Christ First This Christmas

christ-firstDeuteronomy 21:22-23 (KJV)  And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:  [23]  His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

In our day we do not believe in punishment as God believes in punishment. In the Age of Israel God told His people that there were sins worthy of death. People who broke God’s National Laws were “stoned with stones until they were dead”. The citizens of the town were brought from their homes. A person was convicted not on circumstantial evidence, but as God said just a few chapters before:

You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15, NLT)

The witnesses were the first ones to throw the stones, then the remainder of the citizens followed suit. Justice was sure. People saw the punishment. Nothing was done in the dark. And after the stoning the dead body was hung on a tree as a deterrent to others. It was a mute sign that said:

As he is, so shall you be, if you break His Laws

Law is necessary for a nation to be stable. People cannot just make up their own laws based on what they feel is all right. A nation based on feeling leads to chaos and anarchy. God gives us Laws and Law Enforcement for our own good. The Apostle Paul testified that:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4, NIV)

God gives Laws to nations to insure that chaos doesn’t rule. Where ever there is stability there is Law. Without Law, people do the most awful things. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). To break God’s Law is to find yourself face to face with death. The person spoken of in our Deuteronomy text is a person hanging on a tree.

The person violated the national Law, the Kingdom rule.
The person deserves to hang on that tree.
The person was dead on that tree, put there for others to see.
But the person was not allowed to hang on that tree all night long.
He was cursed of God.

To fail to bury the body of the convicted that same day (and the Jews considered the setting of the sun a new day) was to bring a curse on the nation. Law and order required that sin be punished. Those worthy of death were to be put to death. Sin was not winked at, but for the stability of the nation God demanded that sin be paid for.

Though sin was to be paid for, cruelty was not allowed. The Pagan world often killed those who were guilty of capital offenses, but then hung the body up to remain until it rotted and fell from the tree. In Medieval Europe people were often hung up in cages left to slowly die.

This is not the way of God. Cruelty is not allowed. Punishment is given where deserved, but grace always accompanied even the execution of even the greatest criminal.

thou shalt in any wise bury him that day;
(for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)
that thy land be not defiled

Even though a criminal, the lowest and cruelest criminal was made in the image of God. There was a limit to what punishment should do.

1 The Tree In Deuteronomy Shows We All Need A Savior. The Law of God demanded that sin be punished. There were many sins you could commit that were not worthy of death, but the intent of the Law was to show man the glory and holiness of God. Certain sins, like sexual sins, murder, kidnapping, were considered sins that are worthy of death. Any sin that devalued the human design or objectified people (again, we are made in God’s image – Genesis 1:27) could be a sin worthy of death. Yet even in death there was dignity.

You were not to rejoice when someone committed and was punished for a sin worthy of death. They were displayed, proven dead, then removed and properly interred. The Law was not cruel.

a Sin Entered The World Because Adam Ate Fruit From The Wrong Tree. The Bible tells us:

. sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12, ESV)

. death came into the world through a man .. (1 Corinthians 15:21, NLT)

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden it was a Garden filled with Trees. There were trees of every type. In the middle of the Garden – the Bible says:

The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9, ESV)

The “Tree of Life” was not forbidden to man. He could eat of that Tree as often as he and his wife wanted. God wants us to live. He made us to live. God loved walking in the Garden with Adam in the cool of the day having a relationship with man. God is Eternal, and He wanted us to walk with Him eternally. But God wanted us to walk with Him as He is. You see,

God is God and we are not

We are made in His Image and after His Likeness, but we will never ever be God. Therefore it is important to listen to Him, and to understand that His Law is given to us because He loves us. He knows what is best for us. So we love Him and obey Him. That is what we are supposed to do.

But Adam got mixed up.

He could have all of the Tree of Life he wanted, but was NOT to eat the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said “In the day you eat of it, you shall die”.

God said “in the DAY”punishment is not delayed
God said “YOU eat”not your wife, but YOU Adam

God said “you shall DIE” – eating the right Tree brings life, but the wrong tree death

Adam ate of the wrong Tree and died. His progeny died. The Bible says that with his failure that everyone became sinners, separate from God. Hear the Witness of Scripture:

Isaiah 64:6-7 (KJV)  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  [7]  And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 (ESV)  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Psalms 130:3-4 (CEV)  If you kept record of our sins, no one could last long.  [4]  But you forgive us, and so we will worship you.

All are sinners. This does not justify sin, dear ones, but is a truth of Scripture. Man sinned because Adam sinned, and we all needed a Savior. God established a Law to restrain sin, but the Law could not fix sin. Sin is in the human heart. Sin is in the heart of the soul. Sin is not overlooked by God, but sin is to be punished.

b Sin Grew Until Anarchy Reigned, But God Saved Noah By Trees. Where sin is unrestrained and lawlessness is tolerated anarchy reigns. By the time of Noah the Bible tells us that:

Genesis 6:5-8 (KJV)  And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  [6]  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.  [7]  And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.  [8]  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Unrestrained sin always leads to greater sins.
Lawlessness ruled in the days of Noah.
God made man to dominate the earth, but
He did not make man to be dominated by sin.

When the conscience is hardened, sin comes easier. Though man is a sinner God never meant sin to go unrestrained. Sin must be repented of. People must heed what God has said, and give Him the glory. King David said:

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97, KJV)

Man departed from God and stopped listening to Him. As a result society collapsed. I think that America came very close to a collapse of our society – and we aren’t out of the woods yet. When lawlessness reigns, and God is ignored, it isn’t long until judgment falls. The world was going to be destroyed …

But Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord

Where did Noah find Grace. In God’s EYES. Not in His EARS, not in His MOUTH, but in His EYES. Noah lived loving God, and his life showed it. I want to tell you, dear ones, God WATCHES you.

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. … (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB)

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3 KJV)

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)

God is watching. When I was a young child I was told, “Santa Claus is watching you”. When I grew up I found out that Santa Claus was a fictitious person based on a real Christian – Nicolaus of Myra in Asia Minor (4th century AD). Nicolaus gave of his substance to help those who were in need, and tried to do his giving in secret “for your Heavenly Father Who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). Santa Claus isn’t watching us, but God is. He saw Noah, and saw Noah’s love for Him. And God told Noah

Go build Me an Ark

An Ark is a bunch of dead trees cut down into lumber and put together to float. Salvation of humanity would come through these trees. Noah and his family would be saved, whereas the rest of the world would drown. How do I know? Because God tells us so in the Scripture.

Though mankind was saved by Noah’s obedience, humanity was still sinful. When he got off the Ark Noah planted a garden, harvested the grapes, made wine, and got drunk. His sin (see Genesis 9:21ff) brought sin and sorrow into his own family. The wages of sin is always death.

2 The Tree In Deuteronomy Was A Prophecy Of The Coming Christ. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul wrote:

Galatians 3:10-13 (KJV)  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  [11]  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  [12]  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.  [13]  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

As the Apostle explains, the Law proves every person to be a sinner. Though you may not commit sins worthy of death in this life (and I hope you don’t), the testimony of the Scripture is:

no man is justified by the law in the sight of God

The Law never justified anyone. That word “justified” means “to be declared right by the Judge”, and God is the Judge. When any person stands in front of the Holy and Pure God of all we immediately “come short of the glory of God”. We are all marred by sin, and the Law declares this. But God never meant us to be saved by keeping His Law. The Bible says in the Old Testament (and Paul quoted this in verse 11 above):

The just (the Justified) shall live by faith

This is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV)  Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Those who are right in the eyes of God have faith in this same God.

They believe Him.
They receive Him.
They trust Him.
They hear Him.

Which brings us back to the Tree of Deuteronomy. The Tree of Deuteronomy is mentioned in Paul’s explanation of our salvation. He said:

Galatians 3:13 (KJV) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Man ate the wrong tree, and fell in sin. Sin reigned, so Noah had to kill a bunch of trees to save humanity. Then God established the Law and spoke of the Tree of Cursing where the Lawless hung. But that Tree in Deuteronomy looked forward prophetically to the Day that Jesus would come. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. How did He do this? Jesus went to that Cross to pay for our sins. He was made a curse for us. He hung on that cursed Tree of Calvary. The Bible says:

Colossians 2:13-14 (KJV)  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;  [14]  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Jesus died on the Tree of Calvary for us. The early Christians understood that imagery. When Peter and the Apostles were told they shouldn’t preach about Jesus, Peter quickly replied:

Acts 5:29-30 (KJV)  Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.  [30]  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, WHOM YE SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE.

The Pharisees and the Romans killed Jesus, hanging Him on a Tree, that Tree of Calvary. While Peter was at Cornelius’ the Centurion’s home he preached:

Acts 10:38-39 (KJV)  How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.  [39]  And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom THEY SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE:

Calvary is the Tree that Jesus died on. His death was not a mistake, but is your redemption. The Apostle Paul preached in the Synagogue:

Acts 13:28-30 (KJV)  And though they {the Pharisees} found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.  [29]  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, THEY TOOK HIM DOWN FROM THE TREE, and laid him in a {tomb}.  [30]  But God raised him from the dead:

Jesus Christ went to the Tree for you and for me. He died for us on Calvary, but rose again to rule His Kingdom and His Church. Jesus is alive, and we who have believed in Him are alive from the dead. Blessed be the Name of Jesus! Jesus Christ Who is God’s Son is sinless, and He died for OUR sins. He was cursed in our place.

3 Put Christ First This Christmas. Several years ago I knew a man who was more filled with truth than he was with Grace. The Bible says:

John 1:17 (KJV)  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Jesus gave us GRACE AND TRUTH. Grace without Truth leads to error and sinful anarchy, but Truth without Grace leads to legalism.

This man was all of truth, but none of Grace. One Christmas he began to mock and berate Christians who had Christmas Trees. He had done some research, I suppose, and found out that ancient Pagans brought trees into their homes during the Winter. Since Pagans did it he felt that to have a Christmas Tree was somehow sinful.

It’s not.

Now let me say I don’t care if you have a Christmas Tree or not, and you can do what you want. But if you have a Christmas Tree, use it to explain Christ to your Children and Grandchildren.

I am told that Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation was walking through a pine forest near his home in Wittenberg, Germany one night. Praying and seeking a sermon from God he looked upward and saw thousands of stars glittering like diamonds through the branches of the trees. Luther later cut an Evergreen and put it in his home. He decorated the tree with candles, and lighting the candles used the tree to describe the Coming of the Savior and what He did for us to his children.

Rather than be a Scrooge. use your tree (if you have one)
to discuss Christ with your children and grandchildren.

Jesus Christ died on a tree. Out of His death came forth Light and Life for us. The glory of Christmas is NOT the presents under the Tree, but the PRESENCE of Christ in your homes. This Christmas don’t be a Scrooge, but use the Blessed Season to share Christ with your children. Tell of the Tree that Christ died on.

He is the Greatest Present of all!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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