I remember when I was a child my father, who was not a believer, brought a bottle of Tequila to our house. He placed it in the highest spot in the kitchen hoping that our short little arms would not reach it. He didn’t count on the length of our curiosity.
My two sisters and I found a way to get to the bottle. Like most forbidden objects, it captivated our curiosity. We found a way to climb up on the counter, we put a small stool on top of it, and climbed up to the top of the kitchen cabinet to take possession of the enticing “juice.”
We were too young to understand what alcohol was since we had never been exposed to it. Of course, being the only boy, my older sisters decided that I would be the one to try it first. We proceeded to open the bottle and I took a large gulp of its contents. The sought-after liquid poured into my small body like a river of flames, burning everything on its way to my stomach; my throat, vocal cords and my esophagus.
Today, I view this experience as a blessing in my life. From that moment on, I decided if this was what drinking alcohol felt like, I wasn’t going to touch it again! Thank God, I never did.
The Bible speaks of several incidents where drinking a cup is mentioned. Perhaps one of the most remembered is during the darkest hour in Jesus’ life. He begged His Father to spare Him the anguish of being the carrier of all the sins of the world. Revealing the submissive spirit that underscored His ministry, Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39, NKJV). Scripture writers record Jesus prayed the same prayer three times. This was most likely the most horrible and cruel cup that anyone has ever taken. It resulted in the deepest pain and anguish to Jesus and his loving, holy and gracious Father.
But there is another cup that is born because of the cup taken in the garden of Gethsemane. This cup is the one king David invites us to take, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:12,13).
David asks a question that originates from a deep sense of gratitude. The Evangelical Heritage Version reads “How can I repay the Lord for all his benefits to me?” A very natural response from someone who feels so blessed and privileged. I wonder what or how many benefits David had in mind when he was writing this song. Could he have had Psalm 103 in mind?
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (ESV)
Or perhaps Psalm 40:1-3.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
The question remains, how can anyone find a way to repay God for these God-originated, God-dispensed “favors?” The first thought that may come to mind might be to somehow repay God with our good or moral behavior. Or we might subject ourselves to a spiritual discipline that will have the power to produce a spiritual growth and will result in a change of attitude or spiritual insight that might cause us to feel better about ourselves.
However, David knows better. He tried, tried and tried again to be a “good man,” but he fell short every time. He knows well that there is nothing —humanly speaking — that he can do to pay God back for His divine benefits. David’s response to his own question would be a worthy subject for hundreds and thousands of dissertations. “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of Jehovah” (Ps. 40:13).
Unlike my siblings and my attempt at reaching our father's bottle, God wants us to reach out and take His cup. He has focused all the energy, sacrifice and untiring labor of the plan of salvation to show us our desperate need. He invites us to stand on the stool of faith and reach out for the healing, transformational cup of salvation that awaits us!
I still remember the day we celebrated my younger son’s fourth birthday. He loved animals and bouncers so Carolann and I rented a slide bouncer and a couple of ponies so he and his friends could enjoy the day. Sometime during that afternoon, in the midst of his excitement, Jonathan said to me, “Thank you Dad, this is the bestest day of my life.” Those words were enough to pay me back for all the work (and expenses) his mom and I had invested to make this a special day for him. No amount of money could have repaid me for the happiness I experienced while seeing my son’s face light up with joy and gratitude.
If you are like Carolann and me, you may be feeling very blessed to come to the end of this second uncertain year. We all have gone through experiences that challenged us in many ways. Some of our experiences brought so much joy, while others have brought an equal amount of sorrow. We all have lost friends to cancer, Covid and other enemies. We also have witnessed the birth of healthy babies, couples celebrating weddings and people starting new adventures. But the “bestest” part of our year was to see individuals saying yes to Jesus and making intentional decisions to drink from the cup of salvation and descend into the joyous waters of baptism.
As we come to this Christmas season, Jesus has a suggestion for us. “If you want to do something for me, if you would like to express appreciation for me and what I have done for you, then 'take the cup of my salvation' and drink it all — it will satisfy you to the fullest. Then, go and share it with another thirsty soul.