How Did Jesus Become Accursed for His People? What is the Gospel? #170 #CharlesSpurgeon
Hello friends and happy Tuesday to you all! Today’s Bible readings include Deuteronomy 21, Psalms 108-109, Isaiah 48 and Revelation 18. Our focus passage today is found right at the end of Deuteronomy 21, and I’m not going to lie to you – this is a very peculiar chapter, in many ways. Is God dictating all of these commands here in Deuteronomy, or is Moses speaking some of them? Some of the commands are very obviously spoken by God, but I do wonder if some of them are from Moses. I find this quote from Jesus quite interesting:
7 “Why then,” they asked him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?” 8 He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts, but it was not like that from the beginning.9 I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.”
An interesting book that addresses some of the harder and more difficult to understand passages of the Old Testament is called “Is God a Moral Monster?,” and is by apologist Paul Copan. It’s worth a read. That said, Christians are not under the Old Covenant anymore, but the New. Speaking of the New Covenant, there is a very, very powerful passage here at the end of Deuteronomy that points us towards the New Covenant and the amazing sacrifice of Jesus. Let’s read the chapter, and see if you can pick it out.
22 “If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, 23 you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
To my knowledge, this is the only time in the Bible the phrase, ‘God’s curse,’ is used. There is a particular and peculiar curse spoken of here for those that are hung on a tree. A curse is the opposite of a blessing. Whereas a blessing confers extra grace, favor, provision and strength, a curse brings extra toil, pain, hardship, weakness, distress, sickness and more. Probably the worst fit of cussing and cursing I have ever had in my life was around 15-20 years ago when I was trying to get a flexible/telescoping dryer vent duct to fit on our old dryer. I tried for about twenty or thirty minutes, and it kept falling off (the connector was on an old dryer and way too small.) I busted my knuckles a few times, and was squatted down in a very dirty place in our garage, sweating profusely during a humid Alabama summer. Finally, I completely lost it and said every bad word I knew and cursed that dryer vent to the 49th plane of hell. Other than sinning and getting sinfully angry, what impact did my curse have on that dryer vent duct? Absolutely none, because there is no power behind a Chase-curse.
Unfortunately, all of the power in the universe – LITERALLY – is behind God’s curse, and in Genesis 3, God pronounces the first curses that we know of. The Satan is cursed and the ground/land of the earth is cursed…which appears to have cursed literally everything on the earth also. Death has come because of that curse, sickness, anxiety, pain, arguments, disunity, toil, sadness, depression, boredom, suffering and everything bad. You and I? We were born under that curse just like every human that has ever been born, save one. Not only were we born under that curse, but we have also done the same as Adam – we’ve earned the curse by our behavior, as Paul explains in Galatians 3:
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed.
And then we have another curse…an extra curse, if you will. There is pronounced a sort of double-curse for all who are hung on a tree, and only the vilest of the vile criminals is to be hung on a tree. Those who are hung on the tree taste the curse of death, and all of the pain that is involved in being hung, and they are also cursed by God. And yet, in what is literally the most ironic thing to ever happen in the history of the universe, the most worthy person that ever lived was hung on a tree, and exposed to this double curse that is supposed to be reserved for the vilest of the vile. Paul also points this out in Galatians 3:
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.14 The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.
In sum, we were born into the curse of Adam. We earned the curse of Adam even more by our sins, and – in undeserved favor, Jesus redeemed us from that curse so that it no longer applies to us. How did He redeem us from that curse? By taking every drop of the power of the curse onto Himself. He didn’t just make the curse disappear, He drank every drop of it. Charles Spurgeon expresses this truth in perhaps as good a way as I have ever heard it. Here is the good news. Listen to this, and then rewind and listen again, and then do it a third time. After that, come to the website and read it, and then listen again until you feel that you have understood in a deep way what it is that Jesus did for you when He became a curse by hanging on that old blessed tree.
The atonement is a ransom—that is to say, a price paid. In the present case, the original word is more than usually expressive; it is a payment for, a price instead of. Jesus in His sufferings performed what may be forcibly and fitly described as the payment of a ransom, the giving to justice a quid pro quo for what was due on our behalf for our sins. Christ in His person suffered what we ought to have suffered in our persons.
In all the pages of Revelation you will find no blessings that the law ever gave to one who had offended it. There were blessings for those who kept it completely—though none ever did—but no blessing is ever written for one offender. Blessings we find in the gospel; curses we find in the law.
Christ was no curse in Himself. In His person He was spotlessly innocent, and nothing of sin could belong personally to Him. In Him was no sin. “God made him to be sin for us,” the apostle adds elsewhere, “who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21). There must never be supposed to be any degree of blameworthiness or censure in the person or character of Christ as He stands as an individual. He is in that respect without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing—the immaculate Lamb of God’s Passover. Nor was Christ made a curse of necessity. His own intrinsic holiness kept Him from sin, and that same holiness kept Him from the curse. He was made sin for us not on His own account, not with any view to Himself, but wholly because He loved us and chose to put Himself in the place we ought to have occupied.
What else can the words mean? Christ hung on a tree for us, bearing our curse, in our room and place and stead. We were all under the curse of the law, but Christ voluntarily took our place and was made a curse for us, so that the blessing might be ours. He fulfilled the law’s demands by His perfect obedience, and He suffered the law’s utmost penalty by His death upon the cross. Now all those who believe in Him are forever justified because of what He did for them.
We have heard some preach a gospel something like this: that, though God is angry with sinners, yet, out of His great mercy, for the sake of something that Christ has done, He does not punish them, but remits the penalty. This is not God’s gospel, for it is neither just to God nor safe for man. We believe that God never remitted the penalty. He did not forgive the sin without punishing it, but He exacted the full penalty without the abatement of a solitary jot or tittle. Jesus Christ, our Savior, drank the veritable cup of our redemption to its very dregs. He suffered beneath the crushing wheels of divine vengeance the same pains and sufferings that we ought to have endured. He bore our sins that He might bear them away by the fact of bearing them Himself. This is the central doctrine of the gospel.
Charles Spurgeon, Galatians, ed. Elliot Ritzema, Spurgeon Commentary Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), Ga 3:13.