What does Psalm 116:13 mean by the “cup of salvation”?

Psalm 116:13 refers to a cup of salvation; what exactly is this?

Psalm 116 focuses on God’s great grace, which is more than enough for anybody. Many times, the Lord has rescued us from disaster when we were unable to save ourselves (Isaiah 40:29–31; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13). Realizing his indebtedness to God, the psalmist laments, “What can I give the Lord for everything he has done for me?” In thanksgiving for my deliverance, I will raise the cup of salvation in the name of the Lord. In the face of the Lord and his people, I will keep my word (Psalm 116:12–14, NLT).

How did the psalmist know that the Lord was worthy of his acclaim as he raised a cup of salvation? Perhaps it was a metaphor for the drink offering described in Leviticus 23:13. Each year during the Feast of Firstfruits, the Israelites were to bring God a drink offering of “a quarter of a hin of wine” (about one quart) as an expression of their appreciation for God’s deliverance and supply in the Promised Land. Along with other donations made from fruits of the land, the liquid offering was poured out on the altar. These sacrifices were offered to God as a constant reminder that the bountiful crop was entirely due to His grace.

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To show gratitude to God for His deliverance, the Hebrews often offered libations. At Bethel, where the Lord had come to Jacob and renamed him Israel, Jacob erected a pillar of stone to commemorate the spot. Then, “he offered a drink sacrifice on it” (Genesis 35:14).

A beverage was offered at the ordination of the priests (Exodus 29:38–41). In Numbers 15, God outlined stricter regulations for sacrifices as a means of assessing the people’s devotion to him (verses 5, 7, 10).

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am pleased and rejoice with all of you,” the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi in the New Testament (Philippians 2:17). For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is approaching,” he said to Timothy, facing imminent death (2 Timothy 4:6).

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David praised God for his bountiful blessings on humanity, and the “cup of salvation” alludes to this by evoking images of a lavish meal prepared in the sight of one’s adversaries. You have shown me great respect by pouring oil on my head. I am blessed to the brim (Psalm 23:5, NLT).

The psalmist contrasts the “cup of wrath,” which represents God’s judgment of sin and His wrath prepared for the wicked, with the “cup of salvation,” which represents God’s deliverance from that judgment (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15–16; Ezekiel 23:31–34). Jesus Christ’s intense agony and death on the cross are symbolized by this cup of wrath (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42). The Lord’s foreshadowing at Gethsemane of Jesus’ agonized cry of “God, my God, why have you left me?” It’s written in Matthew 27:46. The only way we could be spared and rescued was if Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us.

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The psalmist celebrated God’s deliverance by raising a libation of thanksgiving. He held the cup aloft in a gesture of appreciation and drank from it while praising God for his great and lavish grace. When Christians give gratitude to God, this metaphor is a great image to keep in mind.

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