“You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup is overflowing.” (Psalm 23:5 BBE)
In the last section, we discussed the cup of suffering that we must all, as Christians, drink from. Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup” (Matthew 20:23 NLT). And what about the other cup – are we to wait until we get to heaven to taste this cup of joy? No, indeed the joyful cup is available to us even now, and our Heavenly Shepherd expects us to take long, refreshing, sips from it. This cup is an antidote for the wounds suffered on the battlefield.
For those who belong to the flock of Jesus, “the joy of the Lord will be our strength”. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, who dwells within us. “The Lord is … my cup” – if we walk close to the Shepherd, the sweetness of His presence will transform the hard paths, the pain and suffering. This overwhelming joy that comes from being with Him, has the power not merely to mitigate suffering, but also to rob it of all destructive power. For suffering can make us lose heart, forget God’s goodness, and make susceptible to the darts – of bitterness, excessive introspection, negativity – which the enemy aims at our souls. All this is reversed when we drink from the cup of joy.
The prophet Habakkuk writes about a national crisis, a time of God’s judgment. The land was utterly destroyed, laid waste by war and famine. On the one hand, there was violence and terror; on the other, “the fig tree does not bud, there is no fruit on the vines, the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 HCSB). As the hearts of people began to fail, the prophet could offer them no hope that things would change in the immediate future, but he reminded them that “the Lord is in His holy temple” (Habakkuk 2:20). There was nothing he could do to change the situation, for even his prayers appeared to go unanswered. Yet, as he continued to fix His eyes on God, the fear and despair gave way to indescribable joy, for he discovered – as numerous saints before and after him have discovered – that God alone is sufficient.
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” (Habakkuk 3:18-19 NKJV)
Habakkuk no longer felt overwhelmed by his outward circumstances, but like David before him, he was lifted by supernatural joy to scale the mountains before him. Now let us look at a few promises of God regarding this promised restoration.
“‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security… I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honour before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it. ’
“Yet in the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted… there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before, ’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 33:6-11 NIV)
“Instead of your shame… you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” (Isaiah 61:7 NIV).
We mourn, as Jeremiah mourned for Jerusalem, about the fallen state of the world. We long to see the fruits of righteousness – holiness, kindness and love – in our own lives, in the church and in our communities. Instead, we see a growth of wickedness in society, and the church seemingly powerless to reverse this tide. We ourselves struggle with sin, and we see the devastations of sin all around. Greed, sexual immorality, licentiousness, terror, cruelty, oppression of the weak, and families being torn apart – the sin and suffering seem endless. The spiritual desolation of our generation is almost unparalleled in history. And there is worse to come.
For the scripture warns us that in the last days, things will get worse. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12 NIV). The fruit of sin will multiply and there will be days of great peril and apostasy; but just when life becomes unbearable, we will see the Son of Man coming in His glory and the New Jerusalem descending from heaven as a bride.
We do not know and we cannot perceive the beauty and splendour of the inheritance that will be ours, when Jesus returns. But of this we may be sure – one day the cup of sorrow will pass from us forever, and instead the Lord will hand us His loving cup, brimming over with joy. “Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you” (Isaiah 60:5 ESV).
At the Last Supper, Jesus promised never to drink of the fruit of the vine, till we are reunited with Him. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25 NIV). Then sorrow will give way to joy. Our joy will be complete when we see the King, our Shepherd, face to face, and share His cup with Him.
Creation itself will undergo a total transformation. All sin, oppression and suffering will cease, as the rightful King of glory begins His reign. ‘Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar. In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer… the one who took the revenue…?” You will see those arrogant people no more…’ (Isaiah 33:17-19 NIV).
The violence, uncertainty and suffering will be forgotten, swallowed up by an all-consuming joy. “Nothing”, we are promised, “will take away your joy”. Like the new Jerusalem built on unshakeable foundations, so will be our joy – “… your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the Lord will be our Mighty One” (Isaiah 33:20-21 NIV). When the Messiah returns, everything will be made new, and overflowing joy will fill our hearts.
In conclusion, our Shepherd offers us the cup of joy in this world, to sustain and empower us to scale the rugged heights that He scaled, and to reach the place where, with Him, we will share in the endless joy of ‘everything made new’.
Father, thank You for the day when You will restore and renew all things. Help us to continually rejoice in Your goodness. We thank You for the joy prepared for us, and pray that we will walk worthy of our calling till we see Jesus face to face.