Psalm 91: When the path ahead of you looks like it’s full of traps

I spent much of last year slowly going through Psalm 91, talking with the Holy Spirit about every word and every line. In January of this year, the Lord led me to start sharing it here, so if you’re just now joining me, I encourage you to go to the beginning of my study, because the first verse is pivotal!

This is my 9th post, and I’m up to verse 12 and 13:

They (angels) will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.


I love this first verse in particular, and I’m excited to share something very specific and timely which the Holy Spirit showed me this week.  Instead of breaking this one down by word or phrase, I’d like to share two different pictures that this verse conveys, and then show you how they fit together. 
Two weeks ago, I talked about the previous verse and what it meant when it said that He gives His angels charge over us. This verse is explaining what that charge (or responsibility) actually is. 
Let’s think about what “bear you up” actually means. It doesn’t simply mean that you’re being carried. It doesn’t mean that your hand is held. It doesn’t mean that you’re being escorted or forced to go somewhere. 
Nope, it actually continues with the “babysitter” image from the last verse, where it says He gives His angels a charge over us. This creates in my mind the image of a mother whose 18-month-old is toddling along just learning to run, and they’re off somewhere new. The ground is rough, with plenty of things that could trip the toddler to send him stumbling, so the mother is hovering… like an angel, ready to reach out at a moment’s notice to catch that toddler and bear him up in her arms.  We all know how a mother or father can reach down and swoop that child right up as they start to fall so that they don’t actually hit the ground and come to harm. That’s the kind of picking up that the phrase “bear you up” means. It’s not the same kind of picking up that you do to a bag of mulch that you bought at the store. It’s a picking up that also has an element of rescue in it. Just in time. 
But here’s the thing. The fact that a toddler could stumble is not a reflection of who he is. It’s not a reflection of his value and where he’s going in life. It’s merely a reflection of his transition period. He’s no longer completely helpless, and no longer crawling around. He’s starting to walk and run. Or maybe he’s learned to walk on steady and even ground but he hasn’t yet learned to walk on uneven ground, and that’s why the babysitter is there. 
The reality is that every learning period we go through includes opportunities to stumble.
Let’s look at this from the viewpoint of last week’s post, where the Master Gardener carefully prepares a path for us and lays the stepping stones. I’ll take you back a few days. 
I was facing some struggles at work last week.  Everything’s changed in the last few weeks, and between various decisions made by different people and still more things determined by circumstances, it kind of looks like a situation that might turn out to be a trap with no good way out. Maybe lots of them. In fact, maybe there’s almost nothing but traps ahead.   
I sat there, looking at an email, and I said, “Lord, this garden path that You’re leading me along right now… it feels like there are mosquitoes stinging me, and it looks like there are vines reaching out for my feet and lying ahead in my path, and they’ll trip me up at any moment.”
And immediately He reminded me of this next verse in Psalm 91.  
I’m definitely in a transition period in life. Again. I’m learning to walk in ways I haven’t before. Walk on ground even more uneven than I ever have before. 
But here’s the thing. The angels’ responsibility is to bear us up to avoid what?  
So that we don’t strike our foot against a stone. 
Now it’s not talking about those rare people who go out and kick a rock on purpose. It’s talking about accidents. It’s talking about stones that are unnoticed or underestimated. It’s talking about stones that are there that we’re trying to avoid, but maybe it’s hard enough to keep our balance on this shaky ground that we’re in danger of striking our foot against it anyway. Maybe we’re in danger of a disastrous fall! Good thing that if the angels aren’t supposed to let us even so much as strike our foot, then breaking bones and getting concussions is definitely on the “prevent it” list that they’ve got!
Traps and those vines that I’m talking about definitely fall into the same category!  It’s an image of anything that might send us sprawling. 
So here’s this person who has made Jesus their Lord, they’re dwelling in the protection and refuge of Almighty God, and they’re doing and confessing and trusting in all the ways that this Psalm has already talked about. And the steps that God has laid out for them include a transition period. He’s leading them through a place that requires learning to walk on ground that’s more challenging than what they’ve walked on in the past. 
That’s me. I’m standing there, looking at this uneven ground that goes through a rather wild area, and I know I’m not good at navigating this kind of thing. I don’t have the experience. I’m a toddler again in a new area.
Earlier in the week, I started feeling pressure. I can’t fail. People and the company are depending on me, even though I’ve never navigated through this kind of thing before. 
But then in an instant, through this verse, I see the security. The freedom.  I see how His burden is easy and His yoke is light. 
I can let that pressure go. People and the company might think they’re depending on me, but I am depending on God, and He said right here that if, in my stumbling efforts to learn how to walk in this kind of situation, I start to fall, He’s already assigned angels to bear me up in their hands before even my foot hits that stumbling block. 

He’s promising to protect us from our own mistakes while we’re learning! 

We can learn in safety. 

Then verse 13 goes on to say what we’ll defeat. You know what I love about the imagery in this verse? First, there are two animals that the Bible uses in a few places to symbolize the devil. He is referred to as a serpent, and he is referred to as a lion, roaming and seeking whom it may devour.  But this verse says we will trample him. Because we have the Spirit of the living God inside of us! (John 14:17) Because Jesus defeated him once and for all (Col. 2:15), and Jesus fills us completely! (Eph. 1:23)
I also love that the lion symbolizes powerful things that come against us, and the serpent symbolizes crafty or devious things that come against us. It’s saying that we will tread upon both the things with boldly come against us and try to intimidate us, and we will tread upon the things which try to sneak up on us when we least expect it. 
Isn’t that comforting and powerful?

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. – Jude 24-25

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