Thistles and Thorns

The greatest glimpse we get of utopia in the Bible is in the Garden of Eden. It is the place we long for and would happily return to if we were able. But we, of course, cannot return due to our sin and how it has disrupted the planet. From a Biblical standpoint, everything has been touched by our rebellion. Even the earth itself has suffered at our hands. God told Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Gen 3:17-18). And so we were moved outside of the beautiful and ordered garden to the chaotic ungarden, where nature is sharp and pointy and demands our blood. The pain and death of the world outside runs rampant and will leave its effect on us, just as we have effected it.

But there in the ungarden, God planted a vineyard known as Israel. It had all the potential to present the world with a glimpse of God’s utopia. According to the poetry of Isaiah 5, God did everything he needed to do to ensure that this vineyard would reap a ripe harvest. But when it was time to pick the grapes, God only found “wild grapes”—or more literally translated, “stink fruit.”

But this would not be the last vineyard that God would raise up. For Isaiah 27:2-6 goes on to describe the new age to come, where His vineyard is ripe and utopia is found once again, after God takes care of evil and chaos once and for all—when all of the ungardens are transformed into the garden. It will be a place where thorns and thistles will no longer have their way.

In that day, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! I, the Lord, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day; I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together. Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.*

Yes, the day will arrive when the curse of the earth will be dealt with once and for all; for Jesus has taken the very curse of thorns upon his head and is now king over it. The thorns and thistles and briers and stink fruit will come to an end, and the new utopia of the new creation—the new Eden—will be established on the earth.

And Jesus welcomes us to be a part of it if we follow Him.

*There is no deep word study informing this post. The Hebrew words that Isaiah uses for thorns is different than the one used in Genesis, so it’s possible Isaiah did not have these exact connections in mind. This post is more of a pastoral one, simply working off of the wider Biblical story to unify the themes of thorns throughout the Bible.

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