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Tony's Reflection 18
How much of a risk taker are you?
I hate taking risks. When I go for a walk, even in the English countryside, I make sure I stomp my feet, so any snakes hear me coming and slither away. When I go for a paddle abroad (never too deep in the water, mind you) I wear sandals in case there are stinging fish in the sand under my feet.
If there is a safe choice to make, that will be mine.
Our verse from Psalm 91 for today sounds like a risktakers charter. Sheer craziness if you are naturally cautious. Just take a look…
"You will tread upon the lion and the cobra, you will trample the young lion and the dragon.” (verse 13)
What kind of crazy person goes walking over lions and snakes? If it is sensible to let sleeping dogs lie, then surely you do the same with lions and snakes. You don't go walking all over them.
Let's take a closer look at this verse. It’s not as crazy as it might seem …
Previously, the psalm has shown us how God keeps us safe "in our tents", i.e. at home. Then it showed we are just as protected, as we go out and about, living our day-to-day lives.
We saw last week how God commands his angels to protect us. As we go walking, they lift us up so we do not stub our toes on a stone.
Today's verse brings us further pictures, to show how they keep us safe.
There are two scenes being painted here. The first is of us "treading" on creatures and the second is "trampling" on them. Don't forget we are talking poetry here. It isn't about literal cruelty to animals. We don't need to call the RSPCA.
We'll zoom in first on the "treading" image.
In this scene, you are happily walking along, blissfully unaware of dangers in your path.
You didn't see that sleeping lion in front of you and as you pass by you tread on its paw. The lion wakes up with a roar and fixes its fiery eyes on you, with a snarl …
You didn't see the poisonous snake, either. It was so well camouflaged. You felt something a little strange underfoot. As you look down, you see the snake rear up, ready to bite, fangs dripping venom …
Aren't there times in life when we can just blunder into danger? We are minding our own business, not harming anyone or anything. Suddenly, we find we have done something dangerous. Disaster is looming. What happens?
What happened in our Bible verse? Did the lion attack or the snake bite? Not a bit of it. You just walked over them unharmed. Nothing happened at all. It should have done. You ought to have met your end, but you walk on safely blissfully unaware.
Such is God's protection of you. You don't see the danger. The angels commanded to look after you do see it, though. And they keep you safe.
The next scene gets seriously crazy. Here, you are not accidentally treading on something. You are stomping these dangerous creatures to death, so they can't harm you.
This is strong imagery, here.
You are trampling down the "young lion". The original Hebrew word used in the psalm for "young lion" does not mean a cute, cuddly little lion cub. It's used for a lion that is old enough to have a mane. In other words, it is young and vigorous, as opposed to old and decrepit. Strong and dangerous…
The poetic image of the dragon is also of an even larger, more ferocious and far more dangerous creature.
If you saw a lion or a dragon ahead of you, natural instinct would be to scarper or hide. In this verse, though, you trample them to death, almost as easily as you might squash a troublesome spider.
In the previous scene, you were delivered from the danger. In this one, you face it and you stomp it out yourself.
Do you do this because you are big and brave? Not quite. You do this because you know God is with you and protecting you. He wants you to triumph over this danger. That is what makes you become brave and strong, as you tackle it head-on and utterly destroy it.
Many dangers and threats will come against you. Sometimes God rescues you from them. He lifts you over them and you escape unscathed. The anticipated "worst" does not happen.
Sometimes the "worst" does happen. You will have to face things which others would just want to run away from. These things are ferocious and terrifying. They would normally scare you witless, like a lion or dragon in your path.
Could you trample a lion or dragon, on your own? You couldn't even lift your foot high enough, to begin to think about it. Yet in this second scene of verse 13, you are given the strength to do just that.
The time will come when something rises up against you in your path. Something too strong for you to overcome, by yourself. Too strong for you, in your own strength.
With God's strength in you and his protection over you, you can trample it.