Obvioulsy, the sailors knew that the passengers would not allow them to take the lifeboat in order to save themselves, that is why they pretended to be putting out anchors from the bow of the ship. Now under normal circumstances, these sailors would have saved themselves and condemned the passengers to death. However, this time it was different. God was going to spare the passengers (including the ship’s crew) for Paul’s sake. He certainly was not doing it for the sake of the crew. They were not going to find safety by escaping from the ship. They only way they would be safe was by staying on the ship with Paul. One of my favorite lines from Steven Seagal’s movie, Under Seige, came when Jordan Tate played by Erika Eleniak, said, “The safest place on this ship is right behind you . . .”
Somehow Paul realized what these sailors were up to and put a stop to their “escape.” Was this by divine revelation? We’re not told that this was the case, but I doubt it. I think that when Paul heard them say they were going to lower anchors from the bow, he knew enough to recognize their deception. What possible reason would they have to cast anchors attached to the bow of the ship, when they had already put out the anchors from the stern? I also cannot imagine how they would use a lifeboat to lower these anchors. Can you see these men taking more than one anchor on board their little craft, and then heaving them over the side without capsizing the boat (especially in very rough waters)?
Paul told the centurion about the sailors’ scheme, saying that if they wished to survive, they better keep the sailors on board. Now the soldiers were listening to what Paul had to say. Paul, the prisoner, was in charge. The soldiers could have commandeered the lifeboat for themselves, but instead they did exactly as Paul instructed. As I have already said, this centurian is a man of honor—a dignified soldier. The soldiers quickly cut the ropes to the lifeboat, letting it drift away empty. That probably ticked-off the saliors, but now the safety of everyone on board rested on one man—Paul. By the way, that is still the case. Disciples of Jesus are the messengers for everyone’s safety. Come to think of it, many of the Dorm RAs (Resident Advisors) from the Dorms were members of the fellowship my and I led at Western Michigan University.
Daylight would soon come and knowing that the passengers would need their strength for what was ahead of them, Paul urged them to eat. He assured them that they needed to eat because they had gone so long without food. He also assured them that they would survive: “not a hair on their head would be lost.” That was the equivalent of saying, “You will be saved without a scratch.” I immediately think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—the three young men whose story is found in Daniel 3. They were tossed into a fiery furnace, “heated seven times hotter than normal”—yet left the furnace without even the smell of smoke.
You may not think that telling these folks to eat as an act of faith, but it was. These people refused to eat because they were seasick. They learned that there was no reason to eat since it would only make them seasick again. They had learned their lesson, the first time, in their minds it would better not eat at all. In order to eat they would have to trust Paul, rather than their instincts and past experience. This time it was different. Their bread would stay down, and would strengthen them to survive the stormy waters between the ship and the shore. Encouraged, all 276 of them (including Paul) ate for the first time since the storm began. After they ate, they set out to lighten the ship by casting the remainder of its cargo (wheat) overboard.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts