Theme: Responding to God’s Goodness
In this week’s lessons, we see how we are to approach God when we are in need, and what our response ought to be to his help.
Scripture: Psalm 116:1-19
The last half of this psalm (vv. 12-19) asks, “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?” How can we repay the Lord for his goodness? What can we give him? He needs nothing. There is nothing we can give to enrich God. In Romans 11 Paul asks this very question rhetorically; “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him” (v. 35)? The obvious answer is no one, of course. No one can give God anything. Why? “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36). Every good gift comes from God. It is never the other way around.
Yet without suggesting that there is any intrinsically valuable thing we have to give God, the psalmist does suggest a few appropriate ways we can respond to his goodness. Here are two of them.
First, we need to tell others about God’s mercy to us. This is what the psalmist points to in the very last verses when he speaks of thanking God and calling on him “in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD” (vv. 18, 19). He means that we should give public testimony to God’s redeeming grace.
Second, we need to “lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (v. 13). This is a metaphor, of course, but it points to an important thing. It is based on the libation or drink offering prescribed in Numbers 28:7. In the post-biblical period the rabbis said there were to be no sacrificial gifts without libations, noting that the two are joined in Joel 1:9. They also said that the words of Judges 9:13 (“wine, which cheers both gods and men”) were to be pronounced as a blessing over the cup. But there is a big difference between the drink offering of Numbers 28 and what the psalmist says here. In Psalm 116 the writer is not talking about giving God anything, though that might be expected from his question (“How can I repay the LORD?”). Instead he talks about taking something, that is, the cup of salvation. It is a profound insight, for it means that the only way we can repay God from whom everything comes is by taking even more from him. Charles Haddon Spurgeon noted that this is the wisest of all possible replies. He then quoted this verse:
The best return for one like me,So wretched and so poor,Is from his gifts to draw a pleaAnd ask him still for more.1
That is why “I will lift up the cup of salvation” is immediately joined to “and call on the name of the LORD.” It means to receive God’s gift and then go on in the same relationship, forever asking and receiving from him.
Yet there is even more here when we remember that Jesus and the Twelve must have sung this hymn at the Last Supper after Jesus had instituted the Communion Service with its “cup of salvation.” That cup represented the blood of Jesus, which was poured out as an atonement for our sins. It speaks of giving all the way, one hundred percent. “Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). But it is also a cup that needs to be taken by us, which is what we symbolize by taking of it at the Lord’s Supper. It is a spiritual cup, and the way it is taken is by faith. It is by believing that Jesus is truly the Son of God and our Savior.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 88-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), p. 70.
What are some proper responses to God’s gifts to you?
Identify the cup of salvation.
Reflection: How often do you try to give things to God? How does today’s lesson change your thinking?
Prayer: Ask God for an opportunity to testify about his grace in your life to an unbelieving co-worker or friend.
Key Point: How can we repay the Lord for his goodness? What can we give him? He needs nothing. There is nothing we can give to enrich God.
For Further Study: To learn more about God’s mercy, download and listen for free to R. C. Sproul’s message, “God’s Mercy, God’s Glory.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)