The Curse of the Tree

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How could a tree ever be cursed? Trees are beautiful and majestic and just another amazing part of God’s creation that points to His creative and loving nature. Well, towards the end of the book of Deuteronomy we find a somewhat miscellaneous law about criminals being hung on a tree and being cursed by God.

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ESV

Three things can be taken from these two verses that are distinct indicators that Yeshua is the Messiah.

#1 The Accusation
During His life and ministry, Jesus made several statements about His divinity and oneness with God. Of course, that’s who the Messiah would have to be. That’s why God gave so many prophecies indicating that He would be the one to come to us, to save us, to redeem us. He and the Messiah are one. But many of the Jews didn’t realize that. They were shrouded in spiritual darkness, blinded by their own ignorance and pride. So many Jews sought to kill the Messiah for basically identifying Himself as the Messiah. They accused Him of blasphemy which was punishable by death.

I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”  The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

John 10:30-33 ESV

#2 The Punishment
Despite the innocence of Jesus, the angry mob lashed out and called for His death. It was the Roman authorities who sentenced Him, it was the people. The head of Roman leadership in the area, Pilate, knew Jesus was innocent. But he bent to the will of the hateful and misunderstanding crowd. Jesus sentence was to be hung on a tree…to be crucified.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man to me and said that he was misleading the people. Now, I have examined him here in your presence, and I have not found him guilty of any of the crimes you accuse him of. Nor did Herod find him guilty, for he sent him back to us. There is nothing this man has done to deserve death. So I will have him whipped and let him go.” The whole crowd cried out, “Kill him! Set Barabbas free for us!” (Barabbas had been put in prison for a riot that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, so he appealed to the crowd again. But they shouted back, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Luke 23:13-21 GNT

#3 The Burial
According to the law, no man hung on a tree can be left there overnight. Jesus did not remain on the cross but was taken by a handful of people to buried in a rich man’s tomb. This was an exception because the Romans did not obey Jewish law. The bodies of those who were crucified were often thrown in piles and seldom buried right away. But Jesus was special.
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:38-42 NIV
Let’s face the facts, none of us are perfect. No one in history, other than Jesus, has ever followed the law of God perfectly. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have all blasphemed at some point, either by thought or action. By extension, we are all cursed before God due to our pride and self-centeredness. We all deserve the tree. Yeshua did not. Yeshua chose the tree so that we wouldn’t have to hang there ourselves.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:10-14 ESV
Be at peace brothers and sisters. The curse has been lifted. Glory, not the tree, is our destination!
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An Extreme Question all Christians Must Answer

This is reposted from Voice of the Martyrs

TURKEY: ERCAN SENGUL

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Ephesians 6:19–20

When Ercan Sengul committed his life to Christ in the Muslim nation of Turkey, some saw it as turning his back on his heritage and nation. When he said that he would do anything for God, he had meant it then. But what about now?

Ercan sat in a dark, dank prison cell surrounded by cell mates. He had been arrested by local police who said that he’d “insulted Islam” by distributing books for a Christian publisher. Ercan cried out to God, begging to be rescued. He knew that he’d done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve to be there. “You said you’d do anything for me,” God whispered to Ercan’s heart. “Did you mean it?” Broken before God, Ercan wept and worshipped. He told God in his heart, “I really meant it.” Ercan began to preach three hours each day in prison. He learned that God allowed him to be imprisoned to give him a new mission field! Ercan was in prison for thirty days until witnesses admitted that police had pressured them to sign statements, and the judge found no evidence of any crime. The arrest has furthered Ercan’s witness. Since his release, many who shared his cell have visited his church, asking about the God who gave him peace while locked in prison. Ercan still joyfully gives out Christian books, knowing he could be arrested.

Most Christians would admit that suffering is not exactly what we have in mind when we say we want to be used by God. Sure, we want to live out our faith—but not to the point of persecution. We resent being overlooked for promotions at work or excluded from social events. We feel slighted. Cheated. Ripped off. However, we must be willing to prayerfully seek God in the midst of our desperation. The moment we do, we find prayer changes our perspective. We begin to see opportunities for growth. We receive hope. We find promise amid pain. Eventually we begin to discover our current situation, however unfair and undeserved, may be part of God’s plan after all. When we pray for God’s perspective on persecution, we find the courage to be obedient at all costs.

Saving a Drowning Man

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I remember the first time that I went snorkeling. It was over twenty years ago in Hawaii. My dad was headed to the beach to try out the new gear and nothing was going to stop me from going with him. My dad took the time to explain how snorkeling works and that the biggest key factor is to relax. I was a pretty good swimmer so I felt pretty confident in what we were about to do. The two of us swam out just beyond where my dad could touch the bottom. When I put my face in the water and stretched out my body to float on the surface, my heart began to race. It was exciting and new and wonderful. Within five minutes I had drifted to the nearby reef, teaming with life. And then, it happened. A small wave decided to crash over me filling my snorkel with water. That was not something I was prepared for. I panicked. I reached out to grab my dad, who never got further than an arm’s length away from me. In my panicked state, I only made matters worse. My dad couldn’t hardly keep himself afloat let alone me. It wasn’t until I calmed down and realized he was holding me that I was safe.

Talk to any Coast Guard rescue diver, they’ll tell you that the most dangerous factor is the person they are trying to save. A drowning person who struggles to save himself will only make matters worse. Not only can it lead to their own demise, but it can also endanger the one trying to save them. If someone who is in danger of drowning resists the one trying to save him, he will inevitably drown.

Jesus is our rescue diver and we’re all in a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean. We have two options. One, we can resist being saved and try to swim thousands of miles to the nearest land before drowning or being eaten by sharks. Two, we can let him save us.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 16:25 NASB

Let go, brothers and sisters. Jesus has you!

The Greater Moses

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Today we enter the fifth and last book of the Pentateuch…Deuteronomy. So far we’ve looked at 15 Messianic prophecies from the first four books of Bible, certainly not an exhaustive list, and how Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled each of them. We’ll finish the Pentateuch by looking at two more. Today’s prophecy is going to highlight perhaps one of the greatest and most highly esteemed Old Testament figures. That figure was one of several that God used to depict who His Messiah would be. Any guesses? Below, we’ll take a look at his resume and I’m sure that’ll help narrow it down.

#1 Highly Acclaimed Author

He is responsible for being used by God to write all of the books that we’ve been looking at so far. The Pentateuch laid the foundation for both Judaism and Christianity.

#2 A Great Leader

Not only could he wield a writing utensil, but he could also rally very large groups of people. At one point he unified and led millions out of oppression in Egypt towards a new life in the promised land.

#3 Mediator skills

One part of being a leader is dealing with conflicts. He continually had to settle disputes both internal and external by mediating between people and between God and the people.

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken.I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19 ESV

In this passage, Moses is described as a prophet. It’s also stated that a prophet like him will rise up from among Israel. That prophet, like Moses, will preach divine messages directly from God. All who fail to listen to Him will be required to bear their own guilt. These are two key Messianic indicators. One, He’s the mouthpiece of God Himself. Two, following Him, can relieve the people of their guilt. The Messiah would carry on the message of Moses and also take it to the next level. He would also do something that Moses never could, save humanity of their guilt before God.  In one sense, following the message that Moses delivered could give life and hope to the people. However, nothing in the Old Testament ever provided for salvation other than faith in God. With that said, the new prophet that Moses speaks about has to be far more than just a prophet, since no prophet can save people from their sins. The new prophet would have to be more than just a mouthpiece of God, He would need to be God Himself.

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

John 5:45-47 ESV

Jesus accredits the prophecy of Moses and connects Himself directly with it. Jesus is referencing Deuteronomy 18 (as well as all the prophecies we’ve been examining in these posts). He claims that if the people believed the writings of Moses that they would believe His teachings. Jesus didn’t contradict the Old Testament, He clarified it, fulfilled it, lived it, and illuminated it. His teachings revealed so much of what humanity was missing.

I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

John 8:26-30 ESV

Jesus only said things that came directly from the Father. Just like Moses claimed, the Messiah’s message would be true because of the source. Jesus never preached on His own account. His accreditation was the fact that He and God were one. That makes Him a greater than Moses.

In Acts chapter three the Apostle Peter would reference the Mosaic prophecy from Deuteronomy 18 during his famous Jerusalem discourse that led to over three thousand people giving their lives to following Jesus. Not only did the prophecy of Moses point to the Messiah, but so did his life. The resume above is a great indicator of the Messiah. Think about it. Jesus is not only the author of God’s word, But He is also the word of God become flesh (John chapter one). Jesus is the head of all who follow God (Ephesians chapter one). Lastly, Jesus is the only mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy chapter two). Praise God that the Greater than Moses has come!

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

 

Only One Label Matters

Dear Christian,

You are not a Republican, Democrat, or member of any of the third parties. You are not a conservative, liberal, authoritarian, or libertarian. You are not black, white, or of any race. You are not from the west or the east. You are not African, Asian, European, or American. You are a follower of Jesus. That is all, in all, and over all. And as a follower of Christ, you are part of a family made up people from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. The Biblical worldview does not include any one political platform and no racial creed. The words of Jesus are supreme. The spread of the gospel is all that matters. Name calling and label-making never saved a soul. Only the love of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of the Bible can do that. For us, that is all the heartbeat of our life because we are His. And being His is the only label that matters.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

More Extreme Vision

This is from an article I read in Voice of the Martyrs.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self . . . and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22, 24

The prisoner was brought before the deputy commander, a harsh, angry, red-faced woman with broad shoulders. “So, you have been speaking to the prisoners about God again. I am here to tell you it must stop!” Her face illustrated the rage in Communist prisons in Eastern Europe.

The prisoner stood quietly but steadfastly. She informed the commander that nothing could stop her from speaking about her Savior. The commander raised her fist to strike the prisoner, but suddenly stopped. “What are you smiling about?” she demanded. “I am smiling because of what I see in your eyes.” “And what is that?” “Myself. I used to be quite impulsive, too. I was angry and used to strike out until I learned what it really means to love. Since then, my hands do not clench into fists anymore.” She continued, “If you look into my eyes, you will see yourself as only God could make you, just as he did with me.” The prisoner could see how her former self might have defended her rights, returning insult for insult. However, because of her new life in Christ, she only showed kindness and gained the right to continue her witness. The commander’s hands dropped to her sides. She seemed completely stunned and said quietly, “Go away.” The prisoner continued to witness for Christ throughout the prison, with no more interference from the deputy commander.

The commander’s attempts to rile the prisoner were like arguing with a dead person. It was as if she were trying to provoke a corpse. Finally, the commander saw the prisoner for who she really was: a new creation in Christ. The old person that would have once responded to hatred with more hatred was gone. In its place, the prisoner allowed the commander to see only Christlike repose and kindness. In the same way, we must see ourselves in a new light. We are no longer bound to respond to our enemy with worldly animosity. We have died to the former way of life. When you are poked, prodded, and provoked by the enemy to act unbecomingly, take a lesson from the prisoner in this story.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Who are the ‘enemies’ in your life?
  2. How can you respond differently to people?
  3. How are you ‘new’ since giving your life to Jesus?
  4. Does anything stop you from sharing Jesus with others?

The Unlikely Prophecy

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Most of the prophecies of the Bible were made by godly men and women. Not so in the case of the prophecy we will be looking at in this post. The man known as Balaam, the son of Beor, was a diviner who’s story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. He was not an Israelite and is often reviled as a “wicked man” in both the Torah and the New Testament.

Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing…

2 Peter 2:15 ESV

Other New Testament references to Balaam include Jude 1:11 and Revelation 2:14. On a positive note, Balaam refused to speak what God did not speak and would not curse the Israelites, even though King Balak of Moab offered him money to do so (Numbers 22–24). Doesn’t sound like a bad guy right? Balaam’s error and the source of his wickedness came after the prophecies, from him sabotaging the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. According to Revelation (Revelation 2:14), Balaam told King Balak how to get the Israelites to commit sin by enticing them with sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols. The Israelites fell into transgression because of these traps and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result (Numbers 31:16). And it was this unlikely man that God chose to use to make a prophecy about the coming Messiah.

Balaam gave seven prophecies within his four oracles about the nation of Israel. All the prophecies which Balaam makes take the form of Hebrew poems between Numbers 23 and 24. It is the fourth prophecy that I’d like to focus on.

And he took up his discourse and said,

The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down with his eyes uncovered:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.

Numbers 24:15-17 ESV

The Star out of Jacob

This is a reference to that lines up with so many other Messianic prophecies establishing the lineage. Jacob, of course, is another way of referring to Israel. The Messiah would not be a gentile or from any other nation. The Messiah of the world had to come out of the nation of Israel. We’ve already talked extensively about the Messianic lineage how that lines up with Jesus in the post Lineage Speaks Loudly. The use of the star illustration carries some importance as well. A star is both a sign for people to look for and an allusion to power. Remember, it was a star that was used by God to highlight the arrival of Jesus on the world stage.

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:9-11 ESV

The Scepter Shall Rise out of Israel

A scepter has long been regarded as a symbol or royalty and authority. A ruling monarch would use his scepter when making edicts as an act of sovereignty. The Messiah is described as the highest authority that everyone will one-day bow before. He is both royalty and sovereign.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 ESV

One to Come

Balaam saw the one to come, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.” That’s an obvious prophecy of something yet to happen…a Messiah yet to come. Jesus is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament as the one is was said to come, by Balaam and others.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 ESV

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

John 6:14 ESV

Jesus is the one who was to come. He is the Messiah of the world who came out of Israel. And there is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved. Every knee will bow before Him for He is sovereign. And it was a very unlikely person that God chose to use to proclaim it to the world.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!