A few of David’s last words were, ‘But the sons of Belial (Satan) shall be all of them as thorns cast away, because they cannot be taken with hands. Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie’ (2 Samuel 23:6-7). When God commissioned Ezekiel to prophesy, He urges him, ‘And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house’ (Ezekiel 2:5-6). God’s Word uses an analogy of thorns, bristles, and briers to describe those who rebel against God’s ways, Word, and will – those who rebel against God and are under Satan’s power. Thus, they are considered evil and wicked. David in his Psalms also describes such as grass saying ‘that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed’ (Psalm 92:7). Elsewhere, he says, ‘May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame. May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow; with it the reaper cannot fill his hands, nor the one who gathers fill his arms’ (129:v5-7).
God-haters are considered rebellious. To the rebellious King of Assyria, God says of him and such people that they are ‘like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched up before it grows up’ (2 Kings 19:26). Grass on a roof has no chance for survival, while thorns and briers catch fire easily. Their positioning and texture does not allow them to survive long. Likewise, rebellious people position themselves away from God’s covering like grass on a roof, and remain hard-hearted due to living in sin and unbelief – just like the hardness of thorns and briers. Therefore, ‘Surely wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns’ (Isaiah 9:18). In fact, a ‘land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and in in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned’ (Hebrews 6:8). So, those who continually set themselves against the Lord are in danger of being burned if they do not turn to Him. For at the appearing of Jesus, all thorns will be done away with as, ‘The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and briers’ (Isaiah 10:17). In an instant, thorn and briers will be done away with.
Thorns and briers also serve a purpose. Like weeds, they seek to grow around well-watered and nourished plants. They prick and try to weaken the plants. In the Parable of Weeds, Jesus talks of the owner of a field who refuses his servant to remove the weeds. The owner knew that the weeds, though dangerous to plant life, are necessary ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest’ (Matthew 13:29-30). In other words, wicked people and those with Christ’s light are given equal chance for growth. But at God’s appointed time, a fire will consume all that is thorn-like and weed-like in nature. ‘At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring into my burn’ (v30).
While thorns and briers may bring suffering, they are used by God to serve a purpose unbeknown to them. Evil and wicked men are also under God’s radar. For instance, the men who handed over Jesus, crucified Him, and even ‘twisted a crown of thorns and set it on his head’ (27:v29), acted under ‘God’s set purpose and foreknowledge’ (Acts 2:23). ‘But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him’ (v24). By the help of wicked men, God’s purpose was accomplished, even in their unawareness. Just like ruthless Assyria was used as the ‘Lord’s instrument’ (Isaiah 8), and proud Nebuchadnezzar described by God as ‘my servant’ (Jeremiah 27:6), so wicked men can be used to accomplish God’s will without their knowing. However, when they do not turn to God, then their fate remains like that of thorns, weeds, and bristles.
‘To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Paul had just described his sufferings at length and then reminisced on a divine event 14 years ago, after which he had a thorn in his flesh. Due to the connotation of the thorns in Scripture, it is likely that the thorn Paul was alluding to was a wicked person. Paul having a Spirit of discernment quickly spotted the thorn in his flesh, describing them as a messenger of Satan. Thorns and briers are easily identifiable because they do not bear fruit. Jesus says, ‘By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?’ (Matthew 7:16). He then concludes by saying, ‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them’ (v19-20). At the end of it all, thorns, bristles, and briers are unfruitful and only add woes. As a result, they attract fire, and are consumed forever. We therefore need to be careful that we do not become thorns and prick others the wrong way, because our judgement will be hot and harsh- flammable.
‘But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snare and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you’ ~ Joshua 23:12-13