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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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

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!

The Bronze Serpent

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We are now in our fourth book of the Bible on our journey through the Old Testament looking at prophecies of the Messiah and how Jesus fulfilled them. For previous posts on this series look back at the Messiah tab on my home screen or click the hyperlink. This is post 14 in the series and it begins the book of Numbers. We aren’t starting from the beginning, however. We’ll jump in at chapter 21, with a peculiar story with poisonous snakes.

During the conquest of the promised land, the Israelites faced many challenges. But, the Lord was faithful at every step of the journey. He defeated enemy after enemy as He promised He would. Israel, on the other hand, was anything but faithful. Yes, they had their bright moments. But as a whole, Israel was a very stubborn, impatient, and discontent people. Sound familiar? Looking at Israel is like looking in the mirror. Israel’s sin is often our own.

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

After all that God had done for the nation of Israel, they spoke against Him. God had just won a decisive battle for the people of Israel not long before this scene took place. God’s victory on their behalf had less weight on their mindset than their own selfish wants. I’m convinced, that one of the things that displease God the most is being ungrateful and selfish. One reason I believe that is because of how God responded to their lack of faith and contentment.

Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

Numbers 21:6 (ESV)

Pretty extreme right? The apostle Paul would later warn Christ’s followers about repeating the same mistakes as the people of Israel. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul says that the people put Christ to the test in the wilderness by grumbling and indulging in selfish behaviors. Because of that, they faced very severe punishment.

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:9-11 ESV

Christ in this sense is used interchangeably with God. Remember back to the rock that gave forth water for the people to drink? The rock was both God and Christ. The role of the Christ is to save the people. God continually operated in that role throughout the Bible as a picture of when He would do that in human form in the person of Jesus. This story in Numbers 21 is one of those examples. Along with the wrath, God also provided a way to escape. That’s exactly what the Messiah’s mission is all about. The Messiah is God’s loving way of escape.

And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Numbers 21:7-9 ESV

Humility is always met with grace. Once the people repented of their sin, they received mercy. This mercy was in the form of a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole for all of the people to see and live. Now of course, this serpent didn’t actually save anyone. Faith in what God did is what saved the people. And this act of God would be a powerful picture of what the Messiah came to do. Jesus Himself used this event in Numbers 21 to tell us why He came.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17 ESV

Where there is wrath, God has made a way for mercy. His name is Jesus.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

The War of More

It doesn’t seem to matter what store we are in, my kids ask for something. They don’t even need to know what it is for them to beg and plead for it. It’s frustrating. Very very frustrating. I’m sure I did it as a child. In fact, I remember wanting to go to the stores with my grandma because I knew she’d get me something. My kids are the same way. As are the rest. Because humans are that way. Young and old, we want stuff. Most of which we don’t need. But stuff is fun, attractive, and entertaining.

I can’t despise my kids’ desires for things, because I have it too. Anyone that says they don’t is not being honest. I told my wife on the way home one day, “I don’t blame our kids for wanting new toys, because I have a list of things in my mind that would be fun to have.” The difference between being an adult and a child is that you have to get those things yourself and money is not always available. Also, you’ve learned to live without and the difference between need and want. While indulging still occasionally takes place, maturity overcomes most whims.

I had a serious talk with my children (one of many) about wanting things. I tried to explain that it’s a perfectly natural emotion, but it needs to be managed by wisdom. I also said that they wouldn’t be getting anything new until they were content and grateful for what they already had (which is a ton). They tried to ensure me that they were grateful, but their behavior far overshadowed any words they could speak. When the begging ceased I softly said, “you will know that you are content when you no longer feel you need anything new.”

When the Bible speaks of contentment, uses some extreme examples. Examples that are very convicting for child and adult alike. Here are some of those examples.

Food and Clothing

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

1 Timothy‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In our current situation

Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our weaknesses and being insulted for the cause of Jesus

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

With what we have

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NASB‬

it honestly feels like a war most days. The pull to want change or new things, or to no longer have to deal with our weaknesses, or for people to just love Jesus and stop hating on Christians. But for those who love Jesus, nothing more can be given to us than that which we already possess…new life. The Christian is free, alive, new, and filled with hope and purpose. The Christian has been given the gift of eternal life. God has paid the ultimate price for humanity but all humanity wants is more.

There is nothing greater we can be given than what God has already done for us. We are so consumed with the temporal and material that we struggle to see our true need which lies in the spiritual. Once my kids get one thing that they feel they can’t live without, their thoughts are on to the next. Christians cannot be guilty of the same. The one thing we can’t live without has been given to us…Jesus…and our minds should remain on Him. That’s what I want to teach my kids. But first, as the war rages on, I have to make sure I’m living it too.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Wherever you find yourselves, may your hearts be at peace brothers and sisters.