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Drinking the Cup of Judgment

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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The LORD God proclaims: Deep and wide is your sister’s cup. Drink! Appointed for abuse and scorn, it overflows. You will be filled with drunken sadness. A cup of devastation and dismay is the cup of your sister Samaria. (CEB)

Ezekiel 23:32

I find Ezekiel 23 is one of the hardest chapters in the whole Bible to read. Partly, its use of graphic sexual imagery is unsettling. Partly, its portrayal of the unfaithfulness of God's people is deeply distressing.

In the middle of this chapter, we find the use of a metaphor that might seem familiar: "The LORD God proclaims: Deep and wide is your sister’s cup. Drink! Appointed for abuse and scorn, it overflows. You will be filled with drunken sadness. A cup of devastation and dismay is the cup of your sister Samaria" (23:32-33). The cup symbolizes the judgment of God that falls upon Samaria and is soon to fall upon Judah as well (called Oholibah in this chapter, a word that literally means "tent worshiper"). Judah will soon drink the cup that is filled with abuse, scorn, and devastation. The people will experience drunken sadness and dismay because of their persistent idolatry and unfaithfulness to God.

Why might this metaphor of the cup of judgment sound familiar to us? Because it was used by Jesus when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Mark 14:36, for example, Jesus prayed, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (ESV). The cup stands for the death that Jesus is about to suffer on the cross. But it isn't just the physical suffering that Jesus wishes to avoid. He recognizes that he is soon to "drink in" the judgment of God upon human sin. He is about to experience the depth of hell even though he did nothing to deserve it.

Jesus did in fact drink the cup of judgment. He drank it for you and for me, so that, in the mystery of God's grace, we might drink from the cup of salvation. This is the wonder of the Gospel, the good news that changes everything, beginning with our relationship with God, and touching every part of life.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you think about Jesus' taking your sin upon himself? If you really believed that Jesus took the judgment for your sin, how might you live differently?

PRAYER: God of justice, when I read Ezekiel 23 I cringe, not only because the language is so graphic, and not only because of what your people once did to reject you, but also because I am confronted with my own unfaithfulness. Truly, I deserve to drink the cup of your judgment.

Yet, in your mercy, you have taken that cup away from me. Jesus drank my cup on the cross, offering me instead his cup of salvation. How I thank and praise you for the wonder of your grace. May I live in that grace today, and share it with others. Amen.

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