“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)
At first, this verse may bring an “Amen” from those that read it. The LORD is on my side! What could be better than that? It reminds of what Paul told the Romans in Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
The second half of this verse may also give rise to agreement. That is, until we discover first-hand what man can do unto us. History reveals that men can be and have been very cruel unto their fellow men. Psalm 118 is among the writings of the Jews who believed on the LORD. The history of mankind with the Israelites is not kind, and ought to be an embarrassment. The things that they have endured, even in the Old Testament times, are harsh beyond description. “…what can man do unto me?”
But hear what Jesus told His disciples as recorded in Luke 12:4 and 5, “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” This is what the writer of Psalm 118 expressed. The fear of the LORD is more important than the fear of man. Jesus told them, and us today, that they were not to fear men.
What can man do unto us? Plenty! But the worst that they can do is to kill the body. This is something we do fear. Perhaps not while we are sitting and reading our email. But at those times when we feel that we are threatened we do fear. As someone once said, “It’s not that I am afraid to die. Just, how fast!” But Jesus said that after they have done so, there is nothing else that men can do. And, the death of the body is not the end. Jesus said that the One we should fear is the One Who has the power to cast into Hell. When He was on earth, Jesus spoke more often about Hell than He did about Heaven. It is a real place, and to be avoided.
Consider how mankind treated Jesus, as told in Mark 14:65 and Mark 15:19, “And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.”, “And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.” He was also arrested by a mob, beaten with whips, and subjected to a mock trial, hung on a cross by nails, and much more. It is no wonder that He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39) Certainly the LORD, His Father, was on Jesus side, and He went eyes-wide-open to the cross, fearing His Father more than man.
The writer of this psalm spoke of the LORD being on his side. The worst men can do is to kill the body. As he put it, “What can man do unto me?” As awful as mankind can be in their treatment of their fellow man, eternal things are waiting, and to be headed for Heaven is eternally better than what this life has to offer. With the LORD on his side, he need not fear eternal torment in Hell.
That mankind will treat His followers the way treated Jesus is seen in Luke 6:22, 23 where Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” Rejoice, He told His disciples, because your reward in heaven is great!
When the sacrifice of the LORD Jesus Christ is applied to the lives of believers, God is on their side. Our eternal state is secure and is glorious beyond our knowing. What can man do unto me? They can kill the body, but after that there is nothing more that they can do. Eternal blessings are as certain as God’s promise. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38, 39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:50, 53-57 Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. …this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”
The Lord appears my helper now,
Nor is my faith afraid
What all the sons of earth can do,
Since Heav’n affords its aid.
’Tis safer, Lord, to hope in Thee,
And have my God my friend,
Than trust in men of high degree,
And on their truth depend.
Like bees my foes beset me round,
A large and angry swarm;
But I shall all their rage confound
By Thine almighty arm.
’Tis through the Lord my heart is strong,
In Him my lips rejoice;
While His salvation is my song,
How cheerful is my voice! (Isaac Watts)