Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip. (Psalm 17:4–5—NKJV)

Steady steps are a good thing. Remember times when your steps were not so steady? We have all had the childish experience of running lickety-split along, filled with vim and vigor, only to unceremoniously trip over some tiny obstacle. Down we go, destined to spend the next excruciating moments scrubbing gravel out of our scrapes. A few years later our teenage bodies have outgrown our coordination, and bounding up the steps unthinkingly can be a mighty embarrassment. Then, as age begins to take its toll, our steps become more tentative for the sake of unsure balance, failing eyesight, and waning strength. The fear of a fall compresses the confidant steps we once had.

Our text speaks of steady steps as opposed to slipping, sliding, sloppy, or slouchy steps. Years ago, our youth group of teenagers took a trip to the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It is a steep, deep, tree-lined ravine carved by a river between two mountain ranges. There were four trails, ranging from easy to downright dangerous, that a hiker could take to the bottom of the ravine, as I recall. Our impetuous group chose the steepest of the possibilities. Over the side we went and quickly lost the trail in the fallen leaves. We slid en-mob, only slowing our rapid decent by grasping from one tree to the next. Over the dirt, grit, sticks, and deadfalls, we went all the way to the bottom of the canyon. The trip back to the top took a bit longer! I think we slept well that night.

To “slip” is to move smoothly, to slide, or to glide. It brings to mind the idea of slick, muddy, rain-soaked ground. Any foot travel over it will be a tough slog. Hebrew terms that are translated by our word “slip” range from “to waver, shake, totter” (as in Psalm 17:5), to “smoothness” (Psalm 35:6: “Let their way be dark and slippery, and let the angel of the Lord pursue them”), and “to be poured out, slip” (Psalm 73:2: “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped”).

In the context of the Scriptures, the slipping step was not a simple kid-foible or a carefree afternoon of “slip-slidey” fun, it was in the context of a warrior, not to mention that David had gained his appreciation for steady steps over many shepherding miles. Slipping steps rob the warrior of traction in forward movement, successful defensive parries, and decisive, authoritative blows.

David knew the danger inherent in losing his footing in the presence of his enemy as he states in Psalm 38:15–16, “For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God. For I said, ‘Hear me, lest they rejoice over me, lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.’” This is a worthy cry for steady steps for the New Testament saint so that the Name of Jesus Christ may not suffer. Psalm 94:17–19 reads, “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence. If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Likewise, this prayer should usher up from every believer’s heart as he puts on the whole armor of God, and having his feet shod with the “hobnailed” soles of the “preparation of the Gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

David further says in Psalm 18:35–36, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, so that my feet did not slip.” It is God who sustains, upholds, and clears the path for your feet. Are you firmly walking in His paths and praying for steady steps in our uncertain times? Trust and obey.