One of the great (and often overlooked) quotes in scripture is from Psalm 107. “They that go down to the sea in ships; that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep.”
The people of the ancient world were in awe of the sea. They were familiar with it, but they also knew of its danger, its capacity to overwhelm them, and the threat to their very lives which it imposed. They often utilized the sea for fishing or for transportation from place to place, but they knew that the sea could be a fickle ally. The waves could become threatening. Storms could arise without warning. Ships (which were often fragile) could break apart and leave them at he mercy of the waters.
It is hardly surprising then that the Psalmist would use the metaphor of the sea to speak of the challenges of life. While the terrors of the sea could be fearful, they understood that going to the sea was both actually and symbolically a meaningfully way of addressing the challenges of life.
Some timid souls avoided the sea. They understood the threats that it embodied so they just stayed away from it. Others confronted their fears, or pushed them aside, and went out to sea in order to gain the benefits which it held.
In our own coastal region there are many people who can identify with this truth..
Considering this text from the Psalmist reminds us that this is an important way of thinking about life. Some of us prefer the safety of the shallows. We prefer to stay close to the shore. We value the comfort and security of careful living. We choose to avoid risk when possible, and we long for the certainty of firm ground under our feet. Others are more bold. These are the folks who are willing to take risks in order to experience the possibilities which might await in the deeper waters of life.
There is spiritual truth to be found here.. Are we willing to risk emotional, physical, financial or other aspects of life in order to achieve something which may have profound impact for good in the world? Are we willing to “go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters” in the interest of a great
History is replete with the stories of those who embraced causes worthy of risk-taking. From the accounts of those who founded our country, to those who struggled for the emancipation of slaves, to the pioneers of civil rights, to the leaders of equality for women, and so much more, we are better and more free because of those who dared to “do business in great waters”.
May we remember the words of the Psalmist and pray for the courage and wisdom of such a spirit.
May we be willing to “go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters” so that we might see the works of the Lord.