The Cup of Praise
This article was the 100th Issue of the original newsletter Candle Drippings, and was issued on April 24, 1998. For some reason that escapes me at this time, it did not make it into the book. So, I share it with you here. Enjoy! And, as one of my fictional heroes (NCIS New Orleans Agent, Dwayne Cassius Pride) is fond of saying: "Learn things."
Although we naturally grieve the loss of a loved one, for Christians, the time of their departure is really a time for celebration. As an example, I recently attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, Slim Fulton, in Pennsylvania. So many people had gathered at my niece's house afterward to grieve his death and to glorify God, I was amazed. But my mind lingered on the words of the minister when he reminded us all that "while, indeed, we have sorrow over his earthly departure, we also have the joy of knowing that the real Slim--the one you know and love--has never been more alive." That is why we celebrate. Our loved one has entered the presence of the Lord to share in His life.
The Lord Himself set the precedent. Just before His death, He initiated a ceremony for celebrating - of all things, His death. Why not His resurrection? Maybe that's included. Let's check it out and see. In 1 Corinthians 10.16, the Apostle Paul says, "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" From just these words, it's clear he's talking about communion, the Lord's supper. But since both his expressions suggest the death of Christ, how does the resurrection fit in? And how does this reflect blessing much less a cause for celebration?
By focusing on the cup and its meaning, I believe I can answer these questions. When Jesus initiated the Lord's supper, He was right in the middle of the Passover celebration. He took both the cup and the bread from the Passover table during the Passover observance. The cup of the Passover became the cup of Communion. But which cup of Passover? there are at least four. Let's look at all four for a minute. From them, we may learn about the one cup and why Paul calls it the cup of praise!
The first of the cups is the Cup of Remembrance. As they drink it at the Passover, the participants remember the mighty acts of God on their behalf as well as the mighty God who acts on their behalf. Remember that you were once slaves to the world and its powers (Deuteronomy 15.15). Remember the name of the Lord your God (Psalm 20.7), its majesty, its beauty, its glory, its power, its gentleness. Remember the Lord who is great and terrible (Nehemiah 4.14). Remember the day of deliverance when He brought you out of bondage (Deuteronomy 16.3). Remember the marvelous works of the Lord (Psalm 105.5). And when He first took the cup, Jesus blessed it and said, "This do in remembrance of Me." (1 Corinthians 11.24)
The second cup is the Cup of Redemption. It naturally follows and is inextricably linked with the first cup because it, too, focuses on remembering, in this case remembering the redemption of the Lord. First, there is focus on the Redeemer Himself. The Lord is our Redeemer (Isaiah 43.14). The Holy One of Israel is our Savior (Isaiah 43.3). Then there is the need - yea, the requirement of the redeemer to be a kinsman (cp. Ruth 4; Deuteronomy 25.5). So much of Biblical society revolved around the family unit, the extended family to include all who were related by blood. Before He acted as our Redeemer, Jesus became one of us, one of the sons of Adam (yet without sin), becoming our kinsman so He could make us one of the kinsmen of God (Hebrews 2.14, 17).
The third cup, the Cup of Salvation, is closely linked with the second cup, because it is the cup of salvation. It, too, reflects on the redemption of the Lord in its effects. It is filled until the wine flows over the rim of the cup onto the table, so we could say with the Psalmist, "My cup runneth over...." (Psalm 23.5). It reveals God's salvation, so great there is no vessel on earth that can contain it. Like the Lord Himself who is our salvation, of whom it is said, "if the heaven, even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house [the temple, Solomon's or even the temple of our body]." (1 Kings 8.27) Like the wine in the cup, the presence of the Lord in us should so overflow from our lives that it spreads to the "table" around us (cp. Matthew 5.16).
The fourth cup looks forward to the coming of the Lord. It is the Cup of Messiah. This cup focuses on the return of the Lord to complete His conquest of the enemies of His people and to establish His reign over the whole earth (Daniel 2.37; 7.13-14; 1 Corinthians 15.23-25). It brings the message of the cups full circle, drawing our attention to the completion of the glory of God in His final redemption of His people (Revelation 11.15).
But which cup is the cup of Communion? Actually, the one I believe He took was a fifth cup known as the cup of Elijah. When each of the other cups was filled, some of their substance was also poured into the cup of Elijah, so that in a very real sense, this cup contains the substance of all the cups. Thus the message of each is summed up in this cup. When we drink it, we show the Lord's death (for redemption and salvation) until He comes (as Messiah of Israel and Redeemer of the world). When this cup is drunk, it is the only time in the service that Gentiles are invited to share in the celebration of deliverance, in the worship of and praises to the God of Israel. So, this cup is for all the nations, for all mankind, just as the blood of Christ was shed for the deliverance of all mankind. No wonder, Paul calls it the cup of Praise!