The metaphor of a cup is used both positively and negatively in Scripture. Using it in a positive way, in Psalm 23:5 we read that God will prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows – with the Lord’s blessings! Then in Psalm 116:13 the psalmist proclaims, I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
Now, judgement is not a popular subject, but maybe more relevant today and required more than ever in our rather crazy mixed up world full of so much that is unjust.
Asaph in Psalm 75 had no problem with this subject, as he uses the metaphor of a cup in the negative way. He says:
8 In the hand of the Lord is a cup
full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
drink it down to its very dregs.
Kidner comments that “God’s pledge of ultimate action (v.2) is translated into a powerful vision. The figure of a cup of judgement meets us often elsewhere, and its final occurrence in Scripture presents it as retribution.” (# 29)
For example, in Revelation 18, there is talk of judgement upon “Babylon” (used symbolically of the world opposed to God and His Messiah), and it reads, “Give back to her [Babylon] as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her cup…for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” (Rev. 18:6,8)
As in Psalm 75, it is often spoken of as the cup of God’s wrath upon a rebellious mankind. An example being in Isaiah 51:17 where it says, “Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath.”
And Jeremiah 25:15 the Lord says to his prophet, “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.”
Speaking of God’s future judgement, the New Testament has a similar theme.
For example, in Revelation 14:10 we read, A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, 10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.”
And Revelation 16:19 says, God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
The Bible leaves us in no doubt, there will be a judgement Day. “God is implacably against evil and injustice, but ‘judgement is not his last word; it is his pathway to transformation and salvation.’” (SU Notes quoting G Emerson, Minor Prophets II, Doubleday, 1998, p39)
And the good news is that the most remarkable mention of the cup in the New Testament is in relation to Jesus. In Matthew 26 we have recorded the events just before the crucifixion of Jesus. At the Passover meal, together with his disciples, Jesus “took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.” (26:28) Then following this, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’.” (26:39)
As we continue to read Matthew, we see that Jesus drank that cup of sorrow and suffering when he allowed himself to be crucified so that we might be reconciled to God and be forgiven for all our rebellion against him.
Paul summarizes it beautifully with the truth that:
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
We deserved the punishment for our sin, but Christ died in our place! For those who belong to Christ we have no fear therefore of the “cup of God’s wrath” because, as Wilcock says, “Christ drained it [the cup of God’s wrath] on his people’s behalf when he went to the cross.” (# 5)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. (Romans 8:1-3)
Therefore, if we have believed “in Christ Jesus” we can rest in his finished work, with no fear of condemnation and join the psalmist in worship in the same way he begins and concludes this psalm:
1 We praise you, God,
we praise you, for your Name is near;
people tell of your wonderful deeds…9 As for me, I will declare this forever;
I will sing praise to the God of Jacob. Amen.