not a cargo of gold — only wheat! and wheat was plentiful. It was not a ship of the line with honoured guests. Upon that great stormy sea, a century before, the great Caesar warned the pilot, "Steer boldly; thou cattiest Caesar and his fortune." The historic ship carried Paul, and grim humour hath it that the great missionary was carried at Nero's expense.
I. THE STORM.
1. It may be compared to the equinoctial gale, coming with the force of a hurricane. The description reminds us of Psalm 107:25-27. Terror seized the crew and soldiers; "all hope was taken away." The compass was not yet invented, and the sailor's chart depended upon their observation of the stars, or the course of the sun. No rift in the clouds by night or day gave any knowledge. The whistling tempest, the moaning waves, the roaring breakers — these were the parts in the minor music of their despair.
2. Yet God was there. That storm, like every other since, had its meaning. A seeming evil is not the hiding of God's face. All is not dark which seems dark. Above the tempest; the sun shone every day in all his glory, and at night every star stood out as clear and beautiful as though their light were seen everywhere. In all this scene of despair an angel of God had come upon the deck of the ship (vers. 23, 24).
3. In the midst of that awful gale the apostle, pale and weakened from long fasting, stood up. It was he who had made Felix tremble. The voice which had almost persuaded king Agrippa was heard above the raging of the sea (vers. 21-25). The prisoner was from henceforth the captain. The centurion, accustomed to speak with authority, became the obedient servant of his prisoner.
4. Although he had thus spoken, there was no abatement in the tempest. They drifted at the mercy of the gale until midnight of the fourteenth day, when they awoke in the midst of the breakers. But even in that place "all were of good cheer." No other event; more clearly mirrors the power of the apostle over men; or, shall we not rather say, "Christ, who had dispelled all fears in the storm on Genessaret, wrought good cheer in that ship upon the Adriatic through His apostle"?
5. The tent maker, who could pray while he worked, could work while he prayed. He who, in the beginning of the voyage, had shown his interest in every preparation, would not leave the post of danger in the hour of trial. We are to pray for the Sick; but when the hour has come for us to give the medicine, we must give the medicine, and we can pray while we are giving it. The fireman can pray as he ascends the ladder to save the child. The citizen can pray while he cares for his neighbour's goods. Judging from what we know of his nature, the most active man on that ship was Paul; and this active man prayed without ceasing.
6. The promise was, "Lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee." It was not at all necessary for God to save the whole ship's company in order to prolong Paul's life that he might stand before Nero; but it was on Paul's account that the rest were saved. It was as when Lot by his presence kept back the impending fiery storm from Sodom. No real disciple can ever know the full extent of his influence upon the ungodly.
II. WITH THIS STORM AS A BACKGROUND, AND THE PROMISE GIVEN, WE ACCEPT THE GREAT FACT; namely —
1. The decreed certainty of their salvation. The sailors disbelieved, as they showed by endeavouring to escape in the boat. The centurion and his company may have feared, but Paul never doubted. The scene declares his unbounded faith. When morning had come, they could partially see the land before them through the rain and fog. "And it came to pass that," by swimming, and floating upon pieces of the wreck, "they escaped all safe to land." The Divine promise was as much of a fact as the salvation itself. Whatever God declares shall come to pass will come to pass. Around this shipwreck has arisen the question, Was the promise based solely upon the Divine will, or upon the Divine foreknowledge? In answer, we point to —
2. The condition embraced in the decree. Paul never ceased his vigilance. If they were to be saved without a condition, surely all this watching was in vain. The Divine promise was based on the free efforts of those on board. Thus the sailors were preparing to leave the ship when he, who had declared the certainty of their coming to land safely, said, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." There was reason in these words. The sailors understood managing the ship, the soldiers could have done nothing. The Divine account took in the skill of the crew.
(D. O. Mears.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
WEB: But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called Euroclydon.