According to the word of God, a curse is not simply a wish for harm but contains the power in itself to inflict that harm. The Law forbids anyone to curse the leader of his people (Exodus 22:28). The phrase immediately before cursing one’s leader is “you shall not revile the gods”. The term gods refers to our rulers (cf. Psalm 82), and we are told that reviling or speaking disgracefully of one’s leader is the same as cursing him. This sort of thing, if done to one’s parents was punishable with death (Exodus 21:17), and to do so toward God was considered blasphemy, and the offender was to be stoned (Leviticus 24:11, 14). Job’s wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). In other words, if he wanted to be relieved of his suffering, all he had to do was curse or revile God, and God would take his life.
It seems, therefore, that the curse of the Law is death. To revile the Law or treat it lightly is to bring death upon oneself. This was Paul’s point in Galatians 3:10-14. That is, if anyone seeks to please God by obeying the Law of Moses, he will find he is under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10). This is because to break the Law only once, or to treat the Law lightly only once, or to behave unwisely and offend the Law only once brought death. One cannot please God through one’s behavior, because sooner or later we will show we are not perfect beings. The problem is that the Law is perfectly holy (Romans 7:12) and spiritual, but men are carnal or have fleshy appetites which are contrary to the Law (Romans 7:14).
When God brought ancient Israel out of Egypt, animal sacrifices weren’t even mentioned. All God was interested in was that they would obey his voice or his Word (Jeremiah 7:23), but they didn’t, because they couldn’t—being carnal (Jeremiah 7:24, cf. Romans 8:6-7). Therefore, animal sacrifices became an added requirement due to transgression (Jeremiah 7:22; Galatians 3:19); the implication being, men simply could not keep the Law. The significance of the atoning sacrifice was to point to Christ, showing that atonement lay outside of men’s own power. Receiving Jesus as our Savior, then, shows that we agree that we are helpless concerning the demands of the Law and admit we are cursed, judged worthy of death, without him.
The Scripture concludes that the just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11; Habakkuk 2:4). According to Genesis 16, Abraham and Sarah devised a plan to work with God and extend their lives through their descendants. They sought to do this according to their understanding of God’s will. Yet, according to Genesis 17:18-21 God rejected Abraham’s works done through his own efforts to receive God’s blessing. God promised in the beginning and delivered in the end. Yet, Abraham was unable to do what God desired, nor was he able to help God get it done.
Concerning obedience, the Law says: “Cursed is every man who continues not in all the words of this Law to do them…” (Deuteronomy 27:26 LXX). It is important that the text uses the words all & do. We must do what the whole Law says, if we wish to be justified before God through the works of the Law. We can’t merely agree that its claims are righteous. We must do what the Law demands. Moreover, we must not do in part but all of what the Law demands, if we are to be accepted by God according to our works (Galatians 3:12).
The very fact atoning sacrifices were needed in the Law shows no one could keep it perfectly, and justification couldn’t be attained through keeping the Law. However, what if one decided to keep what law he could and trusted God to take care of whatever he or she could not? The problem is: it was an “all or nothing” deal (Leviticus 18:4; cf. Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4). The Law is not about faith. One was responsible to keep all or the whole Law, if one embraced the Law. There is absolutely nothing in the Law that allowed for one to keep only part of it and trust God for what one could not do. Such a thing is the reasoning of one’s own heart.
If Abraham’s life through his descendants was promised by God (Genesis 15:5-6) and God was the sole guarantee of that promise (Genesis 15:12-17), then our lives as the spiritual children of Abraham are given to us as a gift (Romans 6:23) as well, and it is God who guarantees our safety (Genesis 15:12-17) and pays the price the Law demands.
Under the Old Covenant, when folks couldn’t pay a debt, they sold themselves or a son or daughter as a servant to pay the debt owed. A wealthy relative could pay the debt and this would set his relative free. This was called the redemption price (cf. Leviticus 25:48-50). In 1Timothy 2:6 Paul tells us that Jesus gave himself as the redemption price (Weymoth translation) for all. The Greek word (antilutron – G487) is used only here and means corresponding ransom or equivalent ransom. That is, Jesus’ sacrifice is equivalent to or corresponds to the price of the debt owed. Only he is able to redeem us from death, the curse of the Law (Romans 5:15).