It is no secret to the hearts of man that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. But he is also the avenger of those who passionately detest him in all of his excellent glory. Our all-knowing God has, as it were, a book. And all evils committed against his name in the good world he created are written in it, awaiting the great judgment. The good news is that a way has been made for this terrible judgment of God to be averted. And the simple picture given in Matthew 26:27, shows us this very thing.
Jesus took the bitter cup, previously a mere symbol for God’s old covenant people, and turned it into a sacrament for God’s new covenant people. He says this must be done “for the forgiveness of [their] sins” (Matt. 26:28). All four evangelists record for us the words of our Lord on that last night, how the wrath of God was likened to a cup—a cup of wrath to be fully drunk by the Son. But where does this image of Jesus come from? That is a fascinating study accompanied by rewarding results. In short, Jesus redeems an Old Covenant object in one simple statement.
Ancient Israel was no stranger to the righteous record-keeping of Yahweh, the only truly just judge. But they did not quickly learn to fear him. Often, they forsook the ways of God to follow after the course of this world, living as children of disobedience.
They didn’t learn from watching as the wrath of God was poured out upon Egypt. They didn’t learn from God’s punishment of sin during the great wandering of the first generation. No. Even with the period of the judges to look back upon as a warning, the generation of Israel in Isaiah 51 did not fear the wrath of God. Overall, God withheld his judgment time and time again—but no more. Israel now suffers in exile, treated as if they themselves were “strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12). But strangers they are not, as God is as faithful in the keeping of his word as he is in the punishment of the wicked.
After Israel is estranged and laid waste, the word of the Lord comes to them in Isaiah 51 with comforting news. Throughout the course of Isaiah 51 – 52, Yahweh says to his broken people three times: “Awake, Awake!” (Isa. 51:9, 17; 52:1) His tone is not of a general whipping of his cadets into shape. It is that of the beloved husbandman, the gardener. He looks upon the trampled vines of his vineyard and calls them back to health (Isa. 5:1-7).
In that second call to “Awaken yourself! Awaken yourself!” (Isa.51:17), we not only find the picture of a cup that Jesus used, but we also see a dark and vivid picture of God’s people in the aftermath of drinking it. The prophet records:
“Awaken yourself! Awaken yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of Yahweh the cup of His wrath; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs. There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne, nor is there one to take hold of her by the hand among all the sons she has reared. These two things have befallen you; Who will console you? The devastation and destruction, famine and sword; How shall I comfort you? Your sons have fainted; They lie helpless at the head of every street, like an antelope in a net, full of the wrath of Yahweh, the rebuke of your God”(Isa. 51:17–20).
God’s people had drunk the chalice of his wrath dry. They lie about as drunken men, but not intoxicated by wine. They are devastated and destroyed. They suffer famine and sword. Their hope in the next generation is no more, for Jerusalem’s sons are no better off than their fathers. Hear this imagery from verse 20: they have been like a terror-stricken antelope caught in the net as the bloodthirsty hunters approach.
And from whom does this wrath come? Yahweh unabashedly says that it is from his own hand. What a picture of the wrath to come for those who will not bow down to their King – for those who do not love God, thus do not keep his commandments! But these sufferings have come to pass, and now the prophet brings better tidings, tidings of great mercy, to God’s people.
“Thus says your Lord, Yahweh, even your God Who contends for His people, ‘Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling, the chalice of My wrath; You will never drink it again.’” (Isa. 51:22)
Dear friend: this chalice is the very cup Christ referenced on that fateful night in the upper room. This wrath of God was to be poured out upon all who have despised the Lord and his commands. But the wrath of God Jesus consumed was an eternity of fire meant for his people. Yahweh kept meticulous track of all the evils his people Israel committed so that the cup would not be one ounce underfilled. And they were justly made to drink it all. But Christ has done the same for his church. The cup which was filled to the brim has been drunk dry. There is no more wrath for those who are in Christ, as it has been totally consumed. All that is left for God’s new covenant people is a cup of sweet mercy. And for those who are not in Christ, this same infinite cup of mercy is extended. None that come to him in faith shall be cast aside.
Glory be to the Son who has borne the wrath of God’s new covenant people!
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Joseph Pliska is a church-planting missionary to Tokyo, Japan. He was ordained and sent out of Landmark Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He is a husband to Sierah and father of a beautiful baby girl. He has a masters from Southern Seminary and records and produces Christian audiobooks on the side when not studying Japanese. Joe and his team in Japan have a heart to plant Baptist churches in urban Japan, led by mature and qualified men with the heart and training to evangelize and disciple others.
January 17, 2024
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