Monday, April 10, 2017

Shipwreck in Acts 27 and a frequently altered prophecy

Biblical prophecy works a lot like regular predictions. As circumstances change, the certainty of the predictions are often affected. An example of a change of prophetic expectation appears in Acts 27. Paul, at that time, was a prisoner of the Roman government and he was on his way to Rome to appear before the emperor. At one point in the journey, he warned of danger.
Acts 27:9-12:
9 Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives." 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favor of putting to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.
Paul coached the centurion to delay the next leg of the voyage; but the centurion ignored the advice and pressed forward with his travel plans. Note that Paul had insight, possibly miraculously, that the the ship's cargo would be lost and that people would die.

Well, the storm came. They threw the cargo and the ship tackle overboard. The sailors wore themselves out fighting the storm for "many days" (Acts 27:20). Paul encouraged them with a vision he received.
Acts 27:21-26:
21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. 22 I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, "Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.' 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we will have to run aground on some island."
That announcement must have been encouraging. But note that the prediction changed a little bit. Paul's original prediction was that the cargo and [at least some] lives would be lost. Now, Paul was divinely informed that no lives would be lost. The storm went on for fourteen days and some of the sailors tried to escape in the lifeboat (Acts 17:30). Paul made an announcement that might be shocking to some readers.
Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." (Acts 27:31)
Paul had earlier issued a prophecy that there would be no loss of life in this ordeal. Now, the fulfillment of that prophecy is threatened by the human action of these sailors! These cowardly sailors were about to undermine the prophesied survival of the whole crew! How could that be? The reason is that, as circumstances change, the expected outcome of an earlier prophecy can also change.

For another example of this phenomenon, see the book of Jonah. See also Jeremiah 18.

No comments:

Post a Comment