Rev. Langerak is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A cup is rather mundane. At least four times per year we hear, “the cup of blessing which we bless . . . .” But we often forget about the cup itself because of the element inside. Cups are like that, mere common household utensils like forks and plates, in themselves insignificant, yet very important as means to collect, distribute, and receive something for personal consumption.
Scripture mentions a number of cups. The first is in a dream, the royal cup that a butler held in his hand (Gen. 40:11-21). Not long after, Joseph hid his own silver cup in the feed-sack of brother Benjamin (Gen. 44:1-17). King David once heard a story about a little ewe lamb who drank from a poor man’s cup (I Sam. 12:3). Cups were also important utensils in God’s house. The massive brass washbasin in the temple had a brim like a cup (I Kings 7:26). And then there were all those solid gold cups. Even though Israel plundered the temple more than once to pay tribute, those cups had remained to be carried away into Babylon (Jer. 52:19). Belshazzar, you will recall, got drunk from them the night he was slain (Dan. 5:1-30), and they were among the few things that returned back to Jerusalem with the children of Israel (Ezra 1:11). Cups are like that too—they can contain blessing for one person and curse for another.
Cups are sometimes called by their owner, like the cup of Pharaoh (Gen. 40:13) or cup of the Lord (I Cor. 10:21). They can be called by their contents. Surprisingly, Scripture mentions only two liquids—a cup of water (Matt. 10:42), the basic life-giving drink, and a cup of wine (Prov. 23:31), the rich fruit of the vine that gladdens the heart. Cups are also called by the effect from drinking their contents, so we read of the cup of trembling (Is. 51:22), cup of consolation (Jer. 16:7), and cup of astonishment (Ezekiel 23:33). Cups even represent the heart, as a personal container of good or evil. For Jesus once told those hypocrites, the scribes and Pharisees—famous for cleaning the outside of their cups while being inwardly full of sin—that they should first clean that within their cup, that the outside of them may be clean also (Matt. 23:25-26).
Two cups receive the most attention in Scripture. Both Jesus holds. The first is the wine cup in which the Lord stores up all His fury (Jer. 25:15; Rev. 14:10). Its contents are a blood red mixture of judgment, and its dregs all the wicked of the earth shall drink (Ps. 75:8). From it He pours out a horrible tempest of snares, fire, and brimstone (Ps. 11:6). Drinking from it moves the ungodly to madness and exposes their raw hatred against the Lord (Jer. 25:16;Lam. 4:21). Babylon, mankind’s great kingdom against Christ, shall receive a double portion from this cup (Rev. 16:19; Rev. 18:6), because she made all the nations drink from her own cup of abominations and fornication (Jer. 51:7; Rev. 17:4). Its citizens, identified by this mark of abominable worship and lust, will all drink of the Lord’s wrath, poured out undiluted from the cup of His indignation and be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels…and the Lamb (Rev. 14:10).
But there is another cup in the hand of the Lord. It, too, is full of wine. It is the cup of salvation (Ps. 116:13), the cup of blessing, the communion cup of the blood of Christ (I Cor. 10:16). It is such because the contents are Jesus Himself, so that everyone who drinks from it may say the Lord is the portion of my cup (Ps. 16:5). And no meager thimble full either, but a cup that runneth over (Ps. 23:5), a liberal portion of Christ’s own Spirit, which gladdens the soul (Eph. 5:18). This royal cup is not for everyone. One cannot drink from the cup of devils and drink from this cup of the Lord (I Cor. 10:21). It is a privilege. And those who drink from this cup of the Lord will not drink from that other cup. God promises so: “Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again” (Is. 51:17-22). Jesus drank every drop from that cup of God’s wrath for us (John 18:11). Remember this great blessing the next time you hear, “Drink ye all of it . . . this cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you” (Matt. 26:27;Luke 22:17-20). Remember. So that as often as ye drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come (I Cor. 11:26).