If someone came up to you and asked, ‘What does my priesthood at work look like’, what would you say?
To lead like Jesus? To influence in confidence? To extend Kingdom authority?
Granted, the question is loaded and can’t possibly be unpacked in one post; that said, when we examine our priestly influence through our “cupbearer identity”, we can, at least, begin to build a response.
To start, let’s explore “cupbearer” in Scripture beginning with Genesis 40:1-2 (AMP)…
“Now some time later, the cupbearer (butler) and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, Egypt’s king. Pharaoh was extremely angry with his two officials, the chief of the cupbearers and the chief of the bakers.”
Note how the Hebrew translation for cupbearer, “butler” and “chief of the cupbearers” capture the office’s rank. While it’s true most cupbearers were slaves or servants, clearly they were more than wine-tasters on standby as we’ll see in a second.
Flash-forward to 2 Chronicles 9:3-7 and again we find cupbearer immersed in royal splendor…
“So when the queen of Sheba saw the [depth of] Solomon’s wisdom, and the house which he had built, and the food of his table, the [vast] seating order of his officials, the attendance and service of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, she was breathless. She said to the king, “The report which I heard in my own land regarding your [accomplishments and your] words and your wisdom was true, but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw it with my own eyes. Behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told to me; you have surpassed the report that I heard. Blessed and fortunate are your people, how blessed and fortunate are these servants of yours who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom!”
In this case, ‘cupbearer’ is not only set apart among the other officials (like Genesis 40), but declared blessed as serving in the presence of wisdom. Thus, we can infer cupbearers were not only regarded as trustworthy, but esteemed in knowledge and skill as well.
Lastly, in Nehemiah, we see cupbearer represented through the protagonist’s voice and position to King Artaxerxes. According to canon, after Nehemiah realizes the Jews in Jerusalem are struggling with the broken walls, Artaxerxes not only grants his request to rebuild them, but appoints him as governor to assure his authority. By book’s end, Nehemiah finishes the walls in 52 days thanks to his sound management and determination in the face of adversary1.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…why take this systematic Old Testament aerial view?
Honestly, there are several reasons.
First off, understanding how cupbearers conducted their business can help us, as marketplace ministers, approach our work. For instance, in the same way cupbearers protected the king at all costs, we can establish a safe and healthy working environment through integrity, consistent reliability, and quality support.
Granted, cupbearers, being the ancient bodyguards they were, lived with their lives constantly on the line; however, even when we’re working outside our comfort zones, even when we’re wrestling with distrust, cynicism, or self-perservation, when we yield judgement to empathy, not only will we influence more effectively, but enhance a team dynamic driven towards collaborative solutions (more on this in our next post).
Secondly, when we apply the heart of a cupbearer, we can find inspiration in not only protecting our work environment, but purifying it as well. Remember cupbearers, while fragile in job security, perceived themselves as guardians could save a kingdom with one bite2. Consequently, they never hesitated to put their mortality at risk knowing what their sacrifice would mean long-term.
As for us, we may not have to down poison, but we can certainly purify the toxins within our arenas of influence (i.e. antagonism, condemnation, libel, slander, subordination, etc.). ‘Cause truth is…
…while we may not be able to change what people believe, as spiritual cupbearers, we can extend positive resilience into our company’s immune system through unceasing prayer, biblical confrontation, and 1 Corinthians 16:13/Colossians 3:23 determination.
Finally, when we consider Old Testament cupbearers served as agents of healing and restoration³, we can better recognize their foreshadowing to the preeminent cupbearer…Jesus Christ. Of course, Christ lived (and lives) as cupbearer and King simultaneously; however, by noting the parallels – the fact each cupbearer in Scripture abided sacrificially and submitted to a higher authority at his right hand- we can glean inspiration concerning our workplace identity. For as we celebrate Christ’s atonement in taking communion, we commemorate in our daily life knowing our influence is maximized when we live as Christ and take up our cross (Philippians 1:21; Luke 9:23). Ultimately, the key to thriving as present day cupbearers is recognizing our destiny and fulfilling our call…in remembrance of him.
In closing, I encourage you, friends, to live as the cupbearers of old and the Cupbearer of today. Regardless of the broken walls in your midst, regardless of what you have to lose, in the end, it’s all about being grateful as we’re faithful with what Christ has entrusted us. Even when you feel lost or anxious, remember you were made to pour out abundant life (John 10:10) as a drink offering (Philippians 2:17) to bear fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10) lifting up the cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13)…
…just like a cupbearer.
- Mostly false accusers and backslidden captives
- Or swig
- Mainly in what they prevented
Cover photo creds: Preachit.org