Psalms 129:1-3 NLTse From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let all Israel repeat this: (2) From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. (3) My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows.
This is one of the most graphic prophecies in Psalms. When we think of the spiritual meaning of long furrows plowed through Jesus’ back we can’t help but think of the whipping Jesus endured at the hands of Roman soldiers and how religious leaders convinced people to reject Him as their Savior.
After I highlighted the key words and prayed about this particular prophecy I couldn’t help but see some of the popular conceptions about the cross and how it is often depicted in in shrines, statues, and paintings. We usually see the cross as square. I wondered why the cross is shown to the world as being square. The more I thought and prayed about it the less a square cross made sense. Then I began to see the spiritual meaning behind a round unfinished cross. I also wondered why God would place such a gory prophecy so close to the end of the of the Psalms.
I began to think of how the cross is preached and presented to the world. Popular preachers hire writers to out do one another on graphic descriptions of the cross. They spend long hours researching history on crucifixions and how people suffered on a cross to bring color to the sermons they write. I wondered why God’s Spirit would direct them to history books which took their minds off God’s written Word. I saw how this is what the world wanted to hear. I saw how Satan wanted to turn people away from the spiritual meaning of the cross to the physical. I saw how preachers fancied themselves as experts by studying the physical aspects while ignoring the spiritual lessons taught at the cross. I saw how the cross was not an end like many preachers seem to teach, but a beginning of understanding. Who in their right mind can deny the fact Jesus’ disciples and followers were blind to the spiritual lessons of the cross until He rose from the grave and spent forty days revealing everything in the scriptures about Himself and the ministry He lived on earth? Jesus explained the scriptures in one night to a couple of men over dinner and they were amazed at what they missed. Now it seems it takes us a lifetime to see what those men learned in a couple of hours while dining with Jesus.
People are too focused on the blood and gore of the cross. One of the most popular movies about the cross is the most graphic ever produced. The writer knew it would be so popular he produced the movie in Hebrew, a language few people viewing the movie could understand. In his estimation this placed human focus and understanding on the graphic scenes he knew would attract the masses. It turned out to be one of the most profitable movies of its time. It didn’t matter the writer and producer was from a religious faith most denominations flocking to the theaters often scorned and accused of the most heinous crimes committed upon humanity over the past few generations. The graphic scenes and hidden symbols of tradition were too much of a lure to people to ignore. The movie achieved its goal. People walked away from the silver screen thinking they knew the truth. All they saw was a man dying. The movie did little if anything to lead people into the close relationship with Jesus He longs for. Like the majority of people who witnessed Jesus dying on the cross, movie goers saw a man die, but didn’t know Him as God’s Son.
Why would the Roman state waste time and funds to finish a cross? Why would they waste resources on taking a round tree trunk and finishing it off to a square piece of lumber to execute a man or woman? It didn’t make sense to waste resources on a convicted criminal. Romans first adopted crucifixion as punishment for slaves. It served the purpose of humiliating the slave as well as instill fear in other slaves. In 71 B.C. The Roman army lined the road from Capua to Rome with 6,000 crucified rebels on 6,000 crosses. In 7 A.D the Romans crucified another 2,000 rebel Jews in Jerusalem. During Titus’s siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Roman troops crucified as many as 500 Jews a day for several months. The main focus of crucifixion was not to keep carpenters employed and busy. Crosses were made from trees large enough to support a human body. They were chopped down and limbs were trimmed off. Finishing the wood any further would be viewed as a sign of making crucifixion more comfortable for the slave or rebel and looked at as a waste of time. I doubt if the Roman army spent time fashioning square lumber as they marched along the road fastening rebels to crosses. As far as they were concerned, fastening them to a tree with a bunch of rough cut knobs sticking out was giving the rebels what they deserved.
I began to go over the types of wood available to build a cross. I saw how most of the time the cross is shown as being made of hardwood like oak. The Romans wouldn’t think of wasting a valuable wood on slaves and convicts. Cedar is mentioned in the Bible. Can you imagine being nailed to rough sawn cedar after having half your back removed with a whip? Cedar does not decay and is immune to insects because of the natural toxins it contains. The combination of blood and sweat releasing those toxins and mixing in the wounds of a man’s back would be enough to drive a person insane in the matter of hours. Cedar was too valuable a commodity to waste on slaves and criminals. Pine is a less expensive wood and may have been used. When pine branches are trimmed sap will leach out to cover the remaining trunk. Pine sap has many uses. It can be used to make an adhesive. It is also used as fuel and to produce thinners for paint and other material. The chemicals in pine sap along with its rough bark would add to the suffering of the condemned. The rough bark and sap would also add to the difficulty of handling the crosses since they were reused time and again.
Poplar is also mentioned in the Bible and has some interesting significance related to the cross. God told Jacob to strip the bark off poplar branches and stand them up in front of the watering troughs for the sheep and goats. When the poplar branches were placed in the ground and the sheep and goats came to drink, the would easily conceive. Jacob made a deal with his father in law Laban where Jacob would receive all the black sheep and speckled goats as payment for his labor. Do you get it? See the connection to the cross? Jacob was what? A shepherd. So was Jesus. The poplar was stripped of its bark and set up in front of the watering trough to produce black sheep and speckled goats people usually wanted to neglect because they placed less value on them. What kind of people did Jesus attract?
Look at the aspects of poplar. The bark is smooth in young trees about the size they would harvest for crosses. The poplar bark is easy to peal off. After it dries the bark tends to fall off on its own. After a crucifixion or two it would almost fall off on its own when handled exposing the yellow color of the wood below. Now think of the primary colors used in the Tabernacle which pointed to Jesus and His sacrifice. We see the colors blue, red, and purple. Blue and red are used to make purple. I think it’s okay for me to use a portion of my book on the Tabernacle titled, “The Tabernacle, “T” is for the Cross.” here so we can see the spiritual meaning behind those colors.
The color blue may be the easiest to explain. Moses was told to, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribbon of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.” Numbers 15:38-40 KJV. Blue is the color used to remind us of God’s commandments. This is a very significant point which has ramifications beyond the Tabernacle.
The color purple is also mentioned during Jesus’ hours before His sacrifice. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. John 19:2-3 KJV. This may be the reason people associate purple with royalty. We have to consider the fact, Roman solders dressed Jesus in a purple robe not to honor, but to mock Him. Would it be proper to apply the definition of royalty to the color purple based on the fact, Roman solders used a purple robe to mock Jesus? Would purple represent royalty, or the disrespect Jesus received at the hands of his executioners?
Scarlet is the most difficult color to find an accurate spiritual meaning for. Scarlet can represent a number of things in the Bible. Isaiah chapter 1 tells us, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” This is a very important verse, because it links the color scarlet to red. It seems out of place to assume, scarlet in the Tabernacle represents sin. After all, the Tabernacle was an image, or type of the Heavenly Sanctuary.
Matthew chapter 27 records the robe Roman soldiers placed on Jesus as scarlet. I don’t think this is any type of mistake, but a clue to lead us in an unexpected direction when we study the colors of the Tabernacle.
Revelation chapter 17 describes a scarlet colored beast, and a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet. Revelation chapter 18 describes a city, “clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet.” We know the beast, woman, and city have nothing to do with the Tabernacle, as a matter of fact, they strive against everything the Tabernacle stands for. Notice one important detail. All three are missing the color blue, which represents God’s law.
Isaiah establishes a Biblical link between scarlet and red. Since sins are scarlet, and sins are red, we can look at this as a mathematical equation. Sins = scarlet, and sins = red, therefore, scarlet = red. This allows us to search the word red in an effort to locate additional information.
2 Kings 3:22 KJV And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:
The Bible also provides a connection between red and blood. Common sense may tell us because blood is red, it is okay to establish a relationship between the two, and make them interchangeable, but common sense does not establish a proper spiritual connection, until supporting texts are located. In this case, a simple search supplied the required supporting texts. The following verses show us the relationship between the blood of Christ and the Tabernacle.
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 2:13-14, Hebrews 10:19, Revelation 1:5-6 KJV.
The Bible supplies adequate evidence showing the scarlet curtains also represent Christ’s blood, His sacrifice for our sins.
When combined the colors scarlet and blue make purple. Some studies indicate this has some significance. Since there are more than one possible interpretation for the colors scarlet and purple, we can substitute the spiritual definitions for the colors to test this theory.
In the Bible, scarlet is used to represent Christ’s blood, and sin. Purple may represent royalty, and mocking. Blue represents God’s law.
God’s law, and Christ’s blood combine to represent His royalty. Jesus’ royalty is shown in John chapter 18, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus is also known as, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Revelation 19:16, Daniel 7:14 KJV.
Christ did not die to earn a kingdom. He died to save souls from the bondage of sin. Daniel tells us, Christ’s, “kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Paul adds, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Daniel 7:27, Romans 8:16-17 KJV.
It is one thing for a man to give his life to save another, but how many men would share his kingdom with those he was willing to save? God’s love did not end at the cross.
We can also consider the other things scarlet, and purple represent. God’s law when combined with sin, can only represent mockery. The beast, and whore in Revelation lack God’s law. The fact of the matter is, given the opportunity they would do away with all of God’s commandments, and replace then with their own rules. Some of their rules may appear similar to God’s commandments, but are still changes to God’s laws. In other words, they are mocking God’s law, just as the Roman solders mocked Christ in the purple robe.
Can scarlet in the sanctuary represent sin? Leviticus chapter 16 explains the details of the yearly atonement of sin. A bull was offered as an atonement for the sins of the high priest, and his house. The ceremony included two goats, one for a sin offering, the other was known as the scape goat. The bull was sacrificed; “And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” Leviticus 16:14-15, 30 KJV.
Of course the ceremony performed in the earthly Tabernacle was a sign, or symbol representing Christ’s work in the Heavenly Sanctuary. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:11-12 KJV.
How did sin enter the Heavenly Sanctuary? We have to remember, sin did not originate on earth, it originated in Heaven. Jesus tells us, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Why was Satan cast out of Heaven? Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Ezekiel 28:14-15 KJV.
The earthy Tabernacle illustrates the cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary. Sin will be cleansed first from the Heavenly Sanctuary, before the earth is cleansed.
Scarlet accurately represents two important events in the plan of salvation. The offering of Christ’s blood for the forgiveness of sins, and offering the same blood in the Heavenly Sanctuary during the cleansing.
These three colors have been carefully chosen by God to remind His followers of His plan of redemption. The spiritual meaning of each color has been carefully preserved within His word. When properly studied, every detail within the Tabernacle reveals the identity, and character of its designer.
Anyone who owns a color printer knows it takes three colors to make up all the colors. We know these three colors in technical terms as cyan, magenta, and yellow. In layman’s terms they are known as blue, red, and yellow. The Tabernacle provides the blue and red pointing to Jesus’ ministry before and after the cross. To make up the colors of the rainbow, a symbol of God’s promise, we need the color yellow which is supplied by the poplar tree Jesus was nailed to.
Poplar has other properties, uses and traditions we can look at and learn from. It was used for wooden shields before iron became poplar. Its light weight and flexibility had certain advantages. The yellow color resisted fading and was used inside palaces and sanctuaries. The flexibility of poplar was well known in the field of execution. Black slaves in the United States would sing a hymn asking not to be hung from a poplar tree. Hanging was legal in those days and to copy a theme from the Roman’s to extend suffering in order to set an example for other slaves, owners would hang disobedient slaves from a poplar tree. When stools or the bench the slave was standing on was kicked away, the weight of the slave would pull the branch down giving them and instant moment of hope as their feet touched the ground. Other slaves looked on as the victim boobed up and down while they slowly strangled to death. Poplar trees have a history of pain, suffering, and execution.
It’s a shame Satan has been able to succeed for so long in concealing one of the greatest messages from the cross, the missing color from God’s plan of salvation. But God will reveal His messages in His time to the people who need it most. God never forgot His promise, the first covenant He made with this world. His rainbow is not only a sign He will never again destroy the world in a flood, its also a symbol used in the foundation of the New City Jerusalem and it’s gates.
It’s time we stopped looking at the cross as a one dimensional color and opened our eyes to the rainbow of promises God’s given us. Its time for us to search out and find the details His disciples missed before the cross and found after Jesus’ resurrection.
Matthew 27:25-31 NLTse And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death–we and our children!” (26) So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. (27) Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. (28) They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. (29) They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” (30) And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. (31) When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
The people who put Jesus on the cross took responsibility for putting Him on a tree of little value and work put into fashioning it. They would take two pieces of wood, notch them out to fit, bore a few holes to fasten them together with wooden dowels or tie them in place with ropes. The nails used to fasten Jesus to the cross are often shown in movies as new black iron spikes. They didn’t have the means or materials to preserve iron like we do today. Those nails were untreated. After short exposure to the elements the nails would rust. Enzymes from the blood, acids from fat combined with sweat from the victim, not the mention water from rain would quickly rust and pit the iron spikes. Once used for an execution they were useless for any other purpose. The people condemned Jesus to death on a cross. The cheep wood and rusted nails represented the value they saw in Jesus. A mistake still made today when the cross is taught as an end of Jesus’ ministry. When the cross is taught as the answer to salvation without concern or understanding of the events following the cross looking at what was taught and comparing those details to Jesus’ ministry and the prophecies He fulfilled – teacher diminish the value of the cross. They fulfill the prophecy the earthly material at the cross pointed to.
We also need to look past the cross at what the disciples and Paul taught. Paul quoted hundreds of verses in scripture. Who spends time to look at those scriptures to see the full message Paul is teaching? Paul was no idiot. He may have seen Jesus preach and paid little attention to His words. Paul’s mind would have been wrestling with scripture trying to measure Jesus’ words against what he had been taught. It took a few days of blindness then three years of learning at Jesus’ feet, but once Paul’s eyes were open he understood how and what Jesus taught. By sending people back to scripture and letting God’s Spirit guide them.
Another well taught fairy tale is Jesus’ lily white skin. As if God misplaced someone of European descent in Jerusalem to die on the cross. The dark skin of Jesus’ body contrasted the bright yellow wood of the cross. Jesus took attention away from Himself so people would be attracted to and focus on God, His glory and plan of salvation.
The people condemned Jesus, the solders mocked Him then led Him away to be crucified. How often do we condemn Jesus? Are we willing to take responsibility for His death? There are a lot of symbols in that prophecy and its fulfillment. This prophecy focuses on one. A prophecy that points backward and forward. Another example of how God crossed His time line with multiple events.
The stripes on Jesus’ back were an opening for us to learn from. They should remind us of how He spiritually plowed this field on earth and set the field for others to scatter seed. Those wounds opened up understanding and new meaning to scripture. The truth about those scriptures was the seed His disciples spread as they also plowed new fields. Peter was assigned the field of Gentiles. When persecution ran ramped throughout the region, Peter was sent to minister to a Roman officer and his household. Paul was sent to Jews as well as Gentiles. Among them Paul witnessed to Greeks and in Rome. John plowed new fields when he was sent to Patmos, an island where Rome sent the most notorious criminals. Yes Patmos was a ministry field for John. Those long furrows plowed in Jesus’ back stretched around the world. The Roman whip designed to make Jesus suffer opened up new understanding to God’s plan of salvation.
The introduction to this prophecy tells us part of that story. Like God’s rainbow it provided a sign of hope. From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let all Israel repeat this: From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. They never did defeat Jesus. When we compare this to the introduction in Matthew 27, we see how the religious leaders thought they defeated Jesus.
Matthew 27:1-2 NLTse Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. (2) Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
The introduction tells only a small portion of their plans. When we look at the summation we can see how confident the priest were in their plan.
Psalms 129:4-8 NLTse But the LORD is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. (5) May all who hate Jerusalem be turned back in shameful defeat. (6) May they be as useless as grass on a rooftop, turning yellow when only half grown, (7) ignored by the harvester, despised by the binder. (8) And may those who pass by refuse to give them this blessing: “The LORD bless you; we bless you in the LORD’s name.”
Matthew 27:59-66 NLTse Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. (60) He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. (61) Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching. (62) The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. (63) They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ (64) So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” (65) Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” (66) So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.
It doesn’t surprise me when we find God using the color yellow in Psalm 129. I’m excited to see it, but I’ve grown to know God provided all the details we need in His prophecies. There’s no need to wonder away from His Word to find answers. When God is good and ready to supply information, He provides all the details and backs them up. In this case the yellow grass is cut down and separated from its source of life. In this prophecy yellow grass is used to protect people from the elements and referred to as useless. If we didn’t see how the color yellow is found on the cross and combined with the colors of the Tabernacle to produce the rainbow of God’s promise, the color standing alone would be useless.
David also made reference to the harvest. In this case the cut grass is ignored. Without the full story of salvation people will be ignored by the harvester, despised by the binder when Jesus comes to gather His people. Those left behind will be the vast number of people who look at the cross but never see its color and never knew the man who died for their sins. The cross to them will be nothing more than a spectacle of pain, suffering, and death pointing to their own experience their ignorance will lead them to. They never experienced the love Joseph felt when he gave up his reputation and status to take Jesus off the cross and lie Him in his own tomb. Joseph sacrificed his own tomb in exchange for eternal life.
The priest tried to think of a way of keeping Jesus in the grave. Their conscience told them Jesus rising from the grave was a possibility. For many Christians this still remains on their conscience as a possibility – but not a reality. I know there are a lot of Christians out there who go to church just in case it is true. Just in case there is a God. Just in case we were created and didn’t evolve. I run across so called Christians who love to blend God’s Word with science to come up with a cozy little belief they feel comfortable with. It’s like serving two gods…. like the pagans did … just in case one couldn’t deliver them they have another god in reserve.
Why would the priests want to post guards to protect a tomb? What good would it do them? The gospels tell us what happened. Deep down inside the priests had doubts. God’s Spirit was still working on them after they crucified Jesus. They still had a chance to repent. Some of them did. God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. (Acts 6:7 NLTse). The Roman whip cut deep wounds into Jesus’ back, but not as deep as the furrows Jesus plowed with His blood, sweat, and tears.