What can man do to me?
Psalm 56 from the daily reading in the One year Bible
Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
2 My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
5 All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They attack, they lurk,
They watch my steps,
As they have waited to take my life.
7 Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!
8 You have taken account of
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
In the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 Your vows are binding upon me, O God;
I will render thank offerings to You.
13 For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God
In the light of the living.
David, the psalmist says: In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? He does though, throughout the psalm, list the many things that mere men, his enemies have done. He says: My foes have trampled upon me all day long, For they are many who fight proudly against me… All day long they distort my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. They attack, they lurk, They watch my steps… Like the psalmist, we may have people in our lives who are against us, those who distort our words, those who either physically threaten us or emotionally intimidate and trample on us. Sometimes we might feel like it is us against the world, at least there are many who proudly fight against us.
There are two things we should always remember in those times. First as the psalmist says: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. Like the psalmist, if we will put our trust in God, if we will choose to look at Him rather than at our circumstances, we will see that while our problems and our enemies may be stronger and more numerous than we are, they are nothing compared to God. God both knows and cares about our circumstances and our situation. The psalmist says: You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? There is another important element of trusting God. Like the psalmist, we need to declare our confidence in God, even in the midst of the difficulties we face. Like the psalmist, first and foremost we should say: You have delivered my soul from death. No matter what happens, God has already given us eternal life through Christ His Son, our Savior. Nothing that happens can take that from us as long as we trust and believe. Having that confidence we also then, like the psalmist can declare both what God has done and what He will do. We can thank Him for our deliverance, even before we see it with our physical eyes. Like the psalmist we declare: Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, In the Lord, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You. For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living. To trust in God we must thank Him when we ask for the answer, not just when we receive the answer to our prayers. Jesus says: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24) Our confidence is not in what God will do, but rather in what He has already done. Jesus has already overcome the world (John 16:33) through the finished work of the cross.
The second thing we should remember when difficulties arise at the hands of others is as the psalmist says: What can man do to me? In truth our real battle, our real struggle, our real enemy is not man, it’s not other people. As Paul says in Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Our real battles are not in this physical realm. Anything that happens here is only temporary. Our real battles and our real enemy is in the spiritual realm. If we engage our enemies in this realm, we fuel the very spirit behind our trouble. In Romans 12:17-21 Paul says: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If we will love our enemies, if we will repay evil with good, then our enemies will no longer see us, but rather the Christ in us. The psalmist says: For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living. Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for all that You have done for me, for the finished work of the cross which has given me victory now and forever. May I truly live as light, as a demonstration of Your love, even to those who come against me. After all what can mere man do to me, when I consider all that You have already done. Thank You. Amen.