We have about 30-40 rose bushes on our little farm. I love their first blush in early Spring. It is glorious! The colors are magnificent and the fragrance of each variety is breathtaking. Every year I have a new favorite- whether it is the color, the smell or the actual blossoms, I have a different one. This time of year is the beginning of their cycle of new growth. The old has been cut away, and things have been heavily pruned. When I look out at the rose garden I see bushes with just the beginning of the leafing out. But what do I see most? Thorns. Lots of thorns. We have some rose bushes that have the nastiest thorns I have ever seen, or felt. And these tend to be on the prettiest roses! Why is that? I don't know, honestly. I have been doing a study on thorns in the Bible. A word study on a very unusual item. It piqued my interest last week when my daughter, Abbey, and I read Judges 2:1-3. The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed Me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." Do you mean to tell me that thorns can be a choice? Because of their disobedience, the Israelites were going to have thorns that God never intended for them to have. I had to think on that for a while. This is the same as saying that there are consequences for our sin and actions. Same meaning, different packaging. Does this truth hold today? Well, I need to go to Hebrews 13:8 to answer that - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. And Jesus Himself states in John 10:30 "I and the Father are one." So, yes, this truth holds today. Now then, what altars do I have in my life that I have not broken down? What sin is in my camp?? It's real easy to point to someone else, but I have to remember that my finger points back at me. Is it pride, man's approval, doubt, anger, bitterness, etc.? Where have I allowed the things of this world to creep in and take residence? And by their setting up camp, I have allowed myself to be plagued by thorns.
Thorns cause nasty pain and sometimes even infection - dangerous, life-threatening infection. Have you ever been doing a good deed by getting some fresh cut roses for the house, happy to be out in the sun, enjoying the beauty of the roses, only to be snagged by a thorn? Right in the tender spot on your hand. Or your best outfit stuck on a thorn. Or on a windy day, stuck multiple places and twisted around that it takes awhile to get unstuck? Maybe it's just me, but this happens to me. Those pricks from a thorn hurt! And they keep on hurting. For days. To keep from from becoming conceited because of the surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Corinthians 12:7 I was reading this verse the other day because it has the word thorn embedded in it. I was trying to read it with new eyes. I did, because I could not shake two phrases. 1. Messenger of Satan. 2. To torment me. I was supposed to be focused on thorns but I got stuck on something else, no pun intended. Messenger of Satan?? The original Greek says that messenger is the word angel. You know, angel of the Lord, an angel appearing to Mary. But an angel of Satan? It gives me the creeps just thinking about it. And a messenger has a job - to tell a message. What was Satan telling Paul? Day in and day out, what was he saying? And from what I read in half the New Testament, Paul did not spend much time listening to those lies. Yes, lies. Those are the only things our enemy is capable of saying. He started in the Garden of Eden and he hasn't stopped. He does not need to. We keep listening to them. What message is he telling me? Oh, this is where it gets a little personal. It stings and pricks a little. "You're not good enough." "You don't deserve this affliction, you are a good person." "You don't have anything to say, contribute, add or do." "God has forgotten you." "God doesn't answer your prayers." There are more, but you get the picture. I have to reject those lies and replace them with Truth. And the only place I find absolute Truth is in the Bible. So, I sit with my Bible open and ask Jesus to reveal to me the Truth. And He does. There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. Romans 3:10-11 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn Your decrees. Psalm 119:71 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word. Psalm 119:67 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12 So what do I do with the second point? I studied Job last year. I actually taught on Job, so I immersed myself in the book. So why was I so surprised to see a reprisal of Satan in the New Testament? The Greek uses torment to mean, 'to rap with the fist.' I can just picture a thump on the head every few moments. It is torture. So, we know that Satan was sent to Paul to tell him something and to torture him. This is where I had to stop and cry out to God. I was struck by the enormity of this action. Paul is a man of God, yet he had to endure lies and torment so he wouldn't become conceited? For whatever reason, I had this very wrong notion that we are to protected at all times from this. But that is a VERY wrong assumption. Our enemy is prowling around like a lion waiting to devour someone. (1 Peter 5:8). I should expect to be seeing lions on a regular basis. I think that is why Jesus included in His prayer that He taught His disciples - But deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13) The truth is that our enemy is allowed to be around us as believers, even in our lives, in our business. But he has to go to God first. He has to be given permission. Just remember that scene (two scenes actually) in heaven in Job 1 and 2. Paul gives the reason why the torment. To keep him humble. He had been shown and given much from God. God did not want Paul to be puffed up with pride. I think would Paul say the same thing. Before coming to Christ, he was a very prideful man. After his conversion, he wanted nothing to do with pride. He died to self. He was a new creation. So, my study on thorns led me to my knees. I confessed my own pride before the Father. I owned up to my selfishness. I confessed and repented. And I praised God for His unfailing love for me. He forgave and forgot. I did not think when I started this word study that I would end up here, but I am glad I did. I too want nothing that smacks of pride. I died to myself. I want to continually die to myself and my rights. I really am nothing but a sinner saved by grace. It is through this thorn that I have found that I need to humble myself and lift up the Father. I need to press hard into Him. I have nothing to offer. I am a sinner in need of a Saviour. Father God, I thank You for thorns. My thorn. It has led me to the cross. And it is where You are. My precious Saviour and Lord.