Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand the precariousness of our position as believers here on Earth. For example, one morning a few years ago I was carrying a basket of dirty laundry out to our washing machine. Like many modest homes in Mexico, our laundry is outside. At the last minute my then 2 year old came running up, wanting a “ride” in the laundry basket. I picked him up and off we went around the house. I was bouncing him around as we walked and suddenly I tripped over a loose paving stone. Down we went, quick as a flash.

My only thought was to try and land under Aidan so he wouldn’t be injured in the fall. I did, coming down with a thud that knocked the wind out of me on the edge of the concrete pad our laundry sits on. I banged up my left arm and leg and jammed the toenail on my left big toe back under the skin of my toe. The way it hurt, I thought I had broken it. Miraculously, Aidan stayed in the laundry basket, and the clothing cushioned his fall. Aside from the scare he emerged unharmed.  Soon he was laughing about it and helping his mom patch me up.

While reading this Psalm, I thought of our tumble that day  and thanked the Lord again for protecting my son. But why did I fall? Didn’t the Lord say that He would not let my foot slip?

“Oh it was just an accident,” you say. “Don’t make a big deal out of it.” But the Lord’s promises are either good or they’re not. What’s going on here?

Here’s what I think the problem was. Another missionary had gone off in a direction that had the potential to divide the Christian community here, and I was upset about it. During the shower I had taken just before doing the laundry, I had been doing some venting to myself, and got a little steamed up in more ways than one.

My anger was a sin, and I hadn’t asked for forgiveness. In that instant I was out of fellowship, fair game for the enemy’s mischief.  He couldn’t do any serious damage, but he could take advantage of the momentary gap in my defenses to trip me up. Don’t blame him. He’s our enemy. That’s what he does. It was my fault for letting my guard down.

Just as Job’s self-righteousness left him open to attack, so had my anger exposed me. And the ever vigilant enemy saw the opening I had given him. Aidan had no such problem and his angels kept the laundry basket beneath him even though the law of gravity says he should have spilled out on the concrete with me.

God didn’t break His promise to me, and neither did my little tumble catch Him asleep at the wheel. My sin put me out of fellowship and left me open to attack. And God, Who is righteous, had to permit me to experience the consequences of my behavior.

We Christians are big on holding the Lord accountable for His promises to us, but when it comes to being Holy as He is Holy, we have a lot to learn. One thing is that staying in fellowship is critical. The way we do that is to invoke 1 John 1:9 when we’ve sinned. It’s the Christian’s bar of soap and cleans us up again. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If you’re like me, you claim that promise frequently. And as soon as you do, the promise of Psalm 121 becomes operative again.

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