Why does God Permit a Cup of Agony?

Cup of Agony

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The cup of agony is not something anyone enjoys, even though it is permitted by God. We have all experienced it, whether it was standing by the hospital bed of a loved one. It can be a job loss, financial ruin, facing a terminal illness, or standing by a coffin. Always the cup of agony is a life-changing event. Memories become ‘before and after’ of these fiery trials.

God’s Eternal Plan

Yet the cup of agony is part of God’s eternal plan. Without the cup of agony mankind would not have forgiveness of sins, and a way back into fellowship with God.

The law of Moses and its millions of animal sacrifices could not achieve it. Man could not do it on his own, as he has an inherent sin nature. Only God could provide the Way, but that was only through the cup of agony.

The Cup of Agony

There are many cups in the bible, from the cup of salvation to the cup of joy and the cup of comfort. We are first introduced to the cup of God’s wrath in Psalm 75:8. The prophet also spoke of the cup of God’s anger which disobedient Israel would drink, Isaiah 51:17. There would come an end to Israel drinking it, but ‘Babylon’ will drink that cup forever, Revelation 14:8-11; 16:19.

Jesus drank the cup of divine wrath, Luke 22:42. This cup was the gruesome punishment of Christs’ suffering and death. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God, 2 Corinthians 5:21. We owed a debt we could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe.

Garden of Gethsemane and Cup of Agony

Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane to the point of death, Luke 22:44, that the divine cup of wrath would be removed from Him. Sin is abhorrent to God, yet Christ drank the cup of every sin that was committed from Adam onwards. A cup so revolting it defies the imagination. However, doing the will of the Father was of the utmost importance to the Son of God, Luke 22:8/

This was not ‘Plan B’ for Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8. Because of the price Jesus paid and the shedding of His sinless blood, the four cups of Passover were fulfilled, Exodus 5:6,7. There was the cup of sanctification, cup of deliverance, cup of redemption and the fourth cup, Christ’s cup of agony on Calvary. Without the fourth cup mankind could not fellowship the loving Heavenly Father. Only in the New Testament do we meet the name ‘Abba Father’, Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6.

A Father’s Promise

Abraham and Sarah got impatient and ‘helped’ God fulfil His promises to Abraham, Genesis 12:2. They did it man’s way and produced Ishmael through an Egyptian slave-servant. This was not God’s plan. You either believe God to fulfil his Word and wait patiently on Him, or you try to do it your way.

After the birth of Ishmael, Abraham heard nothing from God for thirteen years. Abraham was content in that he thought he had the promised son. Then, God came to Abraham and told him that he didn’t have ‘the son’.

When Abraham was 100-years old, the miracle, Isaac, was born, just as God had promised a year earlier in the covenant with Abraham, Genesis 17. How the old man exalted in his true son. Abraham was a wealthy man and now God had fulfilled his promises.

Then came the day when God tested Abraham and asked him to offer his son as a burnt offering, Genesis 22:2. It is believed by many that Isaac was now over 20-years old.

A Father’s Cup of Agony

Abraham’s night of agony would have been unbearable, as he faced the fullness of what God had asked him to do. The son who filled his life, was to be killed by Abraham’s own hand. How could a loving God ask such a thing? How could He give and then take away? Where was the justice and reasoning in that? What about the covenant He had with Abraham? How do you lay a 20+-year-old on a pyre of wood, then cut his throat, like a sacrificial lamb? How do you look your dearly loved son in the eyes and say with confidence, “God will provide”.

Abraham’s faith was tested to the fullest. Abraham’s faith had been tried over the years, but never to this extent. Dare Abraham refuse God’s command, or would God provide? The Great I Am could chose to resurrect the dead, so God could either resurrect Isaac, Hebrews 11:17, or provide a substitute. Still, the act of doing the deed was beyond belief. Sure, the heathens sacrificed children to their gods, so it was not an unknown practice to Abraham. Did Abraham have enough trust in God to believe that He would fulfil the unconditional covenant with Abraham?

God has given us all a free will. Abraham could have refused the cup of agony, just as Jesus could have refused. We can always opt for God’s ‘second best’ for our lives. Sometimes it takes the fiery trials to sort us out, or get us to change our ways. Abraham’s heart was chock full of love and pride for his son. The place that belonged to God alone, for God is a righteous, jealous God and will have no other god before Him, Exodus 34:14.

Arrival at a Truce

Those whose trust is fully in an Almighty God, can arrive at an uneasy truce, in the midst of the most agonizing tests, for indeed ‘the Lord will provide’. When it was time for Abraham and Isaac to go on alone, Abraham told the servants that he and Isaac would return to them after worshipping God, Genesis 22:5. This is the first time in the Bible you meet the word ‘worship’.

Not only did this show Abraham’s confidence in God but also Isaac’s amazing confidence in both Abraham and the God, Abraham worshipped. A twenty-year old could easily have contended with a 120-year-old man. Is it any wonder that Isaac is seen as a fore-shadowing of the compliant Son of God, 2,000 years later?

Result of the Cup of Agony

For Abraham the result of the cup of agony was that God not only provided the substitute sacrifice, but reiterated His promises to Abraham. His seed would be as the sands of the seashore, Genesis 22:17.

Abraham’s cup of agony was the shadow of what would take place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Two thousand years later the Son would willingly be the living sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 9:22.

For the Son of God, Calvary was total victory over sin and death, for all eternity. Anyone who believes on the Son of God shall have eternal life, John 3:15. All the sacrifices of the law were fulfilled, once and for all. The ascension offering, the gift offering, the peace offering, the purification offering, and the guilt offering, Leviticus 9. However, much more than that, Jesus, the Word, completely fulfilled the Word of God, John 1:1,14. The really exciting thing is that this fulfilled God’s plan that was formed before the beginning of creation, Revelation 13:8. What Satan designed for God’s undoing, became his own undoing.

God knows the end from the beginning, Isaiah 46:10. He knew how Abraham would react to the testing. He knew the Son would go all the way. He knows how you will react to your cup of agony. The key is to build your faith in a loving Heavenly Father, by feeding on the Word of God who will not take you beyond what you can bear, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Don’t be perturbed when you go through rough spots, but wholly trust in Him. Jesus did it for the joy set before Him, Hebrews 12:2,3.

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Wendy Stenberg-Tendys is a freelance writer who enjoys researching a topic and sharing words of encouragement, particularly from the Word of God.

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