This morning, one of the psalms for Morning Prayer was Psalm 107, and this morning, like every month, verse 23 stopped me in my tracks:
‘Some went down to the sea in ships and plied their trade in deep waters;’
And I don’t know why it always makes me stop and think, but it does. Just that one half verse, ‘Some went down to the sea in ships,’ sets my mind wondering. Where were they from? Why did they leave? What happened to the ones who didn’t go? How far was the sea? Did they know it was there, or did they set out into the unknown? What did they do when they reached the sea? Where did they go?
But then, reading the psalm again, not during Morning Prayer but later, and with a different eye, I saw there were other groups of people. ‘Some wandered in desert wastes,’ and they had a horrible time being hungry and thirsty and having nowhere to live, but they cried to God and he led them to a city where they could make their home. ‘Some sat in darkness and deep gloom,’ because they had rejected God, but when they cried out in their misery they were led out of their despair. ‘Some were fools and took to rebellious ways,’ and that almost killed them, but again when they cried out God delivered them. Finally, ‘some went down to the sea in ships,’ and although they saw the wonders of the oceans God caused a storm to toss them about. In their fear they cried out to God and he stilled the storm, and ‘brought them to the harbour they were bound for’.
So that answered some of my questions: What happened to the others? Where did the ones in the ships go? They all sounded like quite foolhardy types who thought they could do all kinds of ill-advised things on their own. Then they were humbled and in peril, and finally threw themselves on God’s mercy. Of all of them, we read,
‘Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.’
But I still have a question. ‘Some went down to the sea in ships,’ and were ‘brought . . . to the harbour they were bound for.’ But did they ever go home?