Lift Up the Cup of Salvation

. 4 min read

Praying the Psalms (8): “lift
up the cup of salvation”
Apr 2019, Christ Mountain Top, Holy Thursday @Presbyterian Ch
13:1-17, 31b-35

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psalms, for Passover, 113-118, which we know Jesus sang in his last supper (Mt
116 in the church has been associated with the Lord’s Table and Holy Thursday,
particularly the language of “lift up the cup of salvation”
do we read this as one of Jesus’ final prayers?
Pain and death in the
moment of truth
pangs of Sheol laid hold on me”
      “a power that invades life” (McCann, 1148)
kept my faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted” (116.10)
      More literal, and I believe accurate:
      I believed, therefore I said, “I am
greatly afflicted” (NIV, KJV)
      Quoted as “I believed, therefore I have
spoken” in 1 Corinthians 4.13 to refer to the suffering we experience
      Honesty about the pain is a statement of
            But the pain does NOT have to define
pangs of Sheol laid hold on me … then I called on the name of the LORD”
      “for you have delivered my soul from
death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I walk before the LORD in
the land of the living.” (116.8)

in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones” (116.15)
      But the psalm is about deliverance from
      McCann suggests a better translation:
“costly” rather than “precious.” “The whole point of the psalm is that God
wills life and works to make life a reality…. God does not welcome the death of the faithful” (1149).
 “Now my soul is
troubled. And what should I say– ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is
for this reason that I have come to this hour.
a psalm that affirms life and God’s deliverance while he is facing his own
death. Prays a psalm that offers, from the perspective of the church, the hope
of resurrection, of life beyond death, as he steps resolutely toward the cross.
      Here’s the struggle for us – we are
assured of nothing until it has already happened. Daniel’s three friends,
threatened with the fiery furnace, declare, “Our God is able to deliver us, and
he will deliver us. But if not…” (Daniel 3.17-18). So we catch Jesus in this
difficult moment of truth, praying a prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance as
he steps into his greatest trial and test, suffering and death.
      Oh, but Jesus knew he was going to be
resurrected. It is true that Jesus predicts his resurrection to the disciples.
But I have to say that even if I had that information, I would still deal with
doubt. And I would still have to deal with my willingness to submit. No wonder
we also have the record of Jesus praying, “Let this cup pass from me, but what
you want be done – not what I want” (Matthew 26.39).
      And what about us? We too are promised
resurrection. That doesn’t make me welcome death. We too are promised
deliverance. That doesn’t make me happy to suffer. Every day, I have to deal
with my doubt and every day I have to submit.
“the cup of salvation”
(116.13), originally part of the sacrificial process, the drink offering given
with every animal sacrifice. Then, in this psalm, associated with the Passover
practice and a particular cup in the ritual.
      Fits with the payment of vows (116.14,18;
sacrifices) and the giving of a thanksgiving sacrifice (116.17). Generally, the
payment of vows is connected to what we promise God when we are at our lowest …
if you get me out of this, I’ll be baptized, I’ll go back to church, I’ll
become a follower of Jesus.
Jesus (in
John’s gospel, the gospel for Holy Thursday)
·       John
 “The hour has
come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 
24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into
the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears
much fruit.
·       John
 When Jesus had
received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit.
prays this psalm. His vow is not related to some way God has delivered him in
answer to his own prayers. His vow to fulfill is the answer to our prayers. He
must die. He must embrace pain. He must take all our suffering upon himself in order
to deliver us from it. The cup of our salvation is the cup of his destruction.
“I love the LORD”
(116.1) – unusual expression in Hebrew Scripture (this particular verb form,
first person common/singular, only 18x, only once for love for the LORD)
      Most important command, to love LORD your
God – given to Israel, collectively
      This verb form shows up as the cooking “I
love” (Gn 27.4) or “I love” my wife (Ex 21.5, also for master and children). It
is also used for intimate friends who have since turned on us (Job 19.19, Ps
      Also as “I love” the house of the LORD (Ps
26.8) or the word of the LORD (Ps 119.47,48,97,113,119,127,159,163)
      For loving “foreign gods” (Jer 2.25, Hos
      For God’s choice to love Israel (Jacob
over Esau, Mal 1.2)
      ONLY here is it “I love the LORD” (Ps
      An intimate personal affection … not only
the decision to be faithful, not only about love in action, but about that
personal connection
      Jesus and the Father
      Us and God, even in our pain
The New Interpreter’s
Bible, vol VI, Psalms,
J. Clinton McCann, Jr.
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.