What Can I Render?

Chewing on a couple of different passages this morning, one from the psalms and one from Galatians. And the more I chew on these thoughts from Psalm 116 and Galatians 5, the more they blend together. The question asked and answered in the songwriter’s song taking on a fuller implication of meaning through the apostle’s plea.

What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

(Psalm 116: 12-13 ESV)

The song starts, “I love the LORD!” And that, because the LORD had heard the songwriter’s voice, his pleas for mercy. Because God on high had inclined His ear. Because, when the psalmist was brought low, the LORD lifted him up and returned his soul to rest. Delivering the songwriter’s soul from death, his eyes dried of their tears, his feet kept from stumbling, his faith preserved though he was greatly afflicted.

And so, perhaps it’s not too surprising that the psalmist asks, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me?” In fact, you might even expect there should be some sort of desire to respond to the mercy and goodness God had shown. Not necessarily a thought of paying God back, for his grace is beyond matching. But certainly a desire to worship. A longing to, in some manner, acknowledge His grace and mercy and divine intervention. What shall I render?

I will lift up the cup of salvation, he says. Perhaps a reference to lifting up a drink offering akin to Peterson’s paraphrase, “A toast to GOD!” That’s how I’ve read it in the past. A lifting of the cup in tribute of thanksgiving and worship.

But this morning I notice that the words “lift up” can also be translated “take.” That’s how the CSB and NKJV translate it: “I will take the cup of salvation and worship the LORD” (CSB).

That’s kind of a different thought. What shall I render? How about I take? I want to give something in return? So let me appropriate something.

When Jesus prayed about taking a cup it was about doing the Father’s will (Mk. 14:36). Maybe that’s what we render to the LORD for all His benefits to us. We determine, with a holy determination, to lean into, and live out ,the cup of salvation He’s given us.

And that’s what triggered what I read in Galatians 5:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore . . . 

(Galatians 5:1a ESV)

What can I render to God for all His benefits? To take the cup He has provided. To stand firm in the freedom for which Christ has set me free. To appropriate the power. To lean into the promises.

To not only lift up the cup in tribute, but to ingest it as a worship response of obedience. Heeding Paul’s warning about being entrapped by any thought that suggests that I can add to my salvation. To reject any temptation to boast of my own righteousness and pious acts.

To believe that it is only through the Spirit, who began the work in me, that the work in me can be brought to its perfect culmination. To purpose to walk by the Spirit. To engage the Spirit to war against the flesh. To want to know what it is to be practically led by the Spirit of freedom and not rely on the ways of the law. To live by the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit, through the resurrection power of the Spirit.

What can I render? I can take the cup of salvation. How can I worship in response? I can stand firm in the freedom for which Christ has set me free.

By His grace. For His glory.

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