Salvation at Sea
(23) Those going down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters, (24) have seen the works of Yahweh and his wonders in the deep, (25) for he spoke and raised up the storm wind which lifted high the waves. (26) They mount up to heaven. They plunge down to the depths. Their soul melts away (in terror) in their peril. (27) They reel and stagger like drunken men and are at their wit’s end. (28) Then they cry out to Yahweh in their trouble, and he delivers them from their distress. (29) He makes the storm wind a whisper and silences the waves. (30) Then they rejoice because it grows calm, and he guides them to their desired haven. (31) Let them give thanks to Yahweh for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men. (32) Let them extol him in the congregation of the people and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
Two repetitions and three synonyms emphasize the message of this segment. “Storm wind” and “waves” are found twice (vss. 25 & 29). “Sea,” “great waters,” and “the deep” are also repeated (vss. 23 & 24). As in each of the previous segments of the psalm, verse 28 repeats verses 6, 13 and 19 while verse 31 echoes the refrain found three times previously (vss. 8, 15, & 21).
I. Seafarers, in peril from wind and waves, cry out in despair. (23-28)
II. Yahweh calms the storm and delivers them. (29-32)
Yahweh’s deliverance of seafarers from the peril of wind and waves should motivate them to offer personal praise and public thanksgiving.
Those who have served in the navies of the United States and Great Britain are familiar with The Navy Hymn, a musical benediction that has long held a special significance for seafaring men. The lyrics were composed in 1860 by William Whiting (1825-1878), a teacher and an Anglican clergyman, for a student who was about to travel to the United States. The author, whose home was on the English coast near the sea, had personally survived a furious storm on the Mediterranean.
In 1861, this poem was set to music by another British clergyman, John B. Dykes (1823-1876). The composer entitled his tune, Melita, the ancient name for the island of Malta where Paul had washed ashore after his famous shipwreck (Acts 27). Dykes was the composer of several other beloved hymn tunes including Holy, Holy, Holy, Lead, Kindly Light, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, and Nearer, My God to Thee. Whiting’s poem, a prayer to the Trinity, gives us an even deeper sense of wonder for our great God who rules over wind and wave, land and sea: “Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave, / who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep, / O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea! // O Christ, whose voice the waters heard and hushed their raging at his word, / who walkedst on the foaming deep, and calm amidst its rage didst sleep, / O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea! // O Holy Spirit, who didst brood upon the chaos dark and rude, / and bid its angry tumult cease, and gave, for wild confusion, peace, / O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea! // O Trinity of love and power, our brethren shield in danger's hour / from rock and tempest, fire and foe; protect them wheresoe'er they go; / thus, evermore shall rise to thee glad hymns of praise from land and sea.”