From the Curse of Eden to the Crown of Thorns
“Thorns and thistles shall the land bring forth for you,” (Genesis 3:18). With these words, God exiles Adam from Eden and sentences him to hardscrabble life among thorns. Those thorns would be a constant reminder of what he lost in Eden.
But could those thorns point to God’s grace as well?
The burning bush (“seneh” in Hebrew) is a thorn bush (Exodus 3:2). When Stephen quotes this passage, he spells out that it is a thorn bush (see New American Standard Bible, Acts 7:30). That thorn bush was at Mount “Sinai” which is perhaps related to “seneh”/thorns. Mount Horeb is Sinai’s other name, and it means “destruction.”
So why would God get inside thorns and promise restoration to an Eden-like land flowing with milk and honey? Why does he promise this at Mount Destruction/Thorns?
The Tabernacle is mostly Acacia wood (“shittim” in Hebrew, Exodus 25:5-38:6). Thorny spikes cover Acacia branches. If you prick your finger on Acacia thorns, the resulting mycetoma can cause death without massive treatment or amputation.
So why would God command Moses to build the Tabernacle out of thorny, deadly Acacia wood? Why would he command that Acacia wood be covered over with pure gold? Are not thorns a result of the fall? How can God command a Tabernacle to be built from thorn wood?
Moses leads Israel to Abel-Shittim “the field of thorns” (Numbers 33:49), but the law-giver cannot bring the people into the Promised Land because he has broken the law. Disobedience keeps him in exile just like Adam. Joshua (“Jesus” in Greek) crosses the Jordan and leads God’s people into the Promised Land.
So what does all this mean?
Well, what should have happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden? Their rebellion brought all sin and death into the world. They rejected the rule of God and declared themselves King and Queen in Eden. God could have stripped away their fig leaves. He could have hung them naked to die on the tree. He could have crowned them with their cursed thorns.
But God chose another way.
God got in the midst of thorns and promised to take his people to an Eden-like land flowing with milk and honey. To make that promise good, God would get into thorns a second time. He would bear the destructive, thorny curse of Sinai’s law. That generous mercy and love would eventually win the heart of his new Eve, the Church. His love will make her untemptable by evil. His love will cover over her rebellion and make her the very Temple of God. His death in thorns clothes her with righteousness.
Thorns and grace? Absolutely.