Lashed to the Mast

(1) The Odyssey, an epic Greek poem [attributed to Homer], tells the story of King Odysseus and his heroic struggle against the gods. The tale begins when the ship of Odysseus is blown off course on the way home from the Trojan Wars. In his effort to get home, Odysseus lands on an island where he encounters one-eyed monsters known as Cyclops.

One of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, captures the humans and begins devouring them. Odysseus, in order to save himself and his crew, blinds the eye of the giant and manages to escape from the island.

What Odysseus doesn’t know is that Polyphemus, the Cyclops he blinded, is the son of the Greek god Poseidon. In retaliation, Poseidon tries to prevent Odysseus from ever reaching home.

To accomplish his goal, Poseidon places Odysseus’s ship in the path of the Island of Sirens. The island is inhabited by beautiful women (2) who sing out to sailors on the sea, enticing them to steer their ships to destruction on the jagged reefs that surround the island. The sirens’ songs could be heard for great distances.

As Odysseus sails for home, he can hear the songs of the sirens. He’s also well aware of his vulnerability to their seductive power. His solution is to lash himself to his ship’s mast so he can listen to their songs but not respond to them. The rest of the crew stuffs their ears to block the sound.

In agony, Odysseus remains lashed to the mast until his ship makes it safely past the island. As a result, he manages to stay on course until he arrives home safely.

Where to Take It from Here…

As we sail the sea of life, we will encounter many temptations and enticements that will threaten to take us off course and destroy us. The Bible tells us that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)—not unlike Poseidon in The Odyssey.

Our best strategy for defeating Satan is not necessarily to withdraw from the world so that we can’t hear his songs. Instead, we must remain “lashed to the mast”—the cross of Jesus Christ. Our calling as Christians is to be “in the world, but not of it.” We should be involved in the world without allowing its seductive power to undermine our integrity. We must remain faithful to who we are as Christians and to resist temptation.

We do this by intentionally tying ourselves to the church, to other Christians, to the Word of God, and to the disciplines of the Christian life. So if you don’t take steps to insure your survival, you will always be in grave danger. The apostle Paul said, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).


(1) Anonymous. Adventist Youth Society.

(2) “Odysseus encounters the famous sirens during his wanderings. Typically, in Greek depictions, the sirens they are half-woman half-bird creatures that perch on the rocks by the sea and sing beautiful songs that lure men who, refusing to leave, die of starvation.

The women, although not necessarily terrifying in their looks, are certainly terrifying in their abilities to enchant mortal men. With much help, Odysseus is able to resist or break free from these enchantments. Even the seemingly least threatening woman of the three, Calypso, manages to keep Odysseus detained for seven years, proving to be one of the greatest obstacles to his journey.” (

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