Do you see the point God is making here? When we heed the world’s advice rather than God’s, we head off on our own like the ship and its crew. At first things seem all right, with just a gentle wind to blow us along. But then we find ourselves trapped in the Tempest of Sin, doomed for destruction. And we passionately wish we had listened to God rather than to the men of the world.
I notice how much the passengers had to lighten the ship. Three times they throw items overboard. We aren’t told exactly what the first items are – I’m guessing they were sundries that were not necessary for the voyage, very possibly the merchandise to be sold at the journey’s end. Secondly, the crew pitched out the tackle – the means of making the ship travel. Lastly, the food – human sustenance – was thrown into the sea.
From one perspective, the point being made here is that the only way to get back with God – to become right with Him – is to get rid of everything in our lives which is ensnaring us in sin.
- The merchandise – the material things which are distracting me. They’ve got to go. The crew members were distracted from obeying God because they were more concerned about the material wealth and satisfaction they could gain by selling this merchandise than they were about attaining heavenly joy and satisfaction through obedience to Christ. Do I have any material idols which are distracting me from serving God? Then overboard they must go.
- The tackle – whatever aids my journey of sin. If there is something that is supporting my sinful lifestyle, and that is basically enabling my sin, I have to get rid of it. How can I become untangled from my sin if I have numerous crutches which make it easy for me to remain in wickedness?
- Food – human strength. Food’s not bad, and even Paul mentions that we need it. But food only supplies human strength, which is not sufficient for freeing me from sin. I desperately need God’s strength, not human resources and human power. If I want to be completely cleansed of my sin, I must turn to God and rely on His strength rather than on mine, because only He can rescue me from this storm.
“And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let if fall off.” vs. 30-32
When we have strayed from God’s will in order to accomplish our own, we can’t try to sneak back into the Way of Life. That’s what the sailors tried to do – they didn’t want to be shipwrecked with the rest of their companions to face the consequences of their mistakes. So they pretended to be doing the right thing – stopping the ship – while they were secretly plotting to abandon ship.
Deceit will not work…at least not for long. Truth always – always – comes to the light. God has a knack for gifting godly people with the ability to see right through ungodly deceptions. Lies and cover-ups are exposed, and the deceiver’s chance of escape is cut off.
Once we’ve taken the wrong path, we can’t abandon ship and sneak back into the presence of God. Instead, we have to ride out the storm. Not that it will be easy – on the contrary, riding out the storm can be the most painful, terrifying, and humbling thing that we have ever done. But if we want to get right with God, we must ride out the tempest. That painful, humbling, terrifying process is what purifies us and helps us to become right with God once again.