I’ve been writing in other contexts/venues lately and realized… “Hey, I’m paying $$ for this blog site, so I should probably take advantage of it.” I can share those other writings here too! Sometimes, I need to be hit in the head with a big rock to wake up.
A couple of weeks ago, I delivered a message on the Thorns and Thistles of Grace, in part inspired by this article a dear friend shared with me. The message ended up being a two part message, the first focusing on a different twist (thorns and thistles) of God’s grace, and the second focusing on what God’s grace is not. For this post, I want to focus on the former.
In general, I think we tend to think of God’s grace as a New Testament idea — probably because His grace is made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we forget that His grace is a foundational part of God’s character: It is part of who He is. One of the premier illustrations of God’s grace in the New Testament is Jesus’ parable of the lost sons (prodigal). (That can be a multiple posts, so we won’t go there for now – go read it.) Grace is not just a New Testament idea. God’s grace is poured lavishly throughout His word.
Two of my favorite OT verses are Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 1:18:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
My intent here is not to take these verses out of context. In context, they are bookended with the disobedience of Israel. And that, is precisely what illustrates God’s grace in these verses. From a human perspective, these verses don’t make sense. They are illogical. And yet, God declares despite your failings, disobedience, and rebellion, I have good plans for you. Come, let me show you my reasoning. I will take your sin and wash them away.” That is grace. Undeserved. Unearned.
Another Old Testament passage that illustrates God’s grace is the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11-12. What? In this history, David’s sins are numerous and severe. God could have cut David down in a way similar to how Saul was treated, but God knew David’s heart and how he would respond. Knowing that David would repent, God sent Nathan to tell the story of a wealthy man and a poor man. (Go read 2 Samuel 12 for context.) David responded with repentance. Sure there were consequences to David’s actions (there always are), but like the lost son, David was restored to a place and status that he really didn’t deserve. That is grace.
That brings us to the thorns and thistles of this message. The context for this comes from Genesis 3. In the following verses we enter at the tail end of God describing the results and curses of disobedience.
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
First, it is important to note that this is not a curse God is placing on Adam. He did not say “because you listened to your wife, I curse you.” Look carefully, “because you listened to your wife…, cursed is the ground because of you.” The cursed ground is a direct result/consequence of Adam’s actions. It is important to note that just prior to these verses, God sends Adam and Eve from the garden because there is another tree, the Tree of Life, in the garden that God did not want them to eat from and become eternal creatures in a fallen state. Grace.
Now jump forward to Moses on Mount Horeb. Tending sheep, he came upon the burning bush. The word that we typically translate as “bush” is the Hebrew word סְנֶה, Pronounced seneh. This word means “thorny bush” or “briar”. Here, God is encompassing the curse brought on by Adam and carrying that image forward into His plan of redeeming the Hebrew children.
And finally, jump forward to Pilate’s courtyard where several Roman soldiers have taken a branch of thorns and twisted it into a mock crown so that they could mock this King of the Jews and spit on Him. Here is God, through Christ, consuming the thorns of the curse so that humankind could be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with the Father. Grace!
Does grace make sense? Not from our perspective. To God, it is part of who He is. Was grace free? Yes! Cheap? Heavens No!!! Deservered? No, unmerited! (More on these last two in my next post.)
As you read through the Word, Old and New Testament, I encourage you to find the grace of God in ways that you have not seen before. If grace is a part of His character, you will find it in surprising and unexpected ways.
All Verses taken from:
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.