Since the summer of 2012, I have come many times to meditate on Psalm 23. There have been numerous textures in the text that have become thought-shaping paradigms for me. Some of my favorite gleanings are: It’s in the valley that David goes from speaking about God to speaking with God. I also love that God prepares a table for David in the presence of his enemies. God is not just inviting David to a table, God is inviting David to trust God with his fight. Not only that, but God is inviting David to receive blessing from God. This is laden with gospel implications. The challenge for David to stop fighting his battle, and let God fight for Him presses on the core of his pride. Furthermore, it challenges David to humble himself and receive the feast that God has prepared for him. This gets right at David’s heart; will he trust God, or himself? It very poignantly displays the character of God – He loves to lavish His children with His goodness, and He usually calls us away from our endeavors to receive His favor; from a “me” orientation, to a “God” orientation.
“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.” – Psalm 23:5
All through Scripture the Cup is a sign of receiving an outpouring from God, either of blessing or wrath. I have come to believe that His cup of wrath and His cup of love do not contradict each other, but rather they complement each other, and the veracity of each makes the other more significant.
In His word, God makes it clear that we were by nature children of wrath; following Satan, and “living” as dead people that oozed death in all we did (Ephesians 2:1-3). This is pretty extreme, but it is a truthful representation of who we are without Jesus, and an accurate description of God’s prescription for what we deserve. In John’s revelation of Jesus and things to come he records how God expresses His wrath towards people who worship the beast.
“9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)
There is a cup in God’s hand that is filled with wrath.
Should overlook His wrath if I value His love?
It is good to meditate on God’s wrath. Obviously, it’s not the only characteristic of God’s character, but it is a true characteristic, and if we value the truth that He has wrath, then we will more deeply value the truth, and depth of His love. If someone is only focused on the love of God, and gives no attention to His wrath, then I quickly assume that they don’t know the heights or depths of His love.
God’s wrath is a preservation of His love. Human beings were made in the image of God to glorify God. Ephesians 1 would have me believe that we were made to receive all of the blessings of God through Jesus, so that Jesus would receive praise. We get the grace, He gets the praise. That’s why we exist. To rebel against our design by worshipping anything, or anyone other than Jesus, merits God’s wrath. And again, this does not mean that God is not loving. God is loving. Rather, it is humans that are not loving, as we have not honored and loved our creator as He deserves. God pours out His wrath on people that worship anyone other than Jesus. Why? Well, we were designed for one thing; to love and receive love from our creator. To preserve His love for His design, He hates rebellion against His design.
People really struggle with the idea that God pours out wrath, but the fact that God has a cup of wrath makes His cup of blessing even more significant. You see, rebellion deserves God’s wrath. We all deserve the cup of God’s wrath, for rebelling against God. But, there is a sweet truth that shouts louder than this truth: Jesus took our place, and has taken the cup of wrath for us, and offers to us a cup of blessing.
Jesus Offers a New Cup
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20)
“26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
Jesus has given us a new cup. One that He is pouring out, but it isn’t His wrath. Rather, it is one of blessing, and fellowship with Him. He offers this, because He took the cup of wrath that we deserve. It wasn’t easy for Him. He knew that the wrath of the Father would be unbearable. But, He had a joy set before Him; exchanging cups with His people. Anger for favor. Wrath for love.
The canvas of God’s wrath towards our sin illuminates the magnitude and beauty of the cup of love that God gave us by giving us Jesus.
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Jesus became a curse so that we could drink blessing. He drank separation from the Father so that we could drink fellowship with Him. He drank deprivation so that we could drink abundance.
Are you fighting a battle that has already been won for you?
Perhaps the main fight for the gospel today is one of fighting to sit at the feet of Jesus. In America, we have an orientation towards self-sustenance, self-preservation, and selfishness. Jesus has purchased something better for you.
Often we drink cups of comfort, wrath avoidance, self-encouragement. And often in the church it sounds like; you need to take care of yourself first. You can’t love anyone if you don’t love yourself first. And other self-centered statements that have risen to conversational normalcy.
But when you sit at the table and drink Jesus’ cup, and let Him fight your battles…
Jesus refreshes you.
Jesus protects you.
Jesus prevails against your enemies.
Jesus satisfies your soul.
Jesus gives you His righteousness, as you believe that He is the victor, and not you.
The cup you earn for yourself keeps you from the cup that Jesus has bought for you. And to be honest, When we fight for the cup that we earn, then the cup that we merit is God’s wrath. God didn’t make us to be self-sustaining worker-bees. God made us to be vessels of glory, cups, that carry the essence of Jesus in us. We all have battles to fight, but the greatest one is to let Jesus fight our battles for us, while we drink of His cup.
Psalm 23:5 – “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
It’s peculiar timing for a feast, given that enemies are all around David. But Jesus has a statement to make; we can have His cup, because He took ours. If we’re going to sit down and feast and drink in the presence of our enemies, then someone has to fight our battles, and the real slim shady stood up, and His name is Jesus. He doesn’t just give us a cup, He gives us an overflowing cup.
Can you receive that? Can you lay your fight aside and surrender to Jesus. Can you receive that He wants to give you Himself and fight your battles? Can you lay aside your ambitions for retaliation, recognition, and reward and receive the better reward that Jesus has won for you?
The invitation is to set your eyes on the one who set His eyes on you. He took your cup. Will you take His?
For the #joysetbeforeme,