Mar 18 (Daily reading: Deuteronomy 21-23) What did it mean to the Hebrews that “he who is hanged is cursed of God” (21:23)? When a person was executed for a capital offense, the body was sometimes exposed publicly. This had social implications, as a warning to others, but also religious implications. A person committing such a crime was under God’s condemnation, or curse. This would seem to be insignificant to us today, if not for the fact that it is referenced several times in the New Testament. For example, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13, NKJV).
The Hebrew and Greek words for “tree” (Deut. 21:23 and Gal. 3:13) mean literally “wood.” Strong’s Concordance notes that the Greek word could refer to the crossbar of a cross for crucifixion. Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” This is the point we must not overlook. Jesus was willing to be crucified for our sins, but to be even more clear, He was willing to “become a curse for us.” This meant taking on Himself God’s curse that came as a result of our sin. This curse brought death and separation from God: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
Peter wrote, “(He) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24, NKJV). Because Christ took our place and our curse, we have been cleansed so that God can now live in us by His Holy Spirit. Christ made us an offer that we simply cannot refuse! “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). It is as if He said: “Here’s the deal: I am righteous, but I will become sin for you. You, in turn, are a sinner but I will make you righteous!
– Al Gary