12What shall I give back to YHWH
for all the gracious things he has done for me?
13I will lift up the cup of salvation,
and call upon the name YHWH.
14I will fulfill my vows,
in the presence of all the people. — Psalm 116:12-14
One of the things I do for my daily devotionals is read the lectionary texts for the two upcoming Sundays each morning. This means that I generally repeat reading each text 14 times. Now I’m not telling you to do the same thing. Devotions are very personal between you and God, and you have to do what works. But I mention it because of the blessing of repetition. We’re often afraid of repetition because it might be boring, or it might become a ritual. But often it simply helps something become more a part of us.
The text I quoted above is from one of next Sunday’s selections, so I’ve already read it a number of times. But it wasn’t until this morning, as I was walking the dog and thinking about this devotional (I got off to a slow start this morning!) that it suddenly hit me.
How will I pay God back for his grace? Good theologians will shudder and discuss the definition of grace, and point out how miserably unequipped we are to pay God back for anything. But millions of Christians have asked something like this question. We answer it in many ways. Some conclude they can’t, so why bother trying. Others get confused into thinking they can. Some believe that God demands certain specific things. Many, many people have been trying to earn God’s grace even before they think they have received it. (I would suggest that it is impossible to live without receiving God’s grace in some senseâ€”it’s just there!)
The psalmist asks this very common question, and doesn’t spend much time answering it. I think the sparse expression here reflects some serious thinking. How can I pay God back? Well, all I can do is the things I ought to have done anyhow. I lift up the cup of salvation, meaning that I proclaim that God has provided salvation and I fulfill my vows. And right between those, I call on God, and most probably I invite him to do more.
In the white space between those few, well-selected words, the psalmist proclaims grace. God has acted graciously, and you can’t pay him back. All you can do is go right on thanking him and asking for more.
Why not pause for a moment and thank God for all the gracious acts he has done on your behalf? Then recognize there’s nothing you can do to pay for it, lift up the cup of salvation, proclaim his name, and go on living for him.