Roman Ship Captain
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71. Roman Ship Captain
Revelation 18.17b-20

"Every sea captain, and all who traveled by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?' They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out, 'Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour, she has been brought to ruin! Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles, and prophets! God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you." (Revelation 18.17b-20)✞

Alexandrian Sailing Ships

Alexandrian Sailing ShipThe kings, the merchants, and now every Roman Ship Captain utters their lament over Rome. John of Patmos is no doubt recalling a similar picture of Tyre's fall in Ezekiel 27.28-30, where Ezekiel explains, "The shorelands will quake when your sailors cry out. All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the sailors will stand on the shore. They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes."


OstiaThe City of Rome is not situated upon the sea coast but lies twenty miles inland to the northeast. Its port is called Ostia, set back from the sea at the mouth of Rome's principal river, the Tiber. The merchandise of the world flows from ocean-going ships into Ostia and then to Rome. The captains and sailors lament that the trade, which brings so much wealth, is gone.

Merchants Lament

FeastThe Ostia merchants lament with weeping and mourning can be heard because of their loss of wealth from Rome's ancient port. There is something quite pathetic about this Ostia merchants lament. Some beautiful floor mosaics advertising merchants' services still exist. In every case, the merchants' lament is not for Rome but themselves. It is one of the laws of life that, if people place all their trust in material things, they will likely miss love and friendship, which are most important. From the lamenting comes the joyful sound of those who are glad to see God's vengeance on his enemies and persecutors. We find this note more than once in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 32.43, we read, "Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants, he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people." "Rejoice, you nations, with his people" can be translated as "Make his people rejoice, you nations." The Dead Sea Scrolls found in a desert cave, interestingly add as a footnote, "and let all the angels worship him." Jeremiah 51.48 says of the doom of ancient Babylon, "'Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon, for out of the north destroyers will attack her,' declares the Lord."

Making Enemies Friends

Abraham LincolnMaking enemies friends is a possibility. Abraham Lincoln's friends told him that he was too lenient with his opponents and must destroy his enemies. He answered, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" The people here in Revelation are not praying for those who despitefully use them. But two things have to be remembered. Whatever we may feel about this voice of vengeance, it is nonetheless the voice of faith. These men and women have utter confidence that no one on God's side can lose in the end. There is no personal bitterness. People are not so much personal enemies as the enemies of God. At the same time, this is not the most excellent way. Jesus encourages us to make our enemies into our friends. The real Christian attitude is to seek to destroy enmity, not by force, but by the power of that love, which wins the victory of the cross at Calgary.

"Roman Ship Captain"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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