The mighty oceans should not seem so ordinary. They should inspire awe and wonder. I know. I grew up by the Atlantic in a Maine seaport. When I stood at the shore in a storm, drenched with the thundering salt spray of crashing waves, I experienced the power at a primal level. To gaze from shore at the far horizon was to contemplate the unimaginable. To sail even a few miles from shore was to feel lost in the vastness.
The poet has written with the ocean swelling in his imagination:
Praise to the Lord,
Who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging
Biddeth them cease,
Turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.
Hymn writers have used the ocean as a metaphor in many ways. The Bible’s main marine theme is the beauty, immensity and wonder of the oceans. In Psalm 139, David reflects on God’s omnipresence and love which follows and surrounds us wherever we go, even when we try to run from Him. “Where can I flee from your presence?” David asks rhetorically. And then he answers his own question. If David tries to hide high up in heaven, or deep down in the earth, or out at the eastern horizon where the sun rises, God is there.
Then David looks one last direction, to the west, out over the seemingly endless Mediterranean. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” We, too, know the unceasing presence and unfailing comfort of God whose great love, boundless as the mighty ocean, includes us all.
John Greenleaf Whittier’s timeless poem affirms God’s mysterious, all-inclusive love:
Immortal love, forever full,
Forever flowing free,
Forever shared, forever whole;
A never-ebbing sea.
Kenneth Baillie, The War Cry