The Overflowing Cup
"My cup runs over." Psalm 23:5
"My cup overflows." Psalm 23:5
"My cup overflows with blessings." Psalm 23:5
God's goodness to His people is meted out with no begrudged or measured hand. Our Shepherd is Divine, and Deity is the source, and Infinity the measure, of His supplies. "My cup runs over." This would appear the crown and climax of the blessings of which our Nightingale Psalmist had been sweetly singing. The Lord his Shepherd had given him not a full cup merely, but a brimmed one; not brimmed only, but overflowing; a cup like, and worthy of, Himself- "exceeding abundantly above all that he had asked or thought." The emblem is familiar and expressive: the Bible abounds with its use, and presents it in a variety of beautiful and suggestive forms; to some of which let us direct our devout study.
There can be no such contemplation of the symbol as that suggested by the history of OUR BLESSED LORD HIMSELF. What was the life of Jesus but a life-long cup of humiliation, destitution, and need? Think of His homelessness- "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head." The only bed the world He had created afforded Him, was the lowly pallet of straw upon which as an infant He lay in the stable of Bethlehem! He was poor and destitute. With nothing with which to purchase bread- He hungered; parched with thirst- He craved at the hands of an alien from His religion and His race, a draught of cold water; and when Caesar's tax was demanded- which He hesitated not to pay- He had nothing to pay it with. O Son of God! what wealth Your life has imparted to honest poverty- what dignity to virtuous lowliness- what sweetness to sanctified sorrow- and what sublimity to a life of faith on God!
Think too, of the persecution and insult which traced His daily life! Hounded by His foes from place to place- assailed by the most ingenious deceitfulness- accused of complicity with devils- denounced as a glutton and an inebriate-stigmatized as the friend and associate of publicans and sinners- yes, with every species of shame and insult cast upon Him!- O my soul! was ever cup of humiliation like unto this, which your Savior drank for you?
And what was our Lord's life but the foreshadowing of the suffering and death which overflowed the cup now brimmed? It is here the symbol finds its most significant and impressive illustration. We accompany Him to the garden- we behold the Incarnate God bowed in grief-His impurpled brow pressed to the cold, damp sod-the cup of trembling in His hands-and the cry of anguish-Oh how piercing, yet how submissive!-bursting from His quivering lips, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!" We follow Him to Calvary, staggering and swooning beneath the instrument of His torture; we behold the legions of hell let loose upon His holy soul, 'bruising the heel of the woman's seed,' we listen to the insulting taunts of the bald-headed priests as to and fro they swaggered beneath the cross: rising above all, we hear the Voice issuing from the "secret place of thunder"- "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the Man that is My fellow, says the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." The sun is clothed in sackcloth- the earth trembles upon its axis- the granite rocks are rent asunder- and amid the darkness, convulsion, and earthquake of the globe, a cry is heard-louder and more agonizing than all, "My God, any God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Listen once more- "Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto Me, with which the Lord has afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger." And now the chalice of woe overflows! but not a drop is lost- for the Divine-human Sufferer emptied it to its lees, leaving for His church- on whose behalf He drank and drained it- nothing but AN OVERFLOWING CUP OF LOVE!
To this cup let us now turn. And first- It is the cup of salvation. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." Surely the emblem finds no illustration more true and precious than this. If Christ exhausted the cup which could not pass from His lips undrunk- for thus it behooved Him to suffer- it was that thus drained He might return it to our hands brimmed and overflowing with a salvation in whose ingredients not a taint of sin- not an atom of the curse- not a drop of wrath- not a spark of hell could be found. Oh wondrous elements of this cup!
All sin forgiven- the soul fully justified- the person graciously adopted- and an heirship conferred to "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away." Well may the believer exclaim- "My cup runs over!" Drink, yes, drink deeply of this cup, O my soul! Are your sins so many, and your guilt so great- your faith so weak, and your fears so strong, that you hesitate pressing this overflowing cup of a full, finished, and free salvation to your lips? Hesitate no longer! it is all for you! Receive it at your Savior's hand, with no price in your own, exclaiming- "By grace I am saved! I accept and drink it, not as a saint, but as a sinner; not as worthy, but as hell-deserving; not as a lost sheep who of his own will and power found his way back to the Flock; but as one in quest of whom the Shepherd traveled in the cloudy and dark day over hill and dale, mountain and river, until He found and brought me with rejoicing to His fold. I was a sheep going astray, but am now returned unto the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul, and my cup runs over."
And is not the cup of holy joy at times brimmed and overflowing? If there is a joyful being in the world, it is the true believer in Christ Jesus. There is everything to contribute to this joy. If our Divine-human Surety drained the cup of wrath, what is left for us but the overflowing cup of love? "Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see Him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Rejoice then in the Lord! No longer travel with your head bowed down like a bulrush- your harp, every chord of which should vibrate with shouts of praise- suspended in silence upon the willow. But, as you count each link in the golden chain of your salvation- sin forgiven- person accepted- soul adopted- hell closed- heaven opened- Oh! how should a deep, holy joy thrill your whole soul- your life uplifted far above the crested billows, and threatening clouds, and veiling mists of your present light and momentary afflictions, into the pure sunlit region of a "joy unspeakable and full of glory." "These things," said the Savior, "have I said unto you, that your joy might be full." "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice."
"Jesus has all my powers possessed,
My hopes, my fears, my joys,
He, the dear Sovereign of my breast,
Shall still command my voice.
"Some of the fairest choirs above
Shall flock around my song,
With joy to hear the Name they love
Sound from a mortal tongue.
"I'll carve my passion on the bark,
Until every wounded tree
Shall drop and bear some mystic mark,
That Jesus died for me.
"They shall wonder, as they read
Inscribed on all the grove,
The Lord Himself came down and bled
To win a mortal's love."
The cup of divine, providential goodness- often overflowing- must not be omitted in these illustrations of the symbol. The Covenant God of grace, is the same Covenant God of providence. A sweeter, holier life we cannot live than a life of daily, childlike reliance upon the providential care of our Heavenly Father. "He cares for you." Oh how great is His goodness! "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him." Can you recall to memory the gifts of His goodness- the almost miraculous interpositions of His providence on your behalf- His thoughtful anticipation of your need- His marvelous deliverance of you out of trouble- the unthought of quarter from where, and unlooked for time at which, your supplies have come- and not humbly, and praisefully exclaim, "My cup runs over "? Oh, let not all His benefits- your temporal needs supplied- pressing emergencies met- insurmountable difficulties removed- threatening dangers averted; be forgotten! "Return unto your rest, O m y soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." "You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word."
But it is given to the sheep of the flock on behalf of the Shepherd that, not only should they drink the cup of joy, but that at times, in His all-wise and loving dealings, their cup of sorrow should overflow. "Therefore His people return here: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them." What numbers of the flock of Christ will echo these words of Asaph- "Waters of a full cup of sorrow are wrung out to me. My cup of affliction runs over!" How affecting the language of God to Jerusalem- expressive often of His dealings with His spiritual Jerusalem- "Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem- which have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His Fury; you have drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out!"
You, perhaps, are now holding in your hand the cup of trembling; God has bereaved you of the loved one of your heart- the prop of years, the hope of life, is removed- and your cup of grief runs over. Adversity has befallen you- the earnings and the hoardings of years are gone, and you are left in poverty and dependence- and your cup of trembling runs over. Disease has invaded your earthly house, and you lie prostrate upon a bed of suffering, and wearisome days and sleepless nights are yours- and waters of a full cup are wrung out to you. Your cup of sorrow is perhaps a relative; some object of your affection has swerved from the path of rectitude, and, linked as you are to the erring one, you feel the shock- and your cup of grief and shame runs over. Or, perhaps, your sorrow is spiritual and personal; your soul-sorrow, like that of your Lord, seems near unto death. A sense of sin- divine desertion- Satanic suggestions- the piercing of unbelief- the world's assaults- the loss of Christian evidence- the fear of death- the dread of condemnation- are the elements of the cup trembling in your hand- and it runs over! Be it so. All this soul-trouble validates your sonship-y our heirship- your oneness with your suffering Head, your loving Father, whose hand has mingled, and gives you to drink, the cup now mantling in yours. Compare it with the bitter cup your Shepherd drank for you, and let your broken, sobbing, yet submissive heart echo His touching, yet sublime language- "My Father! Your will, not mine, be done!"
"How bitter that cup no heart can conceive,
which He drank quite up, that sinners might live!
His way was much rougher and darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer, and shall I repine?"
But the emblem is not without its pointed and solemn bearing upon the present condition and the future destiny of the unconverted. There is a cup of condemnation, as there is of salvation; and if the one- overflowing and free to all who will accept the proffered gift- is unbelievingly neglected and scornfully refused, this must inevitably be followed by the other- the awful contents of which the lost soul will drink drop by drop to all eternity! "For the Lord holds a cup in his hand; it is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours the wine out in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it, draining it to the dregs." Psalm 75:8. Again, "Upon the wicked He shall reign snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup." Unconverted reader! are you resolved- deliberately and wilfully resolved- to drink this cup- to endure the undying worm, the unquenchable fire, the wrath of God forever, rather than forego 'the pleasures of sin for a season'? Oh the folly! Oh the madness of your choice! The Savior- before long to be the Judge- has drawn aside the awful curtain- as He only could- of the lost in hell, and bids you look within, repent, and escape! "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.... And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame!"
Oh, by the solemnities of a hopeless, perhaps, a sudden death- by the torments of a certain and eternal hell- and by the ingredients of that 'cup of fire and brimstone' and wrath, which you must drink forever and ever- be persuaded to break off your sins by righteousness- repent before God- believe in the Lord Jesus Christ- and be forever saved! "Who is a God like You, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retains not His anger forever, because he delights in mercy."
In conclusion, fail not to take an empty cup to Christ's fulness. Who travels to the well with a full vessel? Who goes properly and hopefully to Christ, but the soul that travels to Him in its emptiness, poverty, and need? Such will ever find Him, and such He will never reject. He saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. In the vital, stupendous matter of salvation, He is all to us, or nothing! The debt was great- and He canceled it; the satisfaction was necessary- and He made it; the death was awful- and He endured it; the cup was bitter- crimsoned with every ingredient which the turpitude of sin, the fire of justice, the fury of hell could pour into it- and He drank it! Oh, receive Christ in simple, unquestioning faith, and He will turn your "water of a full cup" into a cup of the wine of His love, brimmed and running over!
See that there is no waste in the overflowings of your cup of salvation and of joy. There was none in Christ's. Use the excess of your happy experiences for the help and comfort of others. Do not be a spiritual miser- hoarding in selfish niggardness your surplus. "There is one who scatters, and yet increases; and there is one who withholds more than is fit, but it tends to poverty." Oh to how many a saint, dear to Jesus, the waters of a full cup of suffering, sorrow, and need are wrung out, to whom you may repair, and in His name, and for His sake, share the overflowings of your cup- lightening their burden- soothing their grief- supplying their need- thus turning their sorrow into joy, their note of woe into a nightingale psalm of praise. Thus you will pour the alabaster box of the precious ointment of your love upon the head of Jesus- in the person of one of His members- and heaven will be filled with its undying fragrance, and eternity with its endless praise. "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me."