Psalm 118:6

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”

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)

Psalm 78:38

“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.”

Psalm 78 refers to the release of Israel from Egypt by God’s hand. In it, Israel’s unfaithfulness to the LORD is shown. For example, verses 35-37 say, “And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.” Though the LORD had been gracious to them, and had mightily delivered them from Egypt, yet they turned from Him and worshipped idols.

But the wonderful thing in the above verse is what it tells about God’s character. It is revealed in how He reacted to their treatment of Him. And verse 39 explains why He did what He did, “For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”

First, we are told that He is full of compassion. Or, He is merciful. Mercy is extended only where offense has occurred, it is not necessary for someone who is innocent. He was merciful to them in their sin against Him. Had God not been merciful, His justice would require punishment for their sin. Again, verse 39 explains the immediate reason for His compassion. Psalm 103:14 puts it this way, “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”

Then, because of His mercy, He forgave their iniquity. Since God is the offended party in all sin, He is the only one that can forgive it. It is wonderful to know that God is willing to forgive. When Jesus taught about forgiveness, He and Peter had a discussion. In Matthew 18:21, 22 we read, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” This kind of forgiveness is not just for us to offer. He, too, forgives to beyond 490 times. The fact is that we have all offended God so many more times than that.

Then we are told that He did not destroy them. God had made promises to Israel about the inheritance which He would give them. Had He destroyed them because of their sin, He would have been unable to keep those promises. Before He made them, He knew in what way they would sin against Him. He made a plan by which He would be able to forgive their sin. Because of this plan He did not destroy them, though surely they deserved it, and even though He had every right to do so.

Many times He turned away His anger. This is one side of a coin concerning God’s dealings with His people. He deferred His anger. We have all endured when someone, even of our family, has done something that has caused us to be angry. But as we consider what was done, and who it was that had done it, we set aside our anger for their sake. It is something we choose to do. As noted before, Jesus spoke of forgiving, and told Peter that he should forgive many times. Here, God turned away His anger many times. He deferred His righteous anger against them.

And, many times He did not stir up all His wrath. This is the other side of the coin. When He did move with anger, He did not stir up all His wrath. In Ezra 9:13, Ezra said, “And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this…” Judah was back in the land that God had given them after seventy years of captivity. Ezra brought up the obvious. They had received less than what their iniquities deserved.

God says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is not only physical death, but it is also spiritual death, or separation from Him in Hell. This is why Jesus died. He took in mankind’s place the punishment that they deserve for sin. This was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world. And on this basis God can show the mercy and forgiveness that is His nature. Since His wrath was poured out on Jesus, His justice was satisfied. Sadly, not everyone receives the sacrifice of Jesus as being for them. But, for those that do there is mercy, grace, forgiveness, and assurance of eternal life.

In Romans 5:6-10 Paul said, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

As David said in Psalm 32:1, 2, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”

This is Who God is, compassionate, gracious, and forgiving. It is He that planned, even before creating us, to reconcile mankind to Himself through Jesus Christ!

Great God of wonders! all Thy ways

Display Thine attributes divine;

But the bright glories of thy grace

Above Thine other wonders shine:


Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Such deep transgressions to forgive!

Such guilty sinners thus to spare!

This is Thy grand prerogative,

And in this honor none shall share:


Pardon, from an offended God!

Pardon, for sins of deepest dye!

Pardon, bestowed through Jesus’ blood!

Pardon, that brings the rebel nigh!

CHORUS (Samuel Davies)