Guarded From Stumbling
J. R. Miller, 1906
"My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth! He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who watches over you will not sleep. Indeed, He who watches over Israel never tires and never sleeps. The Lord Himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not hurt you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all evil and preserves your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go—both now and forever." Psalm 121:1-8
The promise of heaven is very alluring to Christian hope. But how can we get there? Seen and unseen perils beset the way, and we have no strength to defend ourselves, or to keep our lives from hurt. To meet these dangers, however, we have the promise of a Guide who is able to guard us on all the way from falling, even from stumbling—and to bring us at last unharmed, without blemish, to the door of our Father's house. "For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death." Psalm 48:14.
The Bible gives many assurances of protection to the children of God, as they pass through this world. They dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. They take refuge under the wings of God. The angels of God have special charge over them, to keep them in all their ways. A mother, after a sore bereavement which changed all her life, was grieving at having to leave the old home where everything had grown sacred. Tears filled her eyes as she took the last look at the familiar scenes—house, grounds, trees, and hills. Her little boy tired to comfort her, and as he looked out of the window of the car, he said: "Why, mother, God's sky is over us yet. It's going right along with us." We never can get beyond the blue of the heavens; we never can get out from under the shadow of the Almighty. Wherever we may have to go—we shall always have the love of God over us.
There are also promises of protection. We have the assurance that God will not allow our foot to be moved. So the divine thought extends even to our feet and to our steps, one by one. There is not an inch in all our pathway through this world, which is unwatched, on which the eye of God does not rest. The most watchful human love must sometimes close its eyes in sleep. The most loving mother must sometimes steal from the bedside of her little sick child for a minute's rest. But the divine care never slumbers nor fails, even for a moment. "He who keeps you will not slumber."
There is a stronger sense of security in knowing that someone is watching—when we cannot watch. On shipboard, when the passengers are in their berths, it cheers them to hear the call from the lookout, hour after hour, telling them that all is well. We go to our beds at night in our city homes with a quieter trust because the watchman is on his beat outside. In camp, in the enemy's country, in times of war, officers and men sleep, though there is constant danger of assault, because all night long the sentinels wake and guard the lines. In this world of danger, we need never vex ourselves with fear or anxiety—for God is watching, and He never sleeps! There is not a moment by day or by night when we are unguarded. There can be no sudden surprise or danger by which God can be taken unaware.
Physical protection is not all we need. There are those who have every comfort and luxury, a happy home, loving friends and all that is needed to give them freedom from care—and yet they are beset all the while, with other dangers of which they do not dream. The worst perils are not those which threaten our bodies. We dread accidents, which might wound us or break our limbs. We dread contagions which smite us low in sickness. We dread robbers who might carry off our treasures. But these are not the worst dangers, and being guarded from these is not the truest keeping. Sometimes robbers come in the darkness and take away money or silver or jewels from a home. But that is not the worst robbing. We may lose all our treasures—and yet be rich.
There are robbers which pick no lock and take not a dollar of treasure—yet which rob lives of possessions more precious than money or gems. We need a guardianship more watchful than that of any man. When Jesus was going away, He commended His disciples to His Father's care. He did not ask that they should be kept from suffering, from persecution, from sword or stake or dungeon. What He asked was that while in the world they should be kept from the world's evil. There is no other real peril; if we are kept from sin, nothing else can really harm us.
The keeping of our bodies and of our home is part of the divine care. But we need also spiritual keeping, and this, too, we have in the divine guardianship. "The Lord will keep you from all evil." There is really but one "evil." It is not sickness, it is not loss of money, it is not pain, and it is not sorrow. One may suffer in all these ways and not be touched by evil at any point. It is protection from evil which we need most of all, and this we have in God. When we are enjoying the greatest prosperity we are sometimes in the greatest danger. "When you see me begin to get rich, pray for my soul," said a good man to his friend. The keeping that we need most is from spiritual perils, and this we have in God.
The refuge against spiritual dangers is not built of stones. One may be in a castle, safe from all earthly assault, and yet be in the midst of enemies. God Himself is the refuge of His people. One of the great promises of the Old Testament is: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You." God is the keeper. God's omnipotence is the wall of the refuge. God's love and care are the warmth and comfort of the dwelling place. But how may we be admitted to this shelter? The promise of keeping, is for him whose mind is stayed on God. That is our part—the staying of our heart and mind upon God. That means trust.
One who had just had a wonderful proof of the divine thought and care in opening a way, said: "I wish I could learn to trust when I begin to be in need. I had a hundred evidences the last year that God is caring for me. But every time I begin to need help I get afraid, as if I had never known of God's protection." We should trust God without question, without seeing help in sight. That is what "stayed on God" means—quite confidence and implicit obedience. Then comes peace, perfect peace.
A New Testament assurance of divine keeping runs thus: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me—and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." Christ does not think of us in flocks—but as individuals, one by one, as our mothers do. In a collection of relics picked up on the field of Waterloo is a ring, set with a large pearl, and on the pearl the miniature of a beautiful girl's face. The ring was worn by some soldier in the battle, and we can think how his eyes lingered on the portrait and how it inspired him with courage as he entered the battle. Thus the Master carries our faces on a pearl of love. In all our perils, struggles, and sorrows—He has us in His heart. "I know them…They shall never perish… No one shall snatch them out of My hand."
Another word tells us that our life is "hidden with Christ in God." Love always makes a holy shelter for those it keeps in its heart. Think how the mother by her love, weaves a wall of safety about her child. Think how a friend throws about his friend, an invisible protection. So does the love of Christ surround the trusting life with an invisible protection which nothing can tear away. A Christian woman, walking alone at night, was approached by a stranger. He said, "I see you are alone." "No, sir, I am not alone; I have a friend with me." "I do not see anyone," he said, looking round. The woman quietly answered, "Jesus Christ is with me," and the man turned and fled into the darkness.
There is another word of Christ's, which brings strong assurance of safety in time of danger. "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7. Does God care for sparrows? If a little sparrow is cared for by God and is not forgotten, will He care less for one of His children? Not less—but immeasurably more!
Then there is the Master's familiar word about the numbering of our hairs, which is very suggestive. God does not count people's hairs—that is not what the word means. It means that He takes note of the smallest things in our lives, the smallest events, the smallest cares, the least dangers. Our God is great—but He knows our names and loves us individually, the least as tenderly as the greatest. His guardianship extends also to all our life, to the most insignificant circumstances and experiences.
Then we are told also that our Lord is able to guard us from stumbling. This is a great promise. We are too lenient with ourselves, and too charitable towards our own failures and falls. We set too low a standard for our own lives. We say, "No one can live perfectly," and then we hide under that confession of weakness every time we come short. Yet He is able to keep us even from stumbling. In the Te Deum is the petition, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin." This should be the Christian's prayer every morning. Though we may no reach the lofty ideal, this aspiration should never die out of our hearts. Our aim should be to live each day without sin. We do not need to yield to temptation. The mighty One is ever by us, and our power to endure is not measured by our own frail strength. He, the strong Son of God, who is ever with us—is able to guard us even from stumbling.
God does not intend to keep us from being tempted. We must all meet temptation. An untempted life is weak and insecure. But in permitting us to be tempted—God does not mean that we shall fall into sin. Temptation is not sin! When God lets us be tempted—it is that we may overcome and grow stronger.
So while heaven seems far off and while the way is full of enemies and dangers, yet no believer, not even the weakest, need perish on the way, nor fail to get home. Christ the mighty One has build a road through the world, a safe and secure road, on which all His friends may journey under His guidance and guardianship, without hurt until they enter the Father's house. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish--ever! No one can snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:28