Chapter 45 Accursed Of God

He that is hanged is accursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:23)

There is no more terrifying word in human language than that of being made a curse, and especially a curse of God. Surely this must be the extremity of all possible misery, pain, anguish, and despair. One can bear much of these distresses if they are accompanied by the blessing of God. There are many of God’s dear people who quietly, patiently, and even joyously bear the burden of intense suffering. What if there is no blessing but, rather, all is a terrible display of God’s wrath? Who can measure or weigh what awful anguish and misery must be wrapped up in what is the curse of God?

The Curse

Sinners are under the curse of God’s righteous law. We must fully understand what this curse means. It springs from disobedience. There was no such thing as a curse until sin came in. This earth should never have known the curse. Man had the choice to obey, and power from God to help his obedience. But with the disobedience of the first man, the father and federal head of all the human race, his entire progeny passed into the realm of the curse.

This is something which lies upon every soul of man. It is very humbling to be told we are rebels in God’s universe— that we are a fallen, corrupt, and polluted people. But we are weighed in God’s balances of absolute holiness, and are found wanting. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10).

This is as plain as can be told. It brings under its curse every rank and condition of man. The poor cannot be excused. The learned cannot devise an excuse. All who have been born of Adam’s sinful stock have fallen short of God’s standard and broken His laws. Thus all are exposed to the curse of the law.

The Substitution

“He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23). This word does not apply to every man who has been hanged. Even some innocent people have been hanged. In times of persecution many have been crucified by wicked conquerors. It was a Roman means of death to those who resisted surrender. This word has particular application to God’s beloved Son, who came to bear God’s curse on our behalf. It was prophetically told by Moses that God’s sent Redeemer would hang upon a cruel tree. His sufferings and death upon the cross would absorb all the punishment which the law demanded for all our sins.

This was the plan of our loving God from time eternal. This is the outflow of God’s grace—God’s way to save men, and the only way He could save them on the basis of righteousness. But this is an awful voice when applied to God’s beloved and eternal Son—“He that is hanged is accursed of God.” It tells forth in the simplest prophetic terms that God’s beloved Son shall appear on earth and expire on the cross. That is God’s pledge, and so it must come to pass in the fullness of time.

It is history now. We of this late generation look back and gaze upon the fact of it—that the Son of God as the Son of man was lifted up, a spectacle to God and men, an outcast from Heaven and earth. Had Israel been masters of their own house in our Lord’s time, He would have died a Jewish death by stoning. But God’s decree brought about Jewish subjection to the Roman Empire, and crucifixion was their cruel invention. Thus the prophecy, made nearly two thousand years before our Lord appeared, was fulfilled in Him. Jesus hangs, accursed of God—made a curse for us. The whole curse of God upon mankind’s dreadful sin, and in all its totality, falls upon the sinless Son of God.

The Issue

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). That, then, was the price of human redemption. He bore our sins, and this was divine decree from time eternal. This is the deep meaning of the cross and the essence of God’s covenant of peace with rebel sinners. There was no coercion upon the Son of God to do this. He did it because His infinite love was set upon the sons of men. All our iniquities were laid upon Him. All our breaches of God’s holy law were charged to His account.

Thus all believers are released from any charge the law can make or any accusation Satan may rehearse before God. Every transgression of thought, word, and deed has been fully answered and atoned for. All has been suffered by our Lord in order that we should never suffer. These are the things of God—the eternal counsels of God’s infinite mind.

We can never suffer what our Surety has already borne for us. We cannot be placed in double jeopardy. The law cannot exact its punishment a second time, else it would become unrighteous in itself. Thus we are safe and secure forever because of what our blessed Lord and Saviour has suffered for us. Think what would have happened to us if He had not done that! Ours would have been the curse forever. Then let us rise and bless the Lord and praise His holy Name forever.

O Sacred Head once wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded,
With thorns Thine only crown,
How art Thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain:
Mine, mine, was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!
’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee.

Bernard of Clairvaux