Saturday, August 15, 2009

God Is Holding a Cup

Yesterday, I opened the Bible to Psalm 75 and knew I was in trouble. There's a nice little thanksgiving, and then seven verses of "God's going to get you." I recognized that some of the symbolism is ancient, and I read four translations with notes before the images became clear. "Horns" are a symbol of power, so the psalmist warns those who carry power not to display it in an obnoxious manner.

What stopped me cold was Verse 8. There is this cup and the Lord is going to pour it out and the wicked will drink it to the dregs. So what? The cup has wine. The wicked drink it and...? So far, the psalm has been adamant in its description of God as a Universal Judge, so I'm clearly missing something. Back to the translations.

What's in the cup? The translations provide great images.
...foaming wine, well mixed; (New Revised Standard Version)
...a heady blend of wine; (The Jerusalem Bible)
...the wine foams in it, hot with spice (New English Bible) that is mixed with fire! (The Psalms by Gary Chamberlain)
...the wine is red, it is full of mixture (King James Version)

In the footnotes, the New English Bible refers to the cup of "judgment" (ah, that's better), and gives three other Bible references. The most helpful is Jeremiah 25:15-18. Here we learn that "fiery wine" meant that a captured city would be burned. The nations who drink of the wine will vomit and go mad. The wine is potent stuff. The cup holds God's wrath and God's judgment. Now read the verse again.
The Lord holds a cup in his hand, and the wine foams in it, hot with spice; he offers it to every man for drink and all the wicked on earth must drain it to the dregs. The New English Bible
Finally, The New English Bible suggests looking at Luke 22:42.
"Father, if it be thy will, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but thine be done."
The Gospel of Luke was written after Jesus' death, so most likely Jesus did not personally recount his anguished prayer. Jesus prayed alone we are told, so no one heard the prayer. The writer effectively uses a technique known as "dramatic non-fiction", and makes a logical assumption. Jesus knew scriptures; Jesus knew the symbolism. "...take this cup away..." Simple. Four words conveying rich meaning that hit the reader with bone-deep clarity.

When we turn from the teachings of Jesus, from the Way, it's like drinking a cup of poisoned wine, all of it, to the dregs. When put like that, staying on the path becomes a no-brainer.

Let's stay away from that cup, shall we?


  1. The funny thing about Ps 75 is that it is supposed to be a Thanksgiving hymns. This took me awhile to comprehend because most of it seems to be threatening. But then I got it. Asaph is offer thanks and rejoicing for the coming of God's final judgement. It is supposed to give hope to all that are suffering in that God will revenge the evil in his world at his own time. It is declaring the expectation of divine intervention while giving opportunity for repentance for those not heeding God's will before it is too late. We do not know the time of God's choosing, all we know is that God will make that decision when he feels it is right. It is not for us to judge others, this is God's own right we need to be patient and trust God's wisdom.

  2. Ha! I get it, Lynda. Thank you. That makes so much sense. Thank you, God for being that Universal Judge. I don't have to be. I can trust you to do your part in Life; and I'll do mine--which is to acknowledge and thank you for what you're doing.

    Feels so good when pieces fall in to place like that.