Cursed Is The One Who Hangs Upon The Tree


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Deuteronomy 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.

The last time we were in Deuteronomy we saw that God promised a Prophet that would replace Moses. God told His people:

Deuteronomy 18:19 (KJV) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (hold that person accountable)

As we studied this text we found out that this promised Prophet is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees who hindered His ministry:

John 5:45-47 (KJV) … there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

I love that text! Jesus said to those who would not believe in Him “Moses accuses you”. Well, how could Moses accuse them? Wasn’t Moses “dead”? No. Moses was with God in Heaven.

Moses stands before the Throne of God – just as all do who have loved the Lord. Moses is now with Jesus!

Jesus said Our God is not the God of the dead, but of the LIVING” (Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38). Moses yet lives because our Savior lives. Jesus said to the Pharisees “Moses accuses you, because Moses WROTE OF ME.” Moses wrote of Jesus Christ in Deuteronomy 18. Jesus is the Prophet that God sent to replace Moses.

John 1:17 The Law was given by Moses.

Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Jesus loved the Law and fulfilled the Law in His life. Jesus preached from the Psalms (11 times), Deuteronomy (10 times), Exodus (7 times), and Isaiah (8 times). Jesus is the Prophet Promised. The One Who came to replace Moses. The writer of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 1:1-2 (KJV) God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…

We have a Word from God, and it comes to us through His Son. Jesus did not come to us to erase God’s Law but to fulfill it. God gave His Law to Israel, His Chosen people. Some of that Law was just for Israel. Some of that Law was for every person. And some of that Law was prophetic.

The Law we look at today is to Israel, but it is also Prophetic. And – spoiler alert – it will tie in to Jesus!

God Is The Giver Of Life

Let’s carefully read it again:

Deuteronomy 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.

I have never preached this text before but I have heard it preached. I heard one preacher say that this Scripture was a mystery to the ancient Jew because it spoke of crucifixion – and Jews never executed anyone by crucifixion. When I heard that it made sense, and I filed it away. The Jews were directed by God to stone those guilty of capital offenses. God cherishes life. God said:

Leviticus 24:21 (KJV) … he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

God told Noah before He gave the Law to Moses:

Genesis 9:6 (KJV) Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Life is precious because God is the Giver of life. There are allowances in Scripture where the state can order the death of the murderer, or the state can command war. In such cases death is justified. But God never wanted anyone to rob another of his life without just cause. This is murder. This is a violation of the 6th Commandment – Thou shalt not murder. When someone murdered – which was a sin worthy of death – then that person was stoned with stones until they were dead (Leviticus 24:23). There were other reasons that a person was to be put to death all found within God’s Law. Only God is to take life, for life belongs to God.

Among the ancients when a person committed a crime worthy of the death penalty that person was killed, then their corpse was hung on a tree. That’s what the text is speaking of.

Deuteronomy 21:22 (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…

Life Is Sacred. To Murder Is To Violate The Sacred. God Allowed A Sign or Example To The Community By The Tree.

A person guilty of death was killed, and then their body was hung on a tree. This was to act as a warning against anyone else committing the same act. It became a common practice to put a sign above the convict telling all who saw his body what crime he committed. We find this practice of hanging a dead body on a tree report first among the Egyptians. Joseph interpreted a baker’s dream, saying:

Genesis 40:19 (KJV) Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree

It is obvious the guilty man would not be alive if his “head was lifted from off thee”. The body was on display as a warning to others not to commit the same crime. The leader of Israel Joshua hung the body of the King of Ai on a tree (Joshua 8:29). The Bible tells us that King David killed the man who murdered King Saul, and had his body hung on a tree (2 Samuel 4:12). God allowed this grisly sign because He wanted it to be understood by all how sacred life is. By the very public execution followed by hanging the body on the tree the violator’s sin and shame was made public, unhidden, uncovered, for all to see. There was no refuge for the murderer, the violator of God’s Holy Law. There was no where to hide. That person hanging bore the shame of exposed guilt. That person was cursed for violating God’s Law.

Deuteronomy 21:23 (KJV) 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.

The Tree was not used to kill the criminal, but it was used to display the criminal (see also 2 Samuel 21:6 and Numbers 25:4). However, the body was not to be left hanging past the end of that day. Why? The Bible says “that the land be not defiled”. God wanted the criminal worthy of death to be punished, and for God’s righteous punishment to be displayed so others would be warned against it. But God did not want His people to ever forget that every life has value. To allow the body to hang on the tree beyond a day is to become cruel, heartless, vindictive. Furthermore God did not want that body to bring disease or pollution to others. But God wanted us to know.

God Condemns Sin!
Sin Takes Life!
God Cherishes Life.
Sin Separates Us From God!

How Does This Scripture Relate The American?

As I mentioned before the Law that God gives in the Old Testament has portions that relate to Israel only, portions that are Prophetic, and portions that apply to us today. So how does this text apply to us today?

When Jesus first started His earthly ministry He told a Rabbi named Nicodemus:

John 3:14-15 (KJV) … as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

This referred to a time in Israel’s history when God’s people began to murmur against God.

Israel spoke against God and against Moses”
Numbers 21:5

How did God handle this blasphemy? God sent snakes into the camp, and the snakes bit the people, and many died. Sin brings death. The Bible repeatedly shows us what Romans 6:23 tells us:

The wages of sin is DEATH!

As the people suffered because of sin they repented, and cried out to God. Nicodemus was well aware of this Old Testament story. God told Moses to make a snake out of bronze, and put it on a pole. Lift it up above the heads of the people. “Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Numbers 21:8). Jesus compared Himself to this time in Israel’s history. He compared Himself to that snake on a pole. Jesus said:

The Son of Man must be lifted up,
that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish,
But have eternal life.

No one knew what Jesus meant at this time, but He was introducing salvation to all who would believe on Him. He said the HE would have to be “lifted up”. Jesus used this same phrase again. He said:

John 12:27-28 (KJV) Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

Jesus knew the time was coming for Him to be “lifted up”. He knew what it would cost Him. Yet Jesus said “Father, glorify Thy Name”. He put the Father’s will ahead of His own life. When the Father spoke saying “I have glorified My Name and will glorify it” Jesus said:

John 12:30-33 (KJV) …. This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

The revelation of God is progressive. Jesus told Nicodemus He would be “lifted up” and now tells those listening He will be “lifted up”. He did this to describe His death. So what did Jesus mean? By what way did He die? The Apostle Paul ties it together for us:

Galatians 3:13-14 (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: 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The Apostle quotes our focal text of Deuteronomy 21:23 which says:

He that is hanged is accursed of God”

Jesus Christ – the Prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18 – would be the Messiah Who would take our sins on Himself. Jesus, precious sinless Jesus, would come from Heaven to this earth. As Moses formed a facsimile snake for Israel to look at, God the Holy Spirit would fashion the life of God into the Son of Man. Jesus would take the place of the bronze serpent. Jesus would take our place on the Cross. He would do this to pay the penalty of sin. He would do this so that we who are not of Israel’s Covenant could be included in the promise that God made to Abraham.

The Tree Shows Us God’s View Of Sin

In our world today we have no concept of sin. Even in many Church – whether Evangelical, Mainline, Pentecostal, or Catastrophic – sin is minimized. We think sin to be just a three letter word. But look to the Tree. Look at the Tree. Why is that dead body hanging on that Tree? Because it committed a sin worthy of death. God sees sin as an abomination, an act of death and dead things. The Law says:

Deuteronomy 25:16 (KJV) For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.

In the New Testament writings sin is condemned in the harshest of terms. The Apostle said:

Romans 1:29-32 (KJV) Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

The Apostle said that those who violate God’s Law of love are “worthy of death”. That fellow in Deuteronomy hanging on that tree is worthy of death. Sin makes us worthy of death. So sin is no trifle. Look to the Tree.

Look to the Tree in the New Testament. Who do we see hanging there? A murderer? No, Barabbas has been released. A thief? A sinner? No, for Pilate said “I find no basis for a charge against this Man” (Luke 23:4). Was Christ guilty of anything? No. Was Christ hated of His Father? Absolutely not. Did not the Father say?:

This is My Beloved Son In Whom I am WELL PLEASED”
(Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22)

Look to the Tree. This is the Son that the Father loves. This is the Son that the Father is well pleased with. This is the Son in Whom no sin was found, no flaw evident. Why is He on that Tree? The Apostle tells us.

Romans 8:1-4 (KJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Jesus was lifted up to pay for our sins. He died on Calvary for you and for me. Jesus came

In the LIKENESS of sinful flesh”

He looked like us, but He is far better than us. He is sinless, and we, sinners. Jesus went to that Cross so that those who look on Him with the eye of faith can be saved. He hung there in my place, and in your place. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (KJV) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Jesus died on that Tree so that we who look on Him in faith and love can be saved. He paid my penalty. Praise God, He was cursed so that I can be blessed. Dying for me and you, once we believe on Him as Lord and Savior – once we see Him dying because of MY sins – then God covers us with His Blood. When Jesus died on the tree the last words He said was:

It is finished”
John 19:30

The Bible says in James 1:15 … sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Sin brings forth death. Sin kills. Sin is no trifle. But Jesus died on that Tree for our sin. He said “It is finished”. FINISHED!

Death is finished.
Sin is finished.
The curse of lawlessness is finished.
The devil is finished.

Oh, that you would look to Jesus this very day. Oh, that you would surrender your lives to Him. You cannot hold on to death and sin, and hold on to Jesus. He died on that Tree, was taken down. But HE was NOT FINISHED. His Work of salvation was finished. He was lifted up, so that sin would never trod you down. Believe Him, receive Him, and commit your life to Him. In God’s name I beg you. Amen!

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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