If I were to ask you, “Where do we hear the expression, ‘take this cup’, in the Bible?” Your mind might be drawn to the night were Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Well, on that night we know that Jesus “took the cup,” and after giving thanks, He gave it to His disciples and said, “Drink from it, all of you” (Mt. 26:27). Besides being words that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk. 14:36; Lk. 22:42), you might be surprised to find that the expression, ‘Take this cup,’ is essentially what God told Jeremiah to do. And when you see the cup that Jeremiah was called to take and offer to both Jerusalem and the nations, let’s just say it should cause you to appreciate afresh the cup that God calls His own to drink from in the Lord’s Supper. Let’s get into the text and see how it develops. It was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 25:1) that the LORD God of Israel spoke to Jeremiah saying,
15 For thus says the Lord God of Israel to me: “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it.
Let us not forget that the symbolic act that Jeremiah was about to perform – a possible acted-out parable similar to what we see in Jeremiah 27:2-4, or, as some contend, a demonstration displayed in a vision, was done in order to explain the threatenings just uttered in the previous verses (vs.12-14); namely, the fact that Babylon would be made a “perpetual desolation” (vs.12; cf. Isa. 13:19) and that many unrepentant kings and nations, including Judah, would be repaid according to their deeds in accordance to the judgments that God pronounced (vs. 9-14)
As we’ve seen before, Jeremiah did not have some kind of personal vendetta with the people of Judah, nor was he contriving political propaganda in the hopes of striking terror in the hearts of enemy nations. He was God’s prophet. It was the LORD God of Israel that commanded him to say what he said and do what he was to do (vs.15). Interestingly, perhaps even surprisingly, Jeremiah was called by God to depict God. He was to ‘play the role’ of the ‘master of the feast’, ‘mixing a drink’, and serving it to his unrepentant guests. Lest anyone should erroneously think that this in some way endorses alcoholism it’d be prudent to remember that this drink represents the cup of God’s judgment, and drunkenness, as it’s depicted in this chapter is done so in graphic language that is metaphorically coterminous with that judgment – “Drink, be drunk, and vomit! Fall and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you” (vs.27b).
Back to verse 15…
Here we see some familiar biblical imagery. This figure of the cup is repeatedly used to represent God’s judgment and wrath (Jer. 49:12; 51:7; Isa. 51:17). It’s referred to here as the “cup of [God’s] fury” (Jer. 25:15; Isa. 51:17), while in other places it’s identified as “the cup of trembling” (vs.22), “the cup of horror and desolation” (Ezek. 23:33), “the wine of confusion” (Ps. 60:3), “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath” (Rev. 16:19), and its intended recipients are “all the wicked [i.e. unrepentant/ unbelieving] of the earth” (Ps. 75:8), and it ultimately represents the judgment of God upon sinners in the lake of fire (Rev. 14:10,11; cf. Rev. 20:10). In the context of this Jeremiah passage, God predicted that Judah and the nations would “drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that [He would] send among them” (vs.16). In other words, the judgment of God would lead them to behave as though they were mad. There would be a kind of panicked lunacy overtaking the nations on the brink of being conquered.
Now, as you’ve probably already noticed, this message wasn’t just for Judah. After Jeremiah took the cup from the LORD’s hand and made all the nations drink to whom the LORD sent him (vs.17), we receive an extensive list of those nations. Jerusalem and the cities of Judah lead the way (vs.18); judgment was going to begin at the house of God (cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). Next up was “Pharaoh king of Egypt” (v.19a) and all his administration and people (vs.19b). Judah had relied on Egypt for deliverance, but Egypt wouldn’t be able to deliver itself. Those nations are followed by “all the kings” of the land of Uz (vs.20b) and of the Philistines” (vs.20c); Edom, Moab and the people of Ammon (vs.21c); all the kings of Tyre, Sidon, and the coastlands across the sea (vs.22), and many more (vs.23-26a), leading up to the king of Sheshach, a title that appears to be essentially a code name for the king of Babylon (cf. 51:41). Babylon would be an instrument of judgment against Jerusalem and the nations, and eventually they would be judged as well. All the nations would drink of this cup, an event that in some sense foreshadows the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:14-16).
Well, you might say, ‘What if the nations did not want to drink this cup?’ Verse twenty-eight covers that:
28 And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “You shall certainly drink!
The idea was – this wasn’t a suggestion nor was it an option. It was an inevitable reality. When God told them to take the cup it was assured that they would drink from it.
Make no mistake, given the way the cup imagery made its way not only through the Old Testament but into the last book of the New Testament, it is still pertinent today. As was mentioned earlier, ultimately this cup represents the wrath of God against sinners. It is the cup that the sinner can never ultimately exhaust; hence, the doctrine of eternal punishment. But you need not drink of it. One perfect in holiness and spotless in righteousness has drank the dreadful cup on behalf of all would believe the Gospel. He, the Lord Jesus, beseeched His Father to see if there was any other way to accomplish redemption without drinking it (Mt. 26:39). Such a request was an appropriate outworking of the Son of God’s perfect holiness. His holiness cringed at the thought of becoming sin on our behalf; and, as the Son of His Father’s love He cringed at the thought of coming under His Father’s wrath. But He nonetheless submitted saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done” (vs.42).
So why reject God’s gift of grace in Christ? Why drink from the cup of God’s fury against your sin? Come to the Lord’s table and see the cup that you ought to take. This cup represents His blood, “the blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28). Take that cup and drink from it. And may you be reminded that just as the cup of God’s wrath towards a sinner cannot be exhausted by a sinner, so the cup of God’s blessing towards the redeemed cannot be exhausted by the redeemed.