Some Go Down to the Sea ( and others)
Going fishing on a blustery, fall day in Prospect Harbor, Maine
This fisherman, heading for his boat on a dull, blustery, fall day with rising winds and heightened waves, reminds me of Psalm 107 where “Some went down to the sea in ships…” This Psalm lifts us out of our dilemmas and trials by pointing us to God’s sovereignty and redemptive power over all His creation, to His consistently constant love for humanity, and to His tremendous patience with us.
The Psalmist parades us through an array of metaphors about different people-types who are in distressing situations, who have special spiritual needs, and for whom God miraculously intervenes when entreated. God’s huge capacity for grace is displayed as He deals with human brokenness.
“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters…” These live in a big, unpredictable, and dangerous world where stormy seas buffet them with unexpected trials and stresses. Perturbed and frightened, they grapple against overwhelming odds as waves “mount to the heavens”. Overtaken with doubts and reeling with fear and anxiety, their “courage melts”. They reach the end of their abilities and strength before finally reaching out to God, who is waiting to hush the raging storms, bring peace to the exhausted, and land them where they long to be. (their “desired haven”)
“Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in…” These “hungry and thirsty, their soul fainting within them” people are restless, roving aimlessly in spiritual waste lands in search of fulfillment. They have no map, no guide. They are directionless until they find God who sets them on a different path, a “new lane”, a “straight way”, taking them from arid deserts to the places they desire, where their spirits will flourish with purpose and sing with joy. He fills the wanderers’ “souls with good things.”
“ Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction…” These spiritually insubordinate sit immobilized and imprisioned “in darkness and in the shadow of death” because they “rebel against the words of God,” and “spurn the counsel of the Most High”. They arrogantly reject God’s guiding wisdom which would free them from bondage . Their fate is a death sentence. Realizing their lost, hopeless state, they repent and call for God’s “help”. He bursts the bonds and shatters the fetters, freeing them from their recalcitrant attitudes and behaviors, enlightening their understanding, giving them hope, and changing their mindset from anarchy to worship.
Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction… The folly of willful, destructive behaviors leads to spiritual oppression and afflictions. Living on the edge and near to “the gates of death”, these foolish people are desperately ill and need healing “because of their “sinful ways”. But when they call to God, He is waiting and “heals” their iniquities and afflictions. Delivered from destruction, He gives them “new life” and welcomes them into the joy of a living relationship with Him.
Every person in this Psalm is in serious trouble until they realize that they need God. Every person in this Psalm is overwhelmed and powerless until “They cry to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivers them from their distress.” Every person in this Psalm is tossed a lifeline and delivered from their desperation. Every person in this Psalm is one of us.
Some truths running through this song are that God is Sovereign, that He deals patiently, graciously and justly with humanity, that He know what is best for us, that He holds the best solutions, that if we want to live the way we really want to live-forgiven and free, loved and secure, and with spiritual integrity and a sense of joy and purpose- then we must know, trust, listen to and submit to God and His wisdom. He is the Way, the Guide, the Physician, the Light, and the Strength who intervenes, redeems, guides and restores us. Scripture, is our lifeline because it “discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart” and keeps us honest about ourselves and our need for redemption. This Psalmist says God guides in a “straight way” and through “counsel” , and as He speaks, He enlightens and renews. He “heals” and “delivers” whomever, wherever, and whenever they seek Him. Scripture directs us to Christ, the one who saves.
This Psalm is a wonderful, celebratory song of the redeemed. It lifts one up to universal hope which is found in God’s abundant grace. Hope for those without hope. Hope for the obstinate, the proud, the doubters, and the willfully disobedient. Hope for the lost. And hope for the spiritually oppressed. Even though our choices and circumstances change us, they don’t change God. He is always only a prayer away.
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” (Psalm 107:1-2)