Text: Deuteronomy 21-23
OBSERVE – At the end of chapter 21, we come across a law that immediately draws our thoughts towards crucifixion. We read “If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God (Deuteronomy 21: 22-23). Although the Israelites didn’t practice crucifixion as a means of capital punishment, they did have this similar custom for expressing a high degree of contempt for certain outlaws.
INTERPRET – After a criminal had been put to death by some other means, the dead body would be strung up on a tree as a symbol of shame and dishonor. This public exposure gave the people an opportunity to express their venomous dislike for the criminal as they hurled insults and mocked them. Hanging the body in public showed that this person was under God’s curse. It was for this reason that Joshua would place the King of Ai on a pole (Joshua 8: 29) and the bodies of the five kings of the southern confederacy on five poles (Joshua 10: 26-27). Joshua was interested in more than their execution, he wanted to bring shame and dishonor to them. Most importantly, Joshua wanted to make known that these kings were against God.
APPLICATION – It is because they wanted this shame and dishonor to fall on Christ that the Jewish leaders cried out to Pilate, “Crucify him!” Knowing that the Roman idea of crucifixion was paramount to their practice of hanging on a tree, they would be satisfied with nothing less than having Jesus crucified. In their eyes, this would put Jesus to shame and demonstrate that he was cursed by God.
What they did not understand, however, was that it was their shame that Christ was bearing on the tree, their curse that he took upon himself: “When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing” (Galatians 3: 13). While thousands of people died on crosses throughout history, only one has ever received the full measure of the curse of God while on a cross. There, the One with whom the Father was well pleased received in himself the curse of God. Not for his own sin, but for the sin of those who are guilty. Because of this act of incredible love, the curse turns to life for those who turn to Jesus in faith and repentance.
REFLECTION/QUESTION – At the cross, Jesus displayed the greatest love possible and made it available to all who desire it. Is there anything preventing you from fully accepting this gift of love?
PRAYER – Lord Jesus; you received the humiliation I deserve. You took upon yourself the curse for my wrongdoing. I was against God but you have provided the way for me to be reconciled. I bow my knee to you and confess you as Lord. AMEN.
SONG - At the Cross (Hillsong)
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