Lift Up the Cup!

We’re in Maui. Sue and I will be enjoying the blessing of this place for the next number of days as we reflect on, and rejoice in thirty-five years of marriage. Can’t help but that such milestones are cause for reflection and response. Perhaps that’s why the songwriter’s question jumps off the page this morning.

What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? 

(Psalm 116:12 ESV)

“What can I offer?” says the NLT. “What can I give back?” the MSG. The NIV’s question is, “How can I repay?” Literally it’s, “What do I return to Jehovah?”

Seems like the right question to ask when pausing to take stock of God’s abundant provision, His faithful protection, and His abiding presence. Count your many blessings, says the song. And then what? What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me?

And the psalmist’s answer is in stark contrast to what I was reading in Galatians. The Galatians were also wondering what to do . . . but not what to do in response to the grace of God but what to do to merit the grace of God. They were frustrating the grace of God by thinking that somehow they needed to obey the law in order to really merit the righteousness of Christ. Which was crazy! If they could actually follow the law, they wouldn’t need the righteousness of Christ! “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore . . . ” (Gal. 3:1, 4:1a).

No, the psalmist’s response wasn’t in trying to work harder in order to deserve the LORD’s benefits. Rather it was in acknowledging afresh that the work was already done.

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

(Psalm 116:13 ESV)

Sounds like a toast, doesn’t it? You can see the picture the psalmist is trying to paint. God has heard his plea. God has rescued him again. The Almighty has made known to the songwriter, in the every day circumstance and trial of life, His glorious Name and power. Made known that He is gracious, righteous, and merciful, . . . that He preserves the simple (vv. 5-6).

. . . for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

(Psalm 116:7b ESV)

And this recipient of God’s grace simply raises the cup of salvation. No work of his own could be offered as repayment for such bounty. Only the acknowledgement of God’s mighty working in and around his life. No oath to do better. No vow to seek to be more deserving. Simply lifting up a symbol which speaks of what the LORD has done through His mighty acts of rescue, redemption, and reconciliation.

A cup of thanksgiving lifted toward heaven. And looking past the cup, the eyes of faith fixed on the Father of lights, the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17).

And if the psalmist could connect his cup of wine with the goodness of God, how much more can we who see in that cup the blood of Jesus poured out for our sin?

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  

(1Corinthians 10:16a ESV)

Every other blessing, though appreciated and worthy of lifting a cup, every other blessing is enveloped in the grace shown by a God who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. Every other reason for thanksgiving is seen in the greater context of Him who came to give us life and to give it abundantly.

What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation!

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.  

(Romans 11:36 ESV)

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