Thursday, October 16, 2008

Acts 27:27-44

Within days of going away to college, I joined with a group of guys I had only just met to steal a very large moose head mounted in the student lounge. That is a simple historical fact. But what is perhaps even more interesting is the story behind it (which I conveniently don’t have the space to tell.)

Similarly, the book of Acts takes historical facts and places them in the context of one of the most compelling stories ever told, replete with engaging drama that keeps us on the edge of our seats, reading eagerly on to see what happens next…

As the story continues in today’s passage, it is dark at night with everyone adrift on the ocean when they realize they are nearing land. The possibility is very real that they will strike rocks and all will be lost. Realizing the immediate danger, the sailors seek to desert the ship, leaving Paul and the prisoners to perish. It doesn’t look good…

Paul, however, is able to persuade the men to stay on board, and to actually encourage them so they are ready to meet the demands of landing the ship in the day ahead. Day breaks and they spy land, not familiar land, but good land, land with the calm waters of a bay and the sure landing of a beach. Things are looking up…

We root for our heroes to make it shore… but no, they hit a hidden reef and the ship catches there. The waves pound the ship, and it begins to break up. Paul is in big trouble now!

It gets worse. The guards, wishing to do their duty and ensure that no prisoners escape, plan to kill them all—Paul included. Is this the end?

No. The centurion intervenes. Once again Paul seems to cheat death. People jump over board and begin swimming to shore. Those who can’t swim grab planks splintered off from the sinking ship…

And today, at least, everybody lives! The assurance God gave Paul that all will be well (my paraphrase) for that day, at least, turns out to be well founded. Everybody lives!

We, of course, do not simply see fate at work here. We see the hand of God.

And I, at least, am encouraged. Life takes lots of twists and turns, some good and some seemingly not. Some are expected and some catch us totally unaware. Sometimes it looks like we’ve come to the end only to find a new way ahead.

But in all these things, God is near at hand, accomplishing His plans and purposes which are unable to be thwarted by whatever adversity arises. That, friends, is very good news, rooted in a story that is part of a much larger story that is still going on today. And very much like the story we read here, it too has a happy end!

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