Life is crowded with God’s gift to us. Think of a few. Our president calls us to gratitude and prayer. Harvests are heavy in the land. Granaries are bulging. Prosperity is at record level. Earnings and spending are at their peaks. So far God spares us from nuclear war. Home, jobs, friends, schools, churches -and a thousand other factors in our lives point to God’s goodness in his gifts.
The Christian sees much more. In all the gifts he sees the loving, gracious heartbeat of a holy God who loves sinners in Jesus Christ. Aware of his self-centered sin, conscious of his deep unworthiness, sensitive to the righteous judgments of a holy God, the Christian is grateful for grace. Grace, undeserving favor to those who have lost their rights, is the glowing fire which warms all God’s gifts and makes them a delight to the Christian.
This, plus much more, makes Thanksgiving Day 1964 a big day, a whole season in our lives.
With the writer of Psalm 116 we ask: “What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits unto me?” This is the question of gratitude. It is asked in breathless wonder, in passionate love, in eager joy. “What return shall I make to the Lord for all his bounties to me?” Every alert Christian asks the question. With joy he answers with the Psalmist, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of Jehovah.”
Take the Cup
The picture of taking the cup is taken from a Semitic feast. Happy, grateful guests reclined around the table of the host. There was a large, ornately carved cup, filled with the best wine. It was a symbol of deep joy. It was a common cup, passed from hand to hand, lip to lip, of all the guests. Each took their draught of wine with thankful joy. Each guest would take the gift of the cup, toast the host as he drank with gratitude. One cup, many guests, one spirit of joyful gratitude. That is the picture of real thanksgiving. It meant eager, happy grateful wonder in the use of that which the host provided. Gratitude meant receiving from the master of the feast.
This is the way of Christ-centered, God-honoring thanksgiving. From the hand of God we take the cup of salvation. In trembling wonder, in simple faith we drink deeply. Each draught of grace and love gives the heavenly wine of the Kingdom of Christ. To be thankful means to use the gift, to toast the Giver with every energy of a grateful life. To be thankful means that we daily look to God and his Son as they give liberally, upbraiding not. We draw upon God’s fulness, drain the cup of salvation.
So it is in the commonplaces of our lives. A parent buys his child a new toy. The child shows gratitude with a hearty “thanks, dad!”, a radiant face, eager hands. Gratitude is the child taking the toy, using it, cherishing it, using it again to make its young life fully, happy, vibrant. The child receives the gift, uses the gift in gratitude, wears it out as it serves his life. And such a grateful child looks for more from his parents.
“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of Jehovah.” Taking his cup we taste the graces of forgiveness, of adoption, of repentance, of renewal, of obedient service, of consecrating joy, of hope and glory. In the Lord’s hand is the cup of full salvation. The grateful Christian drinks deeply, drains it daily, and calls upon the Savior for more. This is gratitude, Christian gratitude, for Thanksgiving Day 1964, for every day of every year.
The spirit of taking the cup of salvation is the spirit of the Heidelberg Catechism in its third section which deals with Gratitude. Real thanksgiving is a gift, enjoyed by those who have been bought by the precious blood of our Savior. Gratitude according to the Heidelberg means that we abide in Christ and experience the daily renewing of our lives. Thankful living involves a continuing face-to-face communion with Christ. The Christian and the Savior look into each other’s eyes which are the windows of the soul. In the eyes of Christ we see the pulsing heart of divine love, and the Savior sees the pulsating response of grateful love in our eyes. The thankful Christian never works out his gratitude under his own auspices, but constantly reaches out to drink from the cup of salvation. As the believer holds the cup, Christ himself “renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image.” Such transformed and transforming sinners with their whole life show gratitude, praise God, increase in religious commitment, and live as examples unto all men. This is the vital center of all gratitude.
Taking the cup of salvation, emptying the gifts of grace, involves a daily turning from self-centered sin unto God-honoring service. The old man of sin is constantly dying, and the new man in Christ is growing daily. There is heartfelt joy in God as we drain the cup of salvation. There is love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works as we call upon the name of the Lord. There is deeper insight into the meaning of God’s ten covenant words for our lives as the grateful Christian seeks to give his life in loving service to God. There is renewed, daily, desperate and delightful calling upon the name of the Lord in prayer. Prayer remains the chief part of thankfulness, patterned after the perfect prayer of our Lord. And thus we come to find awareness that gratitude, genuine thankfulness, is a fruit of grace, a gift of God, one which can only be practiced by the person who takes the cup of salvation and calls upon the name of the Lord.
Taking the Cup Today
In the vibrant context of western culture this means many things.
God gives us prosperity unprecedented. The standards of living were never higher. But what is our gratitude? Do we drink from the cup of salvation and feed the hungry in our land and world? Have prosperous, grateful Christians declared a determined war on poverty? As we call upon God’s name, have we caught the spirit of Lord’s Day XLII, Answer 111? “That I further my neighbor’s profit wherever I can or may, deal with him as I would have others deal with me, and labor faithful1y that I may be able to relieve the needy?”
God gives freedom to our western world. What is the grateful response of a freedom loving and a freedom enjoying citizenry? Can those who ask in wonder, what shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits unto me, deny some human beings their rights because their skin is black? With the cup of salvation in our hands dare we deny the black citizen his right to hold a job, to live in our block, to vole for our leaders? As lovers of freedom call upon the name of the Lord, do they patiently teach others that every right carries with it a responsibility? If more grateful sinners would take the cup of salvation there would be less prejudice, ignorance, lawlessness and rioting. Then we would know the meaning of Lord’s Day XL, Answer 105, which reads, “That I, neither in thought, nor in word or gesture, much less in deed, dishonor, hate, wound, or kill my neighbor, whether by myself or by another.” Both black man and white man, as each drinks from the common cup of salvation, will begin to realize that “even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so that with earnest purpose they begin to live, not only according to some but according to all the commandments of God.” Answer 114.
God releases us from the degrading boredom and meaninglessness of so much perspiring toil More leisure time is coming our way every year. What is our gratitude for these hours? How do we show our thankfulness for these days? Without the cup of salvation, without calling upon the name of the Lord, there is the worship of pleasure, satiating people to the point of boredom. Are we bringing thanks with more broken homes, higher statistics of delinquency and crime? Only as we drain the cup of salvation can we cast away the idols of pleasure, money, security and secularity. Only as one drinks freely from the Lord’s cup do we “rightly acknowledge the only true God, trust in Him alone, submit to Him with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honor Him with my whole heart; so that I leave and forsake all creatures rather than do even the least thing against His will.” Answer 94. Thus by “our godly walk our neighbors also may be won for Christ.” Answer 86. Only this is the real grace of gratitude.
God gives us respite from the horrors of nuclear war. How do we show our gratitude for this his benefit to our time? Is it only to narrow the circle of concern, live for self as men become lovers of ease? With our mouths still tasting the wine of saving love from the cup of salvation. we call on the Lord, “Thy Kingdom come.” “That is: so rule us by the Word and Spirit that we may submit ourselves more and more to Thee; preserve and increase Thy Church; destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against Thee, and all. wicked counsels conceived against Thy Holy Word, until the perfection of Thy Kingdom arrive wherein Thou shalt be all in all.” Answer 123. Only those who hold the cup of salvation pray to God in such gratitude.
What shall we render unto Jehovah for all his benefits? Free schools, open and protected churches, doors of opportunity for greater service., homes radiant with healthy lives, hospital beds seen framed in the warm light of chastening love, open graves at which we can say, “Death where is thy victory,” a future bright with the promise of an abundant entrance into the eternal Kingdom….All these gifts and thousands not spelled out are freely given by a liberal God.
Let us know and live the secret of the grace of gratitude. We all must take the one cup of salvation, drain it unto its last delightful drop, and call upon the Lord for more.
This is the grateful life.
This is eternal life unto the glory of our thrice holy God and the salvation of our world.