Friday, March 8, 2013

Picturing Calvary's Alphabet - Deuteronomy 19-21

Hebrews 2:14-15 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Christ's work pictured and predicted in the Old Testament
The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the central acts of history and the Bible.  When we look at the Old Testament - we can divide all the 39 books of that part of the scriptures in the following ways:

1. Genesis - Song of Solomon (Pentateuch, Historical Books and Poetic Books) picture the work of Christ

2. Isaiah to Malachi (Major and Minor Prophets) predict the work of Christ

Thus the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) picture the work of Christ in Abraham's giving of Isaac (Genesis 22), the tabernacle (Exodus 25-40), the sacrifices (Leviticus 1-7), the brazen serpent on the pole (Numbers 21) and the cities of refuge (Deuteronomy 19). 

The Historical books (Joshua - Esther) picture Christ in disguise by such episodes as when He appeared as the Angel of the Lord to Joshua (Joshua 5:23) and Gideon (Judges 6:11-18).  Christ is pictured by the life of David in regards to his kingship or by Solomon in terms of his royalty (Matthew 12:42).

Then in the Poetic Books (Job - Ecclesiastes), we see Christ pictured as the bridegroom (Psalm 45, Song of Solomon), The mediator (Job 9:33) and the Divine Son (Proverbs 30:4-5). 

In the Major Prophets (Isaiah - Daniel) we see Christ predicted as the Lamb of God (Isaiah 53), the Son of Man (Daniel 7). 

Whereas in the Minor Prophets (Hosea - Malachi) we see predictions of His birth (Micah 5:3), His entry into Jerusalem on the week of His crucifixion (Zechariah 9:9), His crucifixion (Zechariah 12:10), His resurrection (Isaiah 53:10) and Return (Malachi 4:1-6). 

Christ's work portrayed & explained in the New Testament
In like manner, we can take the 27 books of the New Testament and discover how they portray and explain Christ's completed work:

1. The Gospels portray Christ as King (Matthew), Servant (Mark), Perfect Man (Luke) and God in Human Flesh (John).

2. Acts, the Epistles and Revelation all serve to explain the outworkings and accomplishments of Christ's finished work.  In Acts for example, we see nearly 20 sermons preached in the early church, with half of them centering around the resurrection.  The 21 New Testament letters describe Christ's work as providing justification (Romans), Sanctification (1 & 2 Corinthians), Forgiveness and Adoption and New Life (Galatians-2 Timothy), as well as salvation having been planned before time began (Ephesians, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2).  Revelation of course tells us that Christ's second coming is made possible only because He was the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 5)

Tracing how the Bible communicates the centrality of Christ's cross and resurrection will enable us to understand the pictures of Calvary given to us in Deuteronomy 19-21.

Deuteronomy 19-21 pictures four reasons for the cross
In Deuteronomy Moses is preaching his final sermon series to a generation of Israelites ready to cross over to Canaanland.  What he is writing about in Deuteronomy 19-21 provides pictures of the four reasons Christ came.  As you will see, some of these passages are actually spoken of in the New Testament.  So why the cross?  As we will see, the pictures of Christ's accomplishments will be presented in alphabetical order: A,B,C & D: 
Asylum from Wrath.  Deuteronomy 19:4-7
The cities of refuge were revealed originally in Numbers 35 as six cities where those who accidently killed a fellow Israelite.  The one who did the unintentional taking of a life was called "the manslayer".  By the laws of that day, a relative of the one slain to claim the right to exact vengance on the manslayer, pursuing him or her to kill her (thus that relative was termed "the avenger").  To curb what would be the killing of people who didn't mean to kill another person, God ordained "cities of refuge" whereby the manslayers could flee and be protected from the legal right of the avenger to "avenge" the death of their relatives.1 

Hebrews 6:18 uses this imagery in its description of Jesus Christ - "so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us."  Numerous other New Testament texts describe Christ as the only refuge to whom the sinner can flee to escape the avenging wrath of God. (such as Romans 5:9-10 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9).2 

Bearing of our sins. Deuteronomy 19:15-19
Deuteronomy 19:15 tells us - “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed."  As you go down through the text, you discover details of how a Jewish court proceeding is supposed to go, and penalties that follow if protocol is not followed.  Amazingly, this text shows the injustice that Christ suffered in His three Jewish Trials and three Gentile trials.3   Thankfully Jesus came to bear our sins, in our place, upon Himself. (Isaiah 53:3-4,7; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 3:18) He paid the ransom for sin to the Father. (Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8-10)

Conquering of Satan.  Deuteronomy 20:1-4
In a seemingly obscure passage on rules for warfare, we see a beautiful picture of how Christ our High Priest was brought to us at salvation in Deuteronomy 20:2-4.4  Christ came to destroy Satan's work and tyranny, thus setting free all who by grace through faith believe. (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8)  Christ defeated the devil at the cross and rendered ineffective the power of his bondage and cruelty over Christians. (Colossians 2:11-15) 

Delivery from the Curse.  Deuteronomy 21:23
Galatians 3:13 actually quotes Deuteronomy 21:23 with these words - "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”.  Here is a question: "Why didn't Jesus just come down on a Friday, get his finger pricked to put blood in a vial, and then go back up to Heaven by Sunday?  Why did He have to come, live, die and raise from the dead?  One reason: to reverse the curse.  The Old Adam by his disobedience brought a curse upon all humanity and our world. (Genesis 3)  However the New Adam, Christ, brings life and exemption from the curse of spiritual death upon all who by grace through faith believe. (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:21ff)5

Would you and I praise the Lord this day for the reasons He came!

End Notes_______________________

1.  The place of the Avenger in ancient Biblical history had its beginnings in the Covenant spoken to Noah in Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man."  Undoubtedly man had taken this principle and exploited it to exact vengence in both just and unjust ways.  God spoke to Moses in Exodus 21:14 of how He was going to make provisions of refuge for manslayers among the Israelites.  According to Deuteronomy 19 and the more detailed passage in Numbers 35, the manslayer would live in the city of refuge until the death of the then reigning high priest. Once that occured, the avenger no longer had legal right to kill the manslayer, and thus the manslayer was "free" to return home.  I put "free" in quotes, since there could always be the fear of retaliation from the Avenger even though the Law of God prohibited him from pursuing the manslayer any further.  As commentators have noted, being that Jesus Christ our High Priest ever lives, we thus have an eternal safe refuge in Him protecting us from the wrath of a Holy God and Just God.  Amazingly, the One in whom I find refuge is that Holy One who because of His death, is the basis for the Father's declaration of my innocence in the Divine Refuge of His Son. (Romans 8:1)   

2.  Unlike the unintentional sinner in Deuteornomy 19, we all sinned intentionally, and deserved the penalty assigned by God's law - death. (Romans 6:23) However Christ came and died as the believer's high priest, meaning that the penalty of the law is arrested at the gate of grace wherein the sinner enters by faith into Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 6:18) Inside Jesus there is safety and outside of Christ there is wrath waiting. (John 3:16, 36)

3. We know that the Jewish priests and Sanhedrin tried to get false witnesses to testify against Jesus - resulting in their testimonies contradicting one another. (Matthew 26:25-29) Furthermore, the Jewish people themselves gladly exchanged a known criminal for Jesus, gladly accepting the curse of innocent blood in order for their wishes of crucifixion of Jesus to occur. (Matthew 26:25-26) Then of course when Pilate washed his hands of Christ in Matthew 26:24, he represented every Gentile. If Christ had not uttered on the cross in Luke 23:34 "Father forgive them", the wrath of God would had been poured out on them and us rather than Him.

4. Deuteronomy 20:2-4 reads 2“When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. 3“He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, 4for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’

5. The Curse had to be reversed for all who believe in God, by the shed blood of Christ through the drawing of the Holy Spirit at Mount Calvary, otherwise we born into this world would still fall under the curse demanded by the Law revealed at Mount Sinai. (Hebrews 12:18-24)

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