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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

The Serpent You Will Trample Underfoot (Psalm 91:11-13)

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. ¹²On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. ¹³You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.—Psalm 91:11-13

If you’ve ever wondered where the notion of guardian angels comes from, this is it. The same idea is referenced in the Book of Hebrews. The writer begins by showing how Jesus is greater than angels and concludes with a simple summary of what angels are about: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are God’s ministers for our good—and that includes guarding our way. That is, protecting our circumstances to conform with what the Lord has willed, which doesn’t mean the absence of affliction.

Hardships will come. Suffering happens in the lives of God’s people. But it is never by accident. It is never some distant occurrence of which God is unaware. He will command his angels concerning you. If you are in the midst of the crucible, if you find yourself in the furnace of affliction, know that God is guarding you and commissioning ministering spirits for your good. Know that you will tread on the lion and the adder (Psalm 91:13).

Wait a minute. What? What does dominion—even victory—over these wild animals have to do with God guarding us with His angels?

Lions and adders and serpents are threats to our good that we will overcome. Just like the angels serve us in the will of God, so must these threats. To a coliseum of fanatic Romans, it did not appear that mauled Christians overcame the lions. They were killed, destroyed, crushed—but not ultimately. Yes, the snares of death encompassed them, the pangs of Sheol laid hold on them, they suffered distress and anguish (Psalm 116:3). And God delivered them from death that they might walk before the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 116:8–9). For the Christian, the worst affliction on this earth—mauling by lions or something worse—must only give way to inconceivable wonder: an eternity in the presence of God. (This is precisely what the apostle Paul is getting at in 2 Corinthians 4:8–14, where he quotes Psalm 116:10).

Suffering gives way to glory. And there is one more glorious point. When we live by the Bible and give ourselves to its story, we develop a "canonical consciousness" that helps us hear echoes throughout its pages. The promise of Psalm 91:13 that "the serpent you will trample underfoot" sends us back to Genesis 3:15. God told the serpent—in a promise to Adam and Eve and all humanity—that a Redeemer would come who would crush the head of the serpent. He did come.

The greatest picture of how suffering gives way to glory is the cross of Jesus. He was crucified, dead, buried. It seemed the enemy had won. The hopes of salvation for God’s people were decimated. Until Sunday morning. On Sunday morning Jesus was raised from the dead, He was declared the Son of God, He trampled the serpent underfoot—just like the promise says. And what was true of Jesus will be true of us. For the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20).


For Reflection

  1. What purpose do angels serve?

  2. How is the "threat" of wild animals turned upside down?

  3. How is Jesus a great picture of this promise?

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