The Spirit of Slap
O Lord God, You to whom vengeance belongs,O God, You to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth [in judgment]! Rise up, O Judge of the earth;Give to the proud a fitting compensation. O Lord, how long will the wicked,How long will the wicked rejoice in triumph? They pour out words, speaking arrogant things;All who do evil boast proudly. They crush Your people, O Lord,And afflict and abuse Your heritage. They kill the widow and the alienAnd murder the fatherless. Yet they say, “The Lord does not see,Nor does the God of Jacob (Israel) notice it.” Consider thoughtfully, you senseless (stupid ones) among the people;And you [dull-minded] fools, when will you become wise and understand? He who made the ear, does He not hear?He who formed the eye, does He not see? He who instructs the nations,Does He not rebuke and punish,He who teaches man knowledge? The Lord knows the thoughts of man,That they are a mere breath (vain, empty, futile). Blessed [with wisdom and prosperity] is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord,And whom You teach from Your law, That You may grant him [power to calm himself and find] peace in the days of adversity,Until the pit is dug for the wicked and ungodly. For the Lord will not abandon His people,Nor will He abandon His inheritance. For judgment will again be righteous,And all the upright in heart will follow it. Who will stand up for me against the evildoers?Who will take a stand for me against those who do wickedness? If the Lord had not been my help,I would soon have dwelt in [the land of] silence. If I say, “My foot has slipped,”Your compassion and lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,Your comforts delight me. Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,One which frames and devises mischief by decree [under the sacred name of law]? They band themselves together against the life of the righteousAnd condemn the innocent to death. But the Lord has become my high tower and defense,And my God the rock of my refuge. He has turned back their own wickedness upon themAnd will destroy them by means of their own evil;The Lord our God will wipe them out.
A new concert asked her past if she could replace the wilted old plastic floral arrangement on the Communion table in front of the pulpit. The pastor readily agreed.
The next Sunday the pastor looked out his office window and saw the lady getting out of her car with the new flowers. His office was right off the sanctuary. A few moments later the sound of an argument drifted into his office. An older saint had arrived early, saw the younger woman with her fresh bouquet, and vehemently told her the existing flowers were in honor of one of the departed saints of the church and they would be removed over her dead body.
The younger woman tried to explain she had the pastor’s permission. Meanwhile, the pastor had the good sense to remain in his office. Suddenly, he heard the sound of a sharp slap, followed by silence.
About five minutes later, the new convert appeared at his door, eyes brimming with tears, mascara streaking down her cheeks. “Pastor,” she said, “that old lady told me I couldn’t put the new flowers on the Communion table. The old ones were in memory of her friend, and I would take them out over her dead body. I explained that you had given me permission, but she kept arguing. Pastor, I don’t know what happened, but the spirit of slap came all over me.”
Maybe you have felt that way a time or two. Someone unreasonably stands between you and what you want to do.
The writer of this psalm has been on the receiving end of hard slaps against which he has been powerless to defend himself.
How do you pray when you’re the victim of another’s unjust treatment and you have neither the opportunity nor the ability to respond? Psalm 94 shows you.
Psalm 94 gives us four steps when we find ourselves in situations that George Wood names as “the spirit of slap.”
First of all we need to know that God is able to help you.
As Psalm 94 opens we find the psalmist wanting God to slap back. He knows God can if He so wishes; after all He is “the God who avenges,” the “Judge of the earth”(verses 1,2)
However, we’re asking God “how long,” for it seems that the problem lies in the fact that God isn’t responding right away. Instead, He seems to be slumbering as we suffer through our injustice.
It’s important to notice that the psalmist did not misread the inactivity of God for inability. We, too, should not mistake God’s waiting as weakness. The psalmist never doubts God’s power to deal with the situation; he only remains confused over God’s timing.
Nor should we let the Lord’s lack of intervention in our situation sap our confidence of His care over us. The book of Acts tells us that Stephen “looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,” the very moment he was dying from a hail of stones causing blunt-force trauma to his body. Those thrown rocks may have killed his body but not his spirit.
The lesson we get from the three Hebrew children helps us keep true confession in our hearts: “God is able.”(Daniel 3:17-18).
Second of all, we need to discern which voice we’ll listen to. We can focus either on how bad things appear or in reality. Those two perspectives always compete in our minds against one another.
If we listen to our circumstances we hear, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed.” Are you hearing such words? If so they are coming from those whose speech is filled with self(verse 4), their actions heartless(verse 5), and they prey upon the weak(verse 6). It appears that God never stops them- therefore they think He doesn’t notice.
But they just don’t get it for the God who made eyes and ears also sees and hears(verse 9). Let us not be as misguided and stupid as they are. God isn’t fooled and neither should we be.(verses 10,11).
Thirdly, we need to examine ourselves. Something wonderful happens within our spirits when we take time to pray-almost a metamorphosis. As we begin our prayers in times of trouble, bewilderment, or distress, we usually just blurt out our feelings to God.
Most of the time we blame others for our suffering and discomfort. We even give the Lord advice about what He needs to do to that awful other person. But if we will continue praying, sooner or later we will sense the Holy Spirit talking to us about our own attitudes. Rather than allowing us to sit in judgement of others, He will ask us to sit in judgment of ourselves(verses 12-15). When we choose this way we are “blessed.”
Mother Teresa was once asked, “Don’t you ever become angry at the causes of social injustice that you see in India or in any of the places in which you work?”
She responded, “Why should I expend energy in anger that I can expend in love?”
Healthy praying means that we are more concerned that God changes us than whether or not He judges someone else. Once we draw close to Him, we experience the warmth of His security and support (verses 16-19).
Fourth, we must choose sides. It all comes down to what kind of people we choose to be. God doesn’t ally himself with those who inflict suffering on others(verses 20,21). If we trust Him, we will always be safe(verse 22). But if we throw our lot in with the heartless and the victimizers, we need to be aware that the Lord will have the last slap(verse 23).