Theme: No Fear of Man
In this week’s lessons, we see that this psalm reminds us of the need to trust and praise God always.
Scripture: Psalm 118:6, 8, 9, 17, 27-29
Psalm 118 is a psalm in which individual verses literally leap out at us. In last week's study we looked at verses that strike us in regard to Jesus Christ and his passion. In this study I want to look at four more verses that strike us for different reasons.
The first verse that strikes us forcefully is verse 6. It is quoted in the New Testament in Hebrews 13:6, and is also found in a quite similar form in Psalm 56:4 and 11. It is that psalm's theme. Psalm 118:6 reads,
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
When we were studying Psalm 56, I replied to that question by answering, “A lot!" What can man do to me? Men can oppress, slander, hurt, hate, maim and murder me, for starters, just as they did the martyrs. But that is not what either Psalm 56 or Psalm 118 is emphasizing. These psalms are saying that although evil people can do very evil things, in the end they cannot really harm us because our lives are preserved by God.
We should recall that when David wrote Psalm 56 he was close to being a prisoner of the Philistines in Gath. He had been forced to escape from King Saul because Saul was trying to kill him; had gone to Nob, one of the towns of the priests, where Ahimelech, the head priest, assisted him by giving him food and a weapon; and because he was not safe there, he had gone on to Gath. David must have been absolutely desperate to do it.
Why? Because Gath was the hometown of Goliath, whom David had killed not long before, and because he entered Gath with Goliath's great sword, which is the weapon Ahimelech had given him. The sword is not described in the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. But the account says that Goliath was over nine feet tall and that his body armor and bronze javelin were unusually large and heavy. His sword must have been large, too. So it would have been remembered by the people of Gath and have been recognized by them, not with kind thoughts toward the one who carried it. There are only two ways any sane man would walk into Gath under those conditions: either in arrogance or desperation. Since we know from the psalm that David was afraid rather than arrogant, he must have gone to Gath in near despair.
Moreover, when David arrived in Gath his presence was reported at once to Achish, the king of Gath. The people told Achish, “Isn't this David, the king of the land? Isn't he the one they sing about in their dances:
“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands'?” (1 Sam. 21:11).
Those "tens of thousands” were Philistines, and some of the former residents of Gath (as well as Goliath) were among them. Thus we are not surprised to read in the next sentence that David “was very much afraid” (Ps. 56:12).
Yes, but he was trusting God, too, and this is what the psalms are about when they say, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Ps. 56:4, 11) and “the LORD is with me; I will not be afraid” (Ps. 118:6). They are saying that God outweighs the dangers. Therefore, although we may be as alone or even in as immediate danger as David was, yet we can still say, “I will not be afraid, because I trust in God.”
Paul said it in Romans 8. He wrote, “We face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered," quoting from Psalm 44:22 (Rom. 8:36). But he added strongly: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38, 39).
- What great security does this psalm offer us?
- Read the accounts of David's life in detail (1 Sam. 17-21). Explain the relationship between Psalms 118 and 56.
Prayer: Ask God to calm any fears you may have.
Key Point: Although evil people can do very evil things, in the end they cannot really harm us because our lives are preserved by God.
For Further Study: To learn more about how David is used in the New Testament, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from Romans 4, “David’s Testimony.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
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