"What can man do to me?" - Psalm 56:11
Well, they can slander my name, malign my cause, injure my body, harm my family, and rob me of all I possess. They can do quite a lot actually. Jeez, thanks for the reminder Dave! But doesn't he already know this? Surely, his question is rhetorical; surely it is given to elicit a faithful response, not a fearful reaction.
When we look at the preceding verses we understand that David is not afraid of man. Why not? Well, because the psalmist knows that God is near - close enough to capture his tears (Psalm 56:8). He is convinced that God is for him (Psalm 56:9). He knows all that has been proclaimed by his Lord and he is praising the Father for His sweet promises (Psalm 56:10). It is this context that produces our question.
If God is for us, then what can man really do? This is the same powerful point that Paul makes. "If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?" If we're on His team, are we guaranteed anything shy of ultimate victory? If God is for us and near us, tell me, are we anywhere less than safe? We cannot be separated from His love, nor can we be driven away from His presence (Romans 8:38-39).
This truth motivated our writers to boldly face adversity; it allowed them to stand firm in the midst of trial. And if such truth is their strength in the hour of trouble, might we also cling to this hope in our days of doubt? If the Lord is praiseworthy when calamity and uncertainty surround, then is He not also deserving of our song when the situation is more settled?
Do what you will; enemies and haters, hurt and attack us as you must; but know that the souls of the saints are secure in their Savior, Jesus Christ. And this security is irrevocable - not on our account - but because of what was once and for all accomplished on His cross. This drastically limits the power of the flesh (Psalm 56:4). This places our purpose in perspective.
"In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me (Psalm 56:11)?"
While I've seemingly belabored the point here and have perhaps spent too many weeks (4 out of 5) in just a small portion of this psalm, the text is far from exhausted. In fact, the surface has barely been plumbed. Yet it is worthy of our contemplation, for the hope it offers is profoundly foundational to the faith. God is near because He cares. He knows our troubles and is ever-present because He is for us. He and is Word are trustworthy. And this is our solace.
Therefore, no fear of man ought to distract us from what we've been called to do. We can go about His business, proclaiming His Word in boldness because of who He is, because of all He's done. We can selflessly and sacrificially serve because we know Him to be our all and all.
David could confidently shout this psalm; Paul echoed the same hope in his letter to the Romans. Can we affirm it today? Will we lean on the Lord today? For those in Christ, who can come against? What can man do to me? What real power does flesh hold over you?
Associate Pastor of Missions & Students