The Lord Sets Us Free (Psalm 118:5-8)
Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. —Psalm 118:5-8
Enemies. Hate. Persecution. Distress . . . tempters at the door, laying siege to hope and joy. What do you do when you are treated unfairly? Where do you run when faced with injustice? Do you fight or despair? Get angry or afraid? Maybe you sink into the slough of despond or valiantly resolve to never be a pushover again.
“Out of my distress, I called on the LORD and he answered me and set me free.”
Psalm 118, a messianic psalm, possibly authored by Moses, points us to the Lord who has conquered every temptation. There is a secret in this psalm that conquers the temptation to respond sinfully to persecution—it is the LORD, our refuge. Run to Him. He is sovereign. His steadfast, covenant love endures forever. We can’t fight this battle alone. He is Savior and will help us. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” The Lord is on our side. Man, by his very nature, breaks trust, but the Lord is trustworthy. He never breaks trust! His name is “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11)—turn to Him, take refuge in Him—He will set us free from every destructive scheme of our enemies.
We have earthly enemies—Jesus said the world would hate us because we belong to Him. But He has disarmed our earthly enemies through the cross and has stripped them of any eternal power over us. He Himself has become our refuge of protection from the firestorm of hate in this world. “The LORD is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” And with the courage He provides us (He has gone before us), He has told us what to do; “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”(Matthew 5:44).
The treasure trove of God’s love through Jesus Christ is infinitely deeper and more powerful than hate. He has set us free to respond to our enemies as He responded. We can engage our enemies, love our enemies, and pray for their blessing because our trust is in the Lord who has triumphed through the cross. I once read a story of a little boy who would go hungry at school because his lunch money was daily stolen by the class bully. The boy turned to God, prayed and read his Bible looking for a way to win his enemy. One day, his eyes settled on “if your enemy is hungry, feed him” (Romans 12:20). He showed the Bible verse to his mother and the next day she baked chocolate chip cookies for her son to offer in the name of Jesus to the bully. The bully could not resist the cookies, grabbed a handful and ate them—but he still stole the lunch money. In the days that followed, the bully was given a variety of things to eat from the boy, always with acknowledgement of Jesus, and was eventually won over. He became a friend of the boy, a friend of Jesus, and never stole from anyone at school again.
We also have supernatural enemies—rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces in heavenly places (Ephesians 6). The enemies of the LORD abound, but He intends we rely on His help (“I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive.” John 14:16-17)—We are in a war not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and authorities. Our help comes through God’s provision of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is working in us to equip us through God’s Word to win every battle, defeat every devious speculation raised up against Him, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. “The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.”
Every Christian was an enemy of God, but now we have been washed, sanctified, justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11). We have been made friends through Christ’s victory at the cross. He triumphed over every enemy, including death. “This [the record of debt, the legal demands against us] he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14-15). “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12-13).
Whether a person loves or hates the cross of Christ, everyone is ultimately conquered by it, though the culmination of that reality is yet to be revealed. He has told us in His Word about that day—“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Christ’s victory is for all those who will seek refuge in Him. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” Psalm 118:1!
Read through Psalm 118 looking for evidence of the trinity. Write down what you find.
What identifies a person as an enemy of God?
Are you praying for your enemies? Make a list of those you are tempted to hate and start praying for them today.
Ask God to give you tangible ways to bless someone who persecutes you for the sake of Christ.