Thorns. They hurt, cut, and pierce. They sure seem like a negative, pain producing object.
Upon first thinking of the word, one might picture a rose bush. There is beauty in the flower, but not so much with the thorny stems upon which the flower grows. The sames goes for blackberry bushes. As a child (and still as an adult) I loved picking and eating blackberries off the bushes that grew along the fringes of the woods on our country property. Though, I also remember having to be careful of not stabbing my fingers on the thorny vines.
With so many perceived negatives, how can this object be seen as producing grace? In the Old Testament, God curses the ground with thorns (Genesis 3:18) after Adam and Eve’s sin. In Numbers 33:55-56, the Lord commanded the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites so they would not become thorns in their side. And, the last place the Israelites camp before entering the Promised Land was called Abel-Shittim, or “the Field of Thorns.”
All the way up to the crucifixion, we see examples of thorns in a negative connotation. However, the thorn of crowns that Jesus wore is an act of sacrifice for all of us. Jud Davis sums it up better than I:
The story of the Bible is this. Adam comes naked to a live tree and spiritually murders the entire human race by a single act of disobedience. Jesus comes to a dead tree and allows Himself to be stripped naked. Then, in the ultimate act of obedience—His very death after a lifetime of full and total obedience to God—He makes alive all those who would ever by God’s grace repent of their sins and trust in Him alone for salvation. (source)
As a Christian, thorns serve two main purposes I believe. One, is that Jesus was willing to suffer the pain and insults to redeem me. And secondly, when Jesus returns, he will not be the suffering servant of God any longer, but rather the conquering Messiah!
Since I am born of the flesh, my nature is sinful. I have lots of thorns that prick me every day. There are lots of things “in the world” that poke and prod me. Paul writes about some unnamed affliction he suffers that is like a thorn in his flesh. Much as been written about what it specifically might have been, but I do not think it matter what it was. The key is what it does for Paul. Though Paul asked God to take it away from him, God never does. Paul comes to the conclusion that God’s grace is sufficient for him.
I love this outlook, for whatever the thorn(s) are that we individually have, be it an addiction or physical aliment. . . we can rest assured that God’s grace will be more than enough to carry us through. We are weak, but God’s power is made perfect through our weakness.
It is with this thought in mind that I wanted to illustrate my love, not hatred of thorns. They are a reminder of whose I am, and of where my thoughts need to be.
In peace. . .