What can I give God?

What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. (Ps 116:12-14)

I love the pairing of this answer with this question. The psalmist asks: “What can I give God in return for the favor He has shown to me?” Potential answers tumble into my mind: more time? more money? better service? No, the response outlined in the next two verses names three quite different activities:

Paying vows. A bit later in the psalm (vv 17-18), the writer sets “I will pay my vows” as parallel to “I will sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord.” I infer that the vows this poet has in mind are the expressions of thanks associated with the thank offering. In other words, his “vows” are words of thanks, not pledges of sacrifice.

Calling on the Lord. Here is an interesting response to God’s goodness—ask Him for more! Psalm 50:14-15 offers an illuminating cross-reference: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Here is the explanation for why I should respond to God’s goodness by asking Him for more of it: because He wants to be glorified by delivering me. I get the help, and He gets the glory!

Lifting up the cup of salvation. In its Old Testament context, this cup was likely part of the thank offering ceremony. But the cup of salvation appears in a different light to Christian readers, who have heard Jesus’ words on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I imagine this scream echoing from the rocks and caves on Golgotha as Jesus drank the cup of His Father’s wrath against my sin, and I worship Him afresh. He drank the cup of wrath so I could drink the cup of salvation all the days of my life.

“What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?” I will give thanks. I will ask for more mercy and grace. And I will lift the cup of salvation to my own lips and drink. Deeply.