Psalm 107:23
Others went out to sea in ships, conducting trade on the mighty waters.
Prayer and ScienceCharles KingsleyPsalm 107:23
Men and MercyHomilistPsalm 107:1-31
God's Watchful CareC. Short Psalm 107:1-43
Wherefore Men Should Praise the LordS. Conway Psalm 107:1-43
Four Portraits of One SoulS. Conway Psalm 107:4-32
A Plea for SailorsJ. G. Rogers, D.D.Psalm 107:23-31
At Their Wit's EndJ. Thew.Psalm 107:23-31
Distressed Seamen and the Sovereign of the SeaHomiletic MagazinePsalm 107:23-31
Lessons from the Ocean in a StormHomilistPsalm 107:23-31
On the Stormy SeaD. J. Burrell, D.D.Psalm 107:23-31
Sending Up a Signal of DistressPsalm 107:23-31
Soul NavigationHomilistPsalm 107:23-31
The Christian MarinerT. Kelly, D. D.Psalm 107:23-31
The Voyage of LifeD. Roberts, D.D.Psalm 107:23-31
Through Stress of WeatherT. Spurgeon.Psalm 107:23-31
When At Wit's EndPsalm 107:23-31

Men are much more ready to pray than to give thanks; to express their desires than to recognize the response made to their desires. Men fail in gratitude rather than in petition. Therefore do the apostles specially urge this grace, and require its cultivation by the Christian disciples (see Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; Hebrews 13:15). The call to thanksgiving is the refrain of the palm. Man is seen to gain no blessing save through the ministry of him who is the "Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift." And man's sin is seen to be restraining his lips, and failing to make due recognition of "grace abounding." A life full of God's benedictions should be a life full of God's praise. In this text the general duty is presented under two figures.

I. THANKSGIVING AS A SACRIFICE. The peculiarity of a sacrifice is that it is a silent act. It is something a man does which has its own voice, and need not be accompanied with any words. When the old Jew brought his animal to the priest, according to the rules of the Mosaic ritual, he did not need to say anything by way of explanation. The priest perfectly understood what he meant. Some act of Divine mercy was filling him with thankfulness, and his offering found for it expression. Philip Henry puts this sharply: "Thanksgiving is a good thing, thanksgiving is a better." The self-offered in sacrifice speaks our gratitude to the listening ear of God. A man can show himself grateful by his manner of life. Bouar prays -

"Fill thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy Being and thy Ways.

"Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e'en the praising heart,
I ask but for a life made up
Of praise in every part." I beseech you therefore that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice; so says St. Paul. And it is to be a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

II. THANKSGIVING AS A TESTIMONY. "Tell out his works with gladness." Here thanksgiving is a voiceful act. "I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." "Praise is the only employment in which self finds no part. In praise we go out of ourselves, and think only of him to whom we offer it. It is the most purely disinterested of all services." - R.T.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.
Homiletic Magazine.
I. GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE SEA. Behind the laws there is the Lawgiver. Behind the force of the winds and waves there is the Force of all forces — the great God. To regard God as the Ruler of the sea is —

1. Philosophical.

2. Scriptural.

3. Assuring. We know His will is good. We bow reverently before the mystery, and wait for more light.

II. MAN'S IMPOTENCY WHEN THE SEA REBELS AGAINST HIM. But even when impotent, and defeated by the warring elements, man is greater than they; for he is conscious of his impotence and defeat, while they know not of their triumph.

III. MAN'S RESOURCE WHEN THE SEA REBELS AGAINST HIM. When all else fails, prayer to God is left. But is it only when you are at your wit's end that you cry unto God? What right have you to expect that He whom you seek only when you are in trouble wilt answer your selfish cry?

IV. GOD'S ANSWER TO MAN'S CRY. God does not always literally allay the storm, and save from it those who cry unto Him. He, however, calms the inward tempest, so that the waves of anxiety and terror are still.


1. God's gracious doings for man are wonderful.

2. Men are prone to overlook God's gracious doings for them.

3. Men are under the most sacred obligations to celebrate the gracious doings of God for them.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

I. THE SHIP SAILS FORTH. Life is a voyage. We all go down to the sea in ships, to a life of mystery and danger, of glorious privilege and responsibility. Our hearts are full of happiness as of new wine. Rejoice, O young man, but remember, be mindful of the sublime things.

II. THE WIND RISES. Has it come to you already? Has there been a turn in your prosperity? Are things going wrong? Is it sickness, bereavement, financial stringency? Are the winds whistling through the cordage? Fear not! God holds the trident; the winds are in His fist. There are some anchors that will hold in the fiercest stress OF Euroclydon. One is the Wisdom of God. There is nothing that happens without His cognizance. No storm comes haphazard. God understands the end from the beginning; and He makes no mistakes. Another is God's Goodness. He doth not afflict willingly. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. But never too much.

III. THE SAILORS ARE AT THEIR WIT'S END. In the margin it is, "All their wisdom is swallowed up." Then there is hope! For when I am weak, then am I strong. My strength is made perfect in weakness.

IV. THEY ARE ON THEIR KNEES. Our Lord said that men ought always to pray and riot to faint. But alas, men do not always pray. They will not. But they pray when the storm breaks. And, strange to tell, God is willing to hear even the cry of desperation. He is of great lovingkindness and forbearance. For some men prayer is their vital breath, their native air. To others it is like the bell in the coal-mine, used only in time of danger.

V. THE STORM IS ASSUAGED. The rule, after all, is fair weather. The storm, rage it never so fiercely, will soon be spent. Our "light afflictions" are "but for a moment." Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. There is no night without a dawn.

VI. THE SHIP SAILS IN. In that day the sorest troubles of the earthly life will seem insignificant as we look back upon them. We shall understand then what the apostle meant when he called our afflictions "light," and spoke of them as "enduring but for a moment." It will be in our hearts to bless God for all the storms and the trials.

(D. J. Burrell, D.D.)


1. Our vessel is weak. Many have been shattered by striking on comparatively small rocks, and many have been wrecked by only just changing the tack from prosperity to adversity, or sometimes from scarcity to abundance. Others have been wrecked through too much joy, too weak to bear it; whilst the sorrows of this world have worked death to a vast multitude so weak that they are "crushed before the moth."

2. The sea is rough. Where are those that set out from the same port — nursed on the same hearth with us? Many have been crushed by the storms, but very few, comparatively, are still afloat.

3. Our course lies among rocks. Many have been stranded, but, obtaining timely help, have been prevented from becoming a wreck. It is but seldom we find any one who has not undergone some repairs at the hands of a physician. Some have been in dock a long time, and, being wonderfully restored, have been launched again into the deep. But others are seen being dashed to pieces by some disease or other; and it is a sad sight to see any one striking upon those rocks, and every blow carrying away part of the vessel, as it were, until at last the sides of the ship are laid bare.

4. The weather is foggy and dark. We know not on leaving our homes what will befall us before we return. And our safety so long is not to be attributed to our own care and foresight, but "having obtained help of God we continue unto this day."


1. An abundant supply of stores. They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

2. Ballast in the ship to keep her from capsizing. Many have made shipwreck for the want of it. "In time of temptation they fall away." But if the fear of God be in the heart they will withstand every squall, as Joseph did in Egypt.

3. A chart to sail by. The Word of God is the rule which tells us where every danger lurks, and also how to avoid it.

4. A compass to steer by. Although the believer's vessel is tossed by the waves quite as much as any other vessel, her prow now in this direction, now in that, yet there is a principle of rectitude which governs him; he knows what point to sail for and what direction to take in the midst of all weathers.

5. A quadrant to take observations. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen."

6. A light fixed wherever there is moral danger.

7. Means of constant communication with the shore.

(D. Roberts, D.D.)


1. The Christian voyager, like the mariner, looks daily for guidance to his great Teacher in the heavens. The lights and landmarks along the coasts of Christian attainment; his frames and feelings, comparing himself with others, etc., which are the main guides of the religions coaster, are all discarded, and the Sun of Righteousness becomes his great Teacher and Guide.

2. He is a close student of his chart — the Bible. How it inspires courage and strengthens hope!


1. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is his indispensable and most constantly trusted guide, to be obeyed in darkness and storm, as well as in sunshine and calm.

2. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is easily deranged, and if not frequently tested may lead him astray. The question is not, therefore, have you been faithful in following your conscience, but have you been faithful in testing your conscience by the Sun of Righteousness?

3. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is more or less influenced by early associations. We can never permanently settle ourselves from the effects of the moral direction in which our prow was set, or the spiritual atmosphere that surrounded the laying and shaping of our keel. Because of these great channels and laws of influence no two Christians look out upon the sphere of duty from exactly the same standpoint; and we need nothing so much as charity to enable us to patiently meet and rightly construe the opinions and conduct of others, who, though perhaps equally conscientious, may not be able to see eye to eye with us in many things pertaining to Christian character and conduct.

4. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is frequently deranged by something taken on board. Especially is that Christian in danger who is greatly prospered in temporal matters, and wields a sort of sovereignty over all manner of wares. It indicates great strength and purity of character when such persons remain humble, conscientious, and loyal to God.

5. The Christian voyager, like the mariner, sails by his compass, though he cannot explain the mystery that surrounds it. There are mysteries about the compass which the ordinary sailor never attempts to explain or understand. He becomes possessed of its benefits, not by solving its mysteries, but by following its guidance. So the Christian's safety is secured not by understanding everything, but by obedience to Divine teaching. Hence, although surrounded by mystery, he sails by faith.

6. The Christian who, like the mariner, tests and sails by his compass, is daily nearing his desired haven. "Land ahead." "Its fruits are waving o'er the hills of fadeless green."

(T. Kelly, D. D.)

I. ITS WEATHER IS FOULER TO SOME THAN TO OTHERS. This difference is partly necessary and partly moral. A man's condition in life depends greatly both upon his temperament and upon the external circumstances under which he has been brought up. Some have temperaments that are impulsive and tempestuous; others gentle and pacific. Some are surrounded by circumstances suited to soothe and to please, others by those tending ever to agitate and distress. This difference in the temperaments and circumstances of men, whilst it reveals the sovereignty of that God who arranges human affairs after the counsel of His own will, should at the same time dispose us to act with tender consideration in all our intercourse with our fellow-men. But there is a morality in this difference that should not be overlooked. Men have power to rule in a great measure their own temperaments, and control their own circumstances. The man to whom God has given the most fiery passions He has given corresponding intellect for control.

II. IT EXPOSES TO TERRIBLE DISASTERS. How many souls are shipwrecked every day! They go down into the abysses of passion, worldliness, impiety.

III. THERE NEED BE NO SHIPWRECKS. In all cases man is responsible for them.

1. He has an infallible chart — a chart which reveals life true to eternal fact. There is not a danger it does nob expose. It draws the very line over which you should sail if you would sail safely and meet a prosperous end. It tells you how to avoid all the perils lying beneath the wave, how to escape the fierce hurricanes, how to sail through peaceful seas and into sunny climes.

2. He might have a safe anchorage (Hebrews 6:19).

3. He might have an all-sufficient captain — Christ.


The sight of the ocean in a storm serves —

I. To impress us with THE MAJESTY OF GOD. Perhaps there is no spectacle in nature so overwhelmingly grand as that of the ocean when lashed into fury with the tempest. How great is God!

II. To awe us with OUR UTTER HELPLESSNESS. How powerless we feel in the presence of such wild majesty! Such a sight may well take the egotism out of man, and bury it in the abysses of forgetfulness for ever. "What is man?" etc.

III. To inspire us with SYMPATHY FOR MARINERS. How many brave men, who fight our battles, who enrich our markets, who diffuse our civilization and religion, will go down in that storm!


The Roman poet has celebrated in familiar verse the courage of the heroic pioneer of civilization — the man who first trusted his fragile barque to the treacherous sea. In what striking contrast to this solitary man — brooding over the unknown possibilities of that wide and unexplored world of waters, at once inviting and alarming him, until at length his final resolve was taken and his daring venture made are the vast multitudes who to-day do business in the great waters! They include men of all nationalities who find a point of common interest in their love for the free and daring life of the sailor. They have habits, tastes, tendencies peculiar to themselves. If we would realize how much we owe to them, let us try to imagine the island deprived of their services. That all the luxuries which are drawn to our markets from all the provinces of the world would at once be withdrawn would be a comparatively small matter, and yet that loss would be felt as seriously even by classes who are not generally regarded as consumers of luxuries. For under that term must be included many things to which even those of very moderate means have become so accustomed that they esteem them necessaries of life. But the mischief would not end here. The supplies even of the staff of life would be curtailed and before very long would cease altogether. Nor would this exhaust our calamities. We export as well as import. Our little island is the centre of a vast trade which has the world for its circumference, and at every point of importance we have our representatives. The peculiar treasures of all countries are attracted to us, and our prosperity, in truth, our very existence, depends on the maintenance of that complicated network of communications which unites us with all peoples, making us at once their debtors and creditors. Needless to insist on the passionate feeling with which England regards her empire of the sea. The sentiment has been cultivated so long, and has sunk so deep into the national heart, that it seems now to be a rooted and invincible instinct. The most popular among our national songs are songs of the sea. The most stirring incidents in our national struggles are stories of the sea. The most popular of our heroes are those whose laurels have been won on the sea. The heart of the Englishman glows with pride and gratitude as he remembers the great deliverances wrought for the nation by the gallant men who won for us the supremacy of the seas. But their services are equally great in the works of peace. There are few classes who contribute more to the fabric of national wealth and greatness than those who go down to the sea in ships. These men see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. They have a great commission with nature, and with nature in some of her most impressive and majestic scenes of which dwellers in the crowded streets of great cities know nothing. It has been said that an undevout astronomer is mad. The same might be said with much more truth of the undevout sailor. He may be said to live in the presence of the Infinite. Grandeur, majesty, mystery, are around him continually. He is away from those displays of human arrogance and conceit which hide from so many the presence and the work of God. Under few, if any, conditions is there so much to make him feel how little and how feeble man is; how great and unsearchable is God. Did we not know so much of the deceitfulness of the human heart and understand how soon familiarity with the most impressive spectacles will weaken, and step by step, by little and little, ultimately destroy their power, we might think that the effect of such scenes must be to induce faith and reverence. But where the sight of these wonders does not soften it will certainly harden; when the sailor is not devout, the danger is lest he become profane. He does not remain merely negative; he grows reckless, daring, unbelieving. Let it not be forgotten, further, that the peculiar conditions of his life withdraw him from a multitude of influences which tell in favour of godliness. It is true that the temptations which beset the path of others are during a large part of his time absent from him; but then, on the other hand, when they do assail him, they come with peculiar severity. A period of liberty, apt to degenerate into licence, has succeeded the severe restraint under which he is confined. He is thrown into the companionship of those who desire to lead him astray, without any experience of their wiles, or probably without any friend to supply the necessary word of warning. He feels as though some measure of indulgence were due to him in compensation for the perils and privations of months. Thus even his comparative exemption from the common seductions of life only becomes a source of graver spiritual danger in the time of recreation he spends ashore. When to this is added the loss of the advantages resulting from the influences and associations of home, it will be seen that he is in a position calling for special sympathy and help. For us who rejoice in the blessings of the Gospel and would fain give them to all, what remains but that we give our special thought and care to our brethren who go down to the sea in ships.

(J. G. Rogers, D.D.)

At their wit's


Then they cry unto the Lord. —

"At their wit's end": — Nothing is more certain, or calls for more grateful acknowledgment, than the ready and merciful interpositions of God in our seasons of exceptional weakness and need. Nothing, perhaps, of a romantic kind attached to the circumstances in which we were placed; it was in the routine of trade rather than amid the excitements of travel; in the safe places of life, and not among gloomy cells or staggering ships, when, face to face with a yet very authentic extremity, we "cried unto the Lord, and He delivered us out of our distresses:" It is human to "cry aloud" to God when we feel ourselves in the hands of forces we cannot control, when resource of power or of knowledge is exhausted. But when men practically only "cry unto the Lord" in moments such as these; when they only claim the friendship and help of God when all else has failed; when these words set forth an habitual state, "At their wit's end, then —!" well, I will put the matter mildly, and say, this is serious. This is to reduce the Divine friendship to the low level of a mere selfish convenience, and, on the whole, to be rather more dishonourable before God than we would like to be before our fellow-man. The great mistake lies in supposing — and, indeed, sometimes in actually teaching — that our need of God is greatest in the critical moment of our lives. We are supposed to be fairly equal to the ordinary strain, or that the ordinary strain is in some way provided for. It is in the great trials we think, as their merciless grasp fastens round us, that we stand in direst need of Divine assistance. Thus we say to men, "How will you do when sickness overtakes you? If your child should die, or you yourself be called upon to step down into the valley, how will you do without God then?" Badly enough, I should say. But can there be any question that it is not at such times we are tempted to forget God? In a passionate crisis the problem solves itself. It is in the common uneventful days, in the regular routine of daily life, amid faces, and scenes, and duties familiar to us as the light of the morning, it is here that the real difficulty lies. There is no question about crying to God "out of the depths." It is not in the "depths," it is in the long level flats that most men's danger lies.

(J. Thew.)

I. HOW SLOW MEN ARE TO PRAY IN PROSPERITY. It may be written down as an axiom, that "prosperity prevents prayer." Thank God it is an equally true axiom that "adversity prompts prayer."

1. We are apt to become careless of Divine things when prosperity smiles upon us.

2. There is also a danger of becoming absorbed in the business that is thus blessing you. The more we have, the more, as a rule, we want.

3. Prosperity, too, is prone to make us lose our sense of dependence upon God. The ballast of adversity is not to be despised.

II. HOW READY MEN ARE TO PRAY IN ADVERSITY. "Then" is a very commonplace adverb of time, but it is wonderfully expressive. Not till they were obliged to in any of these cases, not till pressed by utmost need did they cry. Not till they got to the end of the creature did they appeal to the Creator.

1. This truth, sad as it is, is noticeable in the case of temporal troubles. Those who have been thoughtless till the trouble came upon them, and prayerless too, begin to think and to pray as soon as the grief afflicts them. Thank God for the griefs that make us pray, for the troubles that drive us to the mercy-seat. Thank God that He sometimes takes the Aeolian harp and puts it where the rough winds blow, for it would remain mute did not the breezes sweep through its strings.

2. Sometimes it is in spiritual matters that this experience comes to us. Do not despair; cry loudly to God, plead the merit and death of Christ, and He will save you out of your troubles.

III. HOW WILLINGLY THE LORD HEARS THE PRAYER. True, it was belated; true, it was a small compliment to God to pray only when one was driven to it, but it does not seem to me as if God minded even that, so gracious and generous is He. He seems to say, "You are late in coming, but it is better late than never. I will heal you, I will deliver you." He does not reproach, He does not refuse, He does not even delay. They have been long in asking, but He is quick in saving.

(T. Spurgeon.)

"Most that are acquainted with God are taken in the briars. Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh had never heard of many, if their necessities had not brought them to Him."

Wearied and worn, suffering from "brain-fag," from the strain of incessant service through the winter season, Brother C — and I set sail from Old England on the 22nd of May, bent on availing ourselves of the advantages of enforced rest en voyage, and change of scenery and associations on the Continent. Five days later, we were nearing the north coast of Germany. A wild wind and a "choppy sea kept us later than usual on deck. Driven by sheer weariness, I retired to my berth at two o'clock in the morning; but not for long. At five I was ruthlessly roused by my friend, "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God." "What's the matter?" I inquired. "We have run aground, and can't move." Hurrying up to the captain's bridge, we found him the picture of anxiety. We were (in the wrong sense) "steadfast, unmovable" — of this there was little doubt. For three hours had the captain been trying to "go ahead," then "astern," but not an inch could he move the good ship; and with one thousand two hundred tons of cargo aboard, we were evidently getting more and more deeply embedded in the sandbank. We wanted sixteen feet of draught to float us, and had but nine. As well might we try to float a "heavy-laden" sinner into the kingdom of grace on the shallow doctrines so common to-day, as to steer our ship over this sandbank. At length the captain bade "Jack" run up the signal for help. Friend C —caught at the idea, and seizing me by the arm, said, "I think we will get to our cabin, and fake the hint." There we retired, and "sent up the signal for help." Presently, addressing the steward, C — asked, "Did you feel the vessel move?" "Not likely," he replied, "after sticking here three hours." Turning to the mate, C — put the same question, with a similar result, "Not likely! What do you land-lubbers know about it?" Just then the vessel fairly lurched. "Did she move, mate?" "Yes," said he, with an astonished air; "but I can't understand it." By this time a tug from the coast was bearing down upon us, but reversed her course as our captain lowered his signal. When we again mounted his bridge, he was almost beside himself with joy to think we had slidden bodily off the bank, and were once more steaming into the Channel. "I am thankful we're off; but I can't understand it a little; it completely puzzles me." Said friend C —, "Shall we explain it, captain? We are firm believers in the efficacy of prayer; and seeing your trouble, we just now took your unintentional hint, and sent up a signal for help. Do you never resort to prayer in the midst of trouble, captain? God has said, 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.'"

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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