What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits toward me?…
It is a most natural thing, as all languages show, to talk of a man's lot, either of sorrow or of joy, as the cup which he has to drink; and there are plenty of instances of the metaphor in the psalms, such as "Thou art the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Thou maintainest my lot." "My cup runneth over." That familiar emblem is all that is wanted here. "The cup of salvation" expresses, by its plural form, the fulness and variety of the manifold and multiform deliverances which God had wrought and was working for the psalmist His whole lot in life appears to him as a cup-full of tender goodness, loving faithfulness, delivering grace. It runs over with Divine acts of help and sustenance. As his grateful heart thinks of all God's benefits to him, he feels at once the impulse to requite and the impossibility of doing it. The great thought, then, which lies here is that we best requite God by thankfully taking what He gives.
I. NOW, I note HOW DEEP THAT THOUGHT GOES INTO THE HEART OF GOD. Why is it that we honour God most by taking, not by giving? The first answer that occurs to you, no doubt, is — because of His all-sufficiency and our emptiness. No doubt that is quite true; and, rightly understood, that is a strengthening and a glad truth. But is that all which can be said in explanation of this principle? The principle of our text reposes at last on "God is love and wishes our hearts," and not merely on "God has all and does not need our gifts." He delights in no recompense, but only in the payment of a heart won to His love and melted by His mercies.
II. But now let us look at THE ELEMENTS WHICH MAKE UP THIS REQUITAL OF GOD IN WHICH HE DELIGHTS. And, first, let us be sure that we recognize the real contents of our cup. It is a cup of salvation, however hard it is sometimes to believe it. How much blessing and happiness we all rob ourselves of by our slowness to feel that! Then, again, another of the elements of this requital of God is — be sure that you take what God gives. There can be no greater slight and dishonour to a giver than to have his gifts neglected. Do not complain of your thirsty lips till you are sure that you have emptied the cup of salvation which God gives. One more element of this requital of God has still to be named — the thankful recognition of Him in all our feasting, — "call on the name of the Lord." Without this, the preceding precept would be a piece of pure selfish epicureanism — and without this it would be impossible. Only he who enjoys life in God enjoys it worthily. Only he who enjoys life in God enjoys it at all. This is the true infusion which gives sweetness to whatever of bitter, and more of sweetness to whatever of sweet, the cup may contain, when the name of the Lord is pronounced above it. If we carried that spirit with us into all our small duties, sorrows, and gladnesses, how different they would all seem! We should not then find that God's gifts hid Him from us. Nothing would be too great for us to attempt, nothing too small for us to put our strength into. There is an old legend of an enchanted cup filled with poison, and put treacherously into a king's hand. He signed the sign of the cross and named the name of God over it — and it shivered in his grasp. Do you take this name of the Lord as a test. Name Him over many a cup which you are eager to drink of, and the glittering fragments will lie at your feet, and the poison be spilled on the ground. What you cannot lift before His pure eyes and think of Him while you enjoy, is not for you. Friendships, schemes, plans, ambitions, amusements, speculations, studies, loves, businesses — can you call on the name of the Lord while you put these cups to your lips? If not, fling them behind you — for they are full of poison which, for all its sugared sweetness, at the last will bite like a serpent and sting like an adder.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?