Theme: The Cup of God’s Wrath
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded that God is sovereign over all things, and he will execute justice and judgment in his own time.
Scripture: Psalm 75:1-10
God’s assurance of the righteous and his warnings to the wicked would seem to be sufficient in themselves. But preachers always seem to like to have the last word, even with God, and Psalm 75 is an example. God has spoken (in vv. 2-5). But now the preacher or priest adds his observations and applications to God’s teaching (vv. 6-8).
He applies God’s word in two ways, pointing out that whether a person is lifted up or brought down, exalted or abased, is up to God, and assuring the wicked that God means what he says when he declares that he will judge everyone uprightly and at the appointed time. The first point seems to have to do mostly with the righteous, for it is a way of telling them to stop looking to the world for their advancement. People defer to those in power and thereby sometimes get caught in the wrong ways of doing things, because they want the advancement they think these prominent people can confer. The preacher tells us that advancement of this type is not worth it; it is not true honor. The only approval or advancement that will ever matter is what comes from God, for “it is God who judges” (v. 7). Therefore, stop looking to other human beings. Learn to look to and live for God alone.
The second point is for those who do evil, and it is a powerful poetic reminder that in due time the wrath of God will be poured out like powerful foaming wine from God’s cup and that the wicked will be made to drink it down even to the dregs. As the psalmist writes, “In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs” (v. 8).
This is not the only place in the Bible where the image of the cup of the wrath of God occurs. It is found in Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15-38; 49:12; 51:7; and even in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 18:6. We know it best for its use in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which says of God, “He is pouring out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.”
Spurgeon remarks on this verse, “The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. [If] the very color of divine wrath is terrible, what must the taste be?”1
It is not hard to think of examples of the outpouring of the wrath of God against those who have excelled in doing evil. Murdoch Campbell is a Scotsman who has published a book of meditations on the Psalms in one of which he calls attention to the lifting up and the bringing down of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and, more recently, Adolf Hitler. Campbell writes:
Pharaoh reacted to God’s command to let his people go by saying, “Who is God that I should obey him?” Nebuchadnezzar endeavored to set his throne and kingdom above him whose throne and kingdom are for ever and ever. Herod listened to the adulations of his degenerate admirers: “It is the voice of a god and not of a man.” Coming nearer to our own time, we have read of how Adolf Hitler gazed at a picture of himself riding proudly on a white horse, a picture which bore the blasphemous title: “In the Beginning was the Word.” Then in a voice that deliberately mocked Christ, the eternal King, he exclaimed, “I am providence.”
But Pharaoh and his hosts are swept to destruction; Nebuchadnezzar becomes a companion of “the beasts of the field”; Herod is devoured by worms; and Hitler becomes a suicide. “Those that walk in pride God is able to abase.” “He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he is terrible to the kings of the earth.” “All the horns of the wicked will I cut off.”2
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2a, p. 295.
2Murdoch Campbell, From Grace to Glory: Meditations on the Book of Psalms (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), pp. 123, 124.
What can happen when you seek the approval of others? How do you stop from doing this?
What is in God’s cup and who will be made to drink it? Look up the passages given that mention the cup of God’s wrath, and note what each says about it.
Reflection: Have you ever found yourself giving in to human authority when you shouldn’t? What were your motivations? How should you have handled the situation differently?
Application: When the circumstances are such that you have to choose, do you tend to seek approval from man or God? Why?