You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
The Psalmist concludes this section of Psalm 91, in which he has assured those who trust in the Lord that no harm will befall them, by speaking of the victory they have over the author of their troubles. He says, “You will tread upon…you will trample…” We can only walk on or over those whom we have utterly defeated. Victors walk on triumphantly, the vanquished lie down in defeat. Consider the words of Romans 8:35-37,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Note what wild and terrible beasts face us in this world. “The lion…the great lion”, “the cobra…the serpent.” The repetition stresses the seriousness of the danger. Think of Daniel thrown into a den of hungry lions. This is a beast the mere sight of which can set one’s heart racing in fear. This is an excellent image of our adversary, Satan, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We do well to trust in our God who shuts the lion’s mouth, and prohibits him from devouring His people. (See Job 1-2).
We also face a more subtle and crafty beast—the serpent. I remember one night a long time ago when the scoutmaster of our Boy Scout troop came down to the lake to tell us it was time to go to our tents. As he walked back up that dark trail, he felt something brush his leg and heard a “thump” on the trail right behind him. He turned on his flashlight, and saw that a poisonous snake had just missed striking him on the leg. That snake’s craftiness very nearly made a victim of our scoutmaster! This is an excellent image of Satan who is “more crafty than all the beasts.” He is presented under the image of a serpent in Genesis 3 as he tempts Eve, and he is shown to be a dragon in Revelation 12. The good news is that Jesus Christ resisted the Tempter’s wiles and has crushed the head of the serpent in His life, death, and resurrection (Genesis 3:15). Christ’s victory is for all those who trust in Him, but it is only in Christ. The victory belongs to those who have “made the Lord [their] dwelling.” In 1 John 5:4 we read, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith [that is, faith in Christ].”
But how can we be sure of such victory? Since our faith is often weak and wavering especially in the face of such an awful adversary, the Lord puts His signature, so to speak, to this Psalm. Until now, the Lord has been speaking words of encouragement to His people through the Psalmist. In verse 14, He speaks directly. He shows us the kind of person who can count on the safety and security assured in this Psalm, and He makes promises to such persons.
The child of God is the one who loves God. Literally, he is the one who has set his love upon God. This is one in whom the Lord has done a heart transplant, changing his heart of stone to a heart of flesh and causing him to be born again. See Ezekiel 36 and John 3. The child of God loves much because he has been forgiven much. His love for God is evidence of God’s work in him.
The child of God is also the one who knows God. There are those who make a show of seeking God, yet they fail to recognize Him when He is right in front of them because they do not know Him. It is like looking for someone you have never met in a crowd of people you do not know. But the child of God knows God. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Further, the child of God makes it his business to know God. As a child studies his father, so the child of God studies His heavenly Father by spending time in His word, in prayer, and in worship with His people.
Finally, the Lord reiterates the promises that have been explained and expounded and illustrated throughout Psalm 91. He says plainly, “I will rescue him; I will protect him.” There is hope of rescue and protection only in the Lord and nowhere else. So, when we face the wild beasts of this world, we must look upward for our deliverance.