April 11: Curses, the Old Testament, and Freedom
Deuteronomy 21:1–22:30; 2 Corinthians 5:11–21; Psalm 38:1–22
“And if a man commits a sin punishable by death, and so he is put to and you hang him on a tree, his dead body shall not hang on the tree, but certainly you shall bury him on that day, for cursed by God is one that is being hung” (Deut 21:22–23).
Being hung on a tree was a sign of being cursed. Romans 5:12 tells us that the punishment of sin is death; we as sinners deserve that curse. If Christ wasn’t cursed for us by being hung on a tree (the cross), then we would still have a debt to pay and a curse to live under.
It can be difficult to find significance in the OT, especially in passages that are as harsh as this one. But the OT still holds meaning for us today, and that meaning often reveals our human and individual state.
The same is true for those odd laws about crimes and marrying foreigners (Deut 21:1–14). It’s not that we’re supposed to practice these laws; they were intended for a land and a place. But we are meant to use them to understand God’s conceptual framework. God always opposes taking a life. Similarly, marrying someone who doesn’t share your belief in Christ (the equivalent of an Israelite marrying a foreigner) will be detrimental to God’s work: that person will lead you astray. The law may not be in force anymore, but God’s framework for interpreting the moral values in the world remains the same.
There isn’t always a clear connection between the OT laws and our lives today since the contextual framework is often quite complex. But there is always an easy relationship between our actions and what Christ has done for us. We are free from the OT laws and the curse we deserve, but that freedom is meant to prompt us to live like Christ—not for ourselves (see Rom 7). We are called to live as free people should live. We are called to live for God’s kingdom.
What moral values are you learning from the OT? In what ways are you currently misusing the freedom that Christ has given you?
JOHN D. BARRY
- If one be found slain in the land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it is not known who hath slain him, Then thine Elders and thy Judges shall come forth, and measure unto the cities that are rounda bout him that is slain: And let the Elders of that city, which is next unto the slain man, take out of the drove an heifer that hath not been put to labor, nor hath drawn in the yoke. And let the Elders of that city bring the heifer unto a stony valley, which is neither eared, nor sown, and strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Also the Priests the sons of Levi (whom the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister, and to bless in the Name of the Lord) shall come forth, and by their word shall all strife and plague be tried. And all the Eders of that city that came near to the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is headed in the valley: And shall testify, and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. O Lord, be merciful unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay no innocent blood to the charge of thy people Israel, and the blood shall be forgiven them. So shalt thou take away the cry of innocent blood from thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord. When thou shalt go to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God shall deliver them into thine hands, and thou shalt take them captives, And shalt see among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, and wouldest take her to thy wife, Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shalt shave her head, and pare her nails, And she shall put off the garment that she was taken in, and she shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a month long: and after that shalt thou go in unto her, and marry her, and she shall be thy wife. And if thou have no favor unto her, then thou mayest let her go whither she will, but thou shalt not sell her for money, nor make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her. If a man have two wives, one loved and another hated, and they have born him children, both the loved and also the hated: if the firstborn be the son of the hated, Then when the time cometh, that he appointeth his sons to be heirs of that which he hath, he may not make th son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, and give him doube portion for all that he hath: for he is the first of his strength, and to him belongeth the right of firstborn. If any man have a son that is stubborn and disobedient, which will not hearken unto the voice of his father, nor the voice of his mother, and they have chastened him, and he would not obey them, Then shall his father and his mother take him, and bring him out unto the Elders of his city, and unto the gate of the place where he dwelleth, And shall say unto the Elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and disobedient, and he will not obey our admonition: he is a rioter, and a drunkard. Then all the men of his city shall stone him with stones unto death: so thou shalt take away evil from among you, that all Israel may hear it, and fear. If a man also have committed a trespass worthy of death, and is put to death, and thou hangest him on a tree, His body shall not remain all night upon the thee, but thou shalt bury him the same day: for the curse of God is on him that is hanged. Defile not therefore thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to inherit. Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox nor his sheep go astray, and withdraw thyself from them, but shalt bring them again unto thy brother. And if thy brother be not near unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine house, and it shall remain with thee, until thy brother seek after it, then shalt thou deliver it to him again: In like manner shalt thou do with this ass, and so shalt thou do with his raiment, and shalt so do with all lost things of thy brother, which he hast lost: if thou hast found them, thou shalt not withdraw thyself from them. Thou shat not see thy brother’s ass nor his ox fall down by the way, and withdraw thyself from them, but shalt lift them up with him. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto the man, neither shalt a man put on woman’s raiment: for all that do so, are abomination unto the Lord thy God. If thou find a bird’s nest in the way, in any tree, or on the ground whether they be young or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young, But shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee, that thou mayest prosper and prolong thy days. When thou buildest a new house, thou shalt make a battlement on thy roof, that thou lay not blood upon thine house, if any man fall thence. Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers kinds of seeds, lest thou defile the increase of the seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of the vineyard. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together. Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself. If a man take a wife, and when he hath lain with her, hate her, And lay slanderous things unto her charge, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this wife, and when I came together, I found her not a maid, Then shall the father of the maid and her other take and bring the signs of the maid’s virginity unto the Elders of the city to the gate. And the maid’s father shall say unto the Elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife and he hateth her: And lo, he layeth slanderous things unto her charge, saying, I found not thy daughter’s maid: lo, these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity: and they shall spread the vesture before the Elders of the city. Then the Elders of the city shall take that man and chastise him, And shall condemn him in an hundred shekels of silver and give them unto the father of the maid, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a made of israel: and she shall be his wife, and he may not put her away all his life. But if this thing be true, that the maid be not found a virgin, Then shall they bring forth the maid to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones to deth: for she hath wrought folly in Israel, by playing the whore in her father’s house: so thou shalt put evil away from among you. But if a man find a betrothed maid in the field and force her, and lie with her, then the man that lay with her, shall die alone: And unto the maid thou shalt do nothing, because there is in the maid no cause of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbor and woundeth him to death, so is this matter. For he found her in the fields: the betrothed maid cried, and there was no man to succor her. If a man find a maid that is not betrothed, and take her, and lie with her, and they be found, Then the man that lay with her, shall give unto the maid’s father fifty shekels of silver: and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her: he can not put her away all his life. No man shall take his father’s wife, nor shall uncover his father’s skirt. Deuteronomy 21:1–22:30
- Knowing therefore that terror of the Lord we persuade men, and we are made manifest unto God, and I trust also that we are made manifest in our consciences. For we praise not ourselves gaint unto you, but give you an occasion to rejoice of us that ye may have to answer against them, which rejoice in the face, and not in the heart. For whether we be out of our wit, we are it to God: or whether we be in our right mind, we are it unto you. For that love of Christ constraineth us. Because we thus judge, that if one be dead for all, then were all dead, and he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again, Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh, yea though we had known Christ after the flesh, yet not heceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, let him be a new creature. Old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, which hath reconciled us unto himself by Jeuss Christ, and hath given unto us the minstry of reconciliation. Now then are we ambassadors for Christ: as though God did beseech you through us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, that ye be reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, which knew no sin, that we should be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:11–21
- O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chastise me in thy wrath. For thine arrows have light upon me, and thine hand lieth upon me. There is nothing sound in my flesh, because of thine anger: neither is there rest in my bones, because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head, and as a weighty burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are putrefied, and corrupt because of my foolishness. I am bowed, and crooked very sore: I go mounting all the day. For my reins are full of burning, and there is nothing sound in my flesh. I am weakened and sore broken: I roar for the very grief of mine hart. Lord, I pour my whole desire before thee, and my sighing is not hid from thee. Mine heart panteth: my strength faileth me, and the light of mine eyes, even they are not mine own. My lovers and my friends stand aside from my plague, and my kinsmen stand afar off. They also that seek after my life, lay snares, and they that go about to do me evil, talk wicked things and imagine deceit continually. But I am as a man, that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. For on thee, O Lord, do I wait: thou wilt hear me, my Lord, my God. For I said, Hear me, lest they rejoice over me: for when my foot slippeth, they extol themselves against me. Surely I am ready to halt, and my sorrow it is ever before me. When I declare my pain, and am sorry for my sin, Then mine enemies are alive, and are mighty, and they that hate me wrongfully are many. They also, that reward evil for good, are mine adversaries, because I follow goodness. Forsake me not, O Lord, be not thou far from me, my God. Hast thee, to help me, O my Lord, my salvation. Psalm 38:1–22