Reading: Psalm 116
I trusted in the LORD when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people (NIV).
Today started a bit different. Rather than beginning my day with a hot cup of coffee, I had a few sips of water and then headed off for some blood tests. I missed that cup of coffee, but in reality going without it was no great hardship. Some view their morning shot of caffeine like a cup of salvation—early morning salvation. Today’s reading from Psalm 116 speaks of the cup of salvation. I’m sure the psalmist wasn’t speaking of his morning cup of java. What was he speaking of?
The psalmist lifts up the cup of salvation and calls on the name of the LORD in response to this question: What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? The psalmist lifts up his cup as an expression of thanksgiving to the LORD for the salvation he has received from God.
But salvation came at a price. To purchase our salvation, Jesus lifted up a cup and brought it to his lips. It was a cup of unimaginable suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He was referring to the anguish he would endure. In the hours that followed, Jesus drained that cup of suffering dry, even as his body was drained of blood on a cruel Roman cross.
In the great plan of redemption, Jesus’ cup of suffering became for us a cup of salvation. He drank it down to save us from the cruel consequences of our sin. Jesus assumed the full penalty of our disobedience, rebellion and devious ways. But now by faith, we can become active recipients of the salvation that he won on our behalf.
The next time you bring the communion cup to your lips you are remembering—acknowledging in a tangible way—that Jesus’ blood was shed for you. Salvation came through a cup of suffering. We can rejoice in that truth because early on a Sunday morning Jesus’ dead body was jolted back to life. He was resurrected by the power of the Father, and one day the body of every believer will be resurrected too. In that moment we will experience the fullness of our salvation.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll return to my usual routine and I’ll enjoy my hot cup of coffee. But the cup I savour most is the cup the Lord provides—the cup of salvation.
Response: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your sacrifice. You gave yourself fully for me. On a crude wooden cross you purchased my salvation. Today, help me fulfill my vows to the LORD. Amen.
Your Turn: Which cup do you appreciate most? How can you show your appreciation?
Reading: Psalm 116
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living (NIV).
Recently, on a family level I experienced the power and truth of the following words: For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Some time ago on a Saturday evening, I got a call from my brother. My alert and active, ninety-three-year-old mother had suffered a stroke. Fortunately, this happened while in hospital, as she was in recovery from having a heart pacemaker implanted. Clot dissolving drugs could be administered. But…
But my mother is a hemophiliac—a bleeder. In her case, the clot dissolvers could easily result in a brain hemorrhage leading to death. The doctors needed us to decide on a course of action. The choice was between taking no action and having my mother permanently disabled by the stroke, or administering a remedy that could kill her. This is the dilemma we faced.
We decided to have the doctors proceed with the clot dissolving drugs. We resolved to pray and trust God for the best outcome. And God answered by bringing my mother through with no symptoms of a stroke whatsoever. Zero. Two weeks later she was standing in front of her church, proudly displaying a quilt she had made to mark the 70th anniversary of the congregation. Yes, and just to remind us that this recovery was God’s doing, she had a significant bleeding incident earlier that week from her pacemaker incision. You, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
Response: Father God, I love you LORD, for you heard my voice. Over and over you have answered my prayers. You are a very merciful God. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God helped you? Has He answered your prayers? Take a moment to testify to God’s goodness.
Reading: Psalm 113
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
In today’s reading the psalmist has a question for you and here it is: Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
Who indeed? Why would the exalted One, the enthroned One, stoop down? How undignified! Doesn’t the LORD know that kings and potentates don’t bend over or stoop down? They certainly don’t do that sort of thing in public—not where they can be seen by others. Rulers rule from the seat of authority. They sit; they don’t stoop down. But our God stoops down. If the truth be told, it’s even worse than that.
The LORD gets His hands dirty. Actually, He has been getting His hands dirty from the very beginning. The LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now that was a failed experiment, if there ever was one. Those living, breathing human dust bags showed no gratitude. They disobeyed God at the first opportunity and down through the generations, humanity has continued that pattern of disobedience and ingratitude.
Now in this psalm we read this: He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. Why would God show such affection for fallen humanity—humans who keep plunging deeper into the mire? There is no greater mystery. Our God keeps finding treasures in the trash—the human trash.
Still I keep wondering why anyone would stoop so low. Why would the One, who sits enthroned on high, stoop so low—low enough to die a criminal’s death on a cross? Why did the Lord stoop to rescue me?
Response: Father God, your love is beyond comprehension. Thank you for stooping down and involving yourself in my life. When I reach out to you, Father God, you lift me up. I praise you, LORD. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the LORD lifted you from the ash heap? How did that make you feel?
Reading: Psalm 109
For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him.
May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me (NIV).
Right now we are a long way from the giving season. I am of course referring to the pre-Christmas shopping binge, when gifts are purchased, wrapped and hidden away for the big celebration. Many rail against this tradition, but in reality the scriptures are filled with admonitions that encourage us to be generous and bless others. Christmas and year-end provide us with wonderful opportunities to do just that. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).
If we find no pleasure in giving, we may be suffering from more than a simple case of Scrooge-like stinginess. Soul sucking self-centeredness destroys us from within. It defaces the image of God that is stamped upon us from birth. God our heavenly Father is the picture of generosity. He gave His only Son for us. In light of this sacrifice, there’s something terribly wrong if we can’t spare a dime or a kind word for the less fortunate. Generosity is never out of season.
Today’s reading provides us with a negative contrast to the generosity of God. The individual being described withheld his blessing. He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing—may it be far from him.
How generous am I with words of encouragement, praise and blessing? How generous am I with this world’s goods that have been lavished on me by a gracious Father? Throughout the year, and in the pre-Christmas season, I need to check my heart and my bank account, but above all my heart. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Am I generous with words of praise and thanks for those around me—with the clerk at the shopping mall or the life partner who shares my bed? Am I reflecting or defacing the image of God?
Response: Father God, today I want to be a blessing and pronounce a blessing on those around me. I am thankful for the generosity of your love, forgiveness and grace. It’s more than I deserve. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you too tight fisted or too lavish with your giving?