Lent Devotion for March 16
"Cursed Is He Who Hangs on a Tree"
Reader: “When he was hung on the cross… "
Response: "…he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing."
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 21:22-23
22 “If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree,[a] 23 the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung[b] is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession.
21:22 Or impaled on a pole; similarly in 21:23.
21:23 Greek version reads for everyone who is hung on a tree.
SCRIPTURE: Galatians 3:10-13
10 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.”[a] 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[b] 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”[c]
13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”[d]
3:10 Deut 27:26.
3:11 Hab 2:4.
3:12 Lev 18:5.
3:13 Deut 21:23 (Greek version).
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You’ve just read in Deuteronomy that a crucified body was not to remain on the cross or pole overnight according to Jewish law, but was to be buried the same day as the crucifixion, hence Joseph and Nicodemus requesting and burying Jesus before sundown on the day of His death.
For the Jewish people, being impaled on a wooden cross was a sign of God’s curse on that person. On occasion, criminals were killed and then hung on a cross to display God’s curse as a result of the offense. Jesus bore the curse of God for the sin of the world. It could not have been more clearly stated. In the Galatians passage, Paul ties the insufficiency of the law to the work of Christ. He drives home the point that by doing all the right things as Christians is not what makes us right before God. The law is what seals our doom because we cannot keep it perfectly. What had happened with the Jewish leadership was that they had missed the central point of the law which was this: a repentant heart acknowledging the failure to obey every part of the law and the offering of sacrifices demonstrated faith and the relationship with God. The Jewish leaders lost the heart or relational aspect of the law, and also because being super legalistic in an effort to be obedient to every aspect of the law was not possible. The purpose of the law was to guide a relationship with God. *The Bible speaks often of “walking” with God. E.g. Abraham walked with God. Noah walked with God. The Hebrew word for "walk" is "halak." It is a verb, faith that is active, exercised. Later rabbis shifted the emphasis from a verb to a noun, "halakah," in other words, keeping rules. The former “walking with God” became “keeping God’s rules.” Adhering to words replaced experiencing God. The cross spoke powerfully to the failure of keeping the law, with Jesus bearing the curse of sin, and at the same time satisfying the justice of God.
*This idea of “walking with God” comes from the book. Portraits of Jesus for an Age of Biblical Illiteracy, Gerald Borchert, Smyth and Helwys Publishing Inc., Macon, Georgia, p.2. Well worth your time in purchasing.
MUSIC: “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” by Mahalia Jackson
Our Father, help us to understand that when we try to live without Thee, we are unable to live with ourselves; and when we say “No” to Thee, we are denying our own best interest. Whatever other rewards or punishments Thou hast ordained, we are finding out that we cannot do wrong and feel right, for there is a law within Thy universe that acts around us and in us. We are not forced to obey Thee, but if we do not, we hurt ourselves. Convict us of the folly of walking against Thy lights, that we may live longer and better. By the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Peter Marshall, Senate Chaplain, prayer on April 23, 1947.