RPM, Volume 15, Number 16, April 14 to April 20, 2013

The Cup of Salvation

Psalm 116:1-19

By D. Marion Clark


Some of you may have picked up in the order of service that we are going through the six psalms of ascent sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. As would have been traditional, Jesus and his disciples most likely sang these psalms during the Last Supper as part of the Passover meal.

I love the LORD! What a great way to begin a psalm. What a refreshing statement: I love the LORD! Do you know how many times that phrase reappears in the Scriptures? Once. In Psalm 18:1, David says, I love you, O Lord… That's it.

The idea of loving God appears many times, to be sure. Oftentimes we are commanded to love the Lord. Many times the biblical writers and people in the Bible express their delight in the Lord. But this verse and Psalm 18:1 are the only times someone just outright says, "I love the Lord."

What causes the psalmist to break out in his expression of love? The salvation of the Lord. Close to death, the Lord delivered him.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

It would seem that the cause was illness rather than peril from enemies. But whatever the case, he has been restored to well-being.

Consider his reflections on the Lord in light of his deliverance from death. The Lord is one who hears.

for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,

God listens because, though he is holy and dwells in a high and holy place, yet he is merciful and gracious. Verse 5:

5 The LORD is gracious…
our God is full of compassion.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.

But the Lord is not just a good listener. He is not simply a good-hearted God. He takes action.

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me…
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,

This is an important point. It is nice to have another person's sympathetic ear. But sympathy can only do so much. And actually, in some cases sympathy can make one's discouragement only worse. If you appeal to someone whom you expect to have the power to make your condition better and all you receive is sympathy, then you have greater reason to be discouraged. Either that person is too weak or not moved enough to act. To know that God looks upon us with kindness, but cannot help, will lead us to resent the Lord, not love him. But the Lord is able and he will act according to what is right and good. Note verse 5: The LORD is gracious and righteous.

Consider the psalmist's reflections about himself. He was weak and discouraged.

the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow (3).

He was in tears and as one stumbling in weakness and confusion (8). He identified himself as being simplehearted (6), that is, with being a small person with no merit. He was afflicted and dismayed (10,11).

In other words, he was helpless. He could not help himself, nor could he look to others. Indeed, in his suffering he had despaired of the help of men: 11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."

But there was one thing he possessed, and that was faith in the Lord to save.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, save me!"

Through that faith, salvation came.

What do we see in the psalmist's reflections about him? We see the true love and faith he possessed. We saw it in his troubles, and we see it in his deliverance. He does not forget the Lord in his good health and in his secure feelings. He knows that the peace he now has is of the Lord.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

This also is an important point to make. We can fail in our faith in two ways. One is to lack faith in our troubles, turning from the Lord instead of to him. Another is to drop faith when it doesn't seem to be needed, forgetting that we are always under his care. But the psalmist remembers his Lord both in his bad times and his good times.

He also asks the question that we all want to know the answer to:

12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?

We do want to know that, don't we? What can we do for God? After all, he has done so much for us. He brought us into being. Whatever enjoyments we have come from his kindness to us — family, friends, good health, work, the beauties of the earth, and so on. Most of us would have to say that we have a lot to be thankful for.

And then, of course, there is the most precious of gifts — our salvation. We have been delivered from spiritual death. The cords of spiritual death that entangled our souls have been broken.

We know that we cannot actually repay God in the sense that we can make up for the cost of our salvation. We do know that, right? We were redeemed by the precious blood of the Son of God. To offer God payment for his Son's blood would be offensive as well as ludicrous. How much money or devotion or sacrifice on our part could actually make God feel that we were even with him?

Consider for a moment the cost?

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
he turned his ear away from his Son who called on him.
The cords of death entangled him,
the anguish of the grave came upon him.
He was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then he called on the name of the Lord:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Now ask what we can do to repay the Lord? What covers that?

But, again, we know this. What we really want to know is what we can do to show our gratitude. He has done so much for us, what can we do in return? Let's see what the psalmist does. I am going to read verses 13,14 and 17-19:

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

The psalmist is fulfilling a prescribed religious ritual to give thanks to God. He is bringing to the temple a peace offering. Chapters 3 and 7 of Leviticus give instruction about peace offerings, also referred to as fellowship offerings in the NIV. The peace offering included the sacrifice of an animal, just as with sin offerings, but it differed in a number of ways from the other prescribed offerings. For one thing, there was no set time or occasion for when it must be offered. The peace offering basically was made when an individual felt that it would be good to do. Usually it was for one of three reasons: he is going through tough times and makes an offering as a means of calling on God; he has been delivered from tough times and desires to show his thankfulness to God; or the offering may be consummating a vow that he has made before God.

See where it fits in here? The psalmist will fulfill his vows to the Lord that he probably made in his time of trouble. What are the vows? Probably to give public testimony to the salvation of the Lord.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.

This is not a private offering. It is made in the presence of God's people in the temple courts. The psalmist is bearing public witness. He may very well have spoken the first half of the psalm as he laid his hands on the head of the sacrifice.

Now, here is the second element that distinguishes the offering. It was the only offering that the offerer could eat. The blood of the sacrifice would be poured out and the fat and the kidneys burned up on the altar. But the rest — the meat — was eaten by the offerer and his family and companions. That's why the NIV calls it the fellowship offering. The offering was a fellowship dinner.

So when the psalmist says I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, he is speaking of an act taking place at this meal. Everyone is gathered around the table of the feast, he probably at the head. Perhaps he stands, then lifts his cup of wine and calls on the name of the Lord, just as the minister calls on the presence of the Lord at the beginning of worship or the Lord's Supper.

"I call upon you Lord, my Strength, my Deliverer. I love you for you heard my cries and showed mercy to me." And perhaps he said these very words:

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.

See what's taking place here? The individual has been delivered from death. He makes a vow to give a thanks offering to his Redeemer. And what takes place? The offerer receives the blessing of the sacrifice. He, not God, is the one who is fed. The offering itself becomes a visible means of demonstrating the salvation and promised blessings of the Lord.

In the sacrificial meal God granted a tangible pledge of his promised blessings. The enjoyment of eating the meat was a physical reminder of all the other blessings that attended the faithful observance of the covenant…It was a pledge and physical illustration of all the benefits that may be enjoyed by those at peace with God (Wenham, p. 81).

As the psalmist raised his cup, he made the central act of keeping his vow, which is also the central act of worship — to humbly and joyfully receive the salvation of his Redeemer.


Brothers and sisters, that is why we have gathered this evening. It is not to mourn the sufferings of our Savior. It is not to repay God with our heartfelt sorrow. It is to bear public testimony of the salvation our Lord. It is to publicly declare that we love the Lord, for he heard our cries for mercy and delivered our souls from death.

It is to joyfully declare that we are the servants of the one who has freed us from our chains of sin and death.

It is to repay the Lord in worship by joyfully receiving again from him the testimony of his salvation.

It is to lift the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.

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