“Three basic suggested interpretations of the thorn are as follows: (1) If flesh is a reference to the body, then it is a physical ailment like an earache, headache, eye trouble, epilepsy, or recurrent fever. (2) If flesh is a reference to the fallen nature, then the thorn could be a temptation. (3) If the expression is figurative, it could refer to persecution or opposition. Most commentators interpret it as a physical ailment.”1
“Many early church Fathers and Reformers understood the thorn to be a spiritual temptation—perhaps a tendency toward pride, or the opposition of Paul’s enemies. Some modern Roman Catholic interpreters take it as a fleshly temptation that assailed Paul’s moral purity. Many modern Protestant interpreters see it as a bodily suffering, namely, some physical illness or infirmity such as bad eyesight, a speech impediment, malaria,2 or epilepsy (cf. Gal. 4:13-15).3 Since the scriptural data does not provide a definite answer, it seems best to suspend judgment on any conclusion. Various commentators have made good cases for every one of the explanations described above. Probably Paul avoided being explicit so his readers would not focus on his particular form of affliction exclusively.”
In light of Dr. Constable’s Notes given above, there seems to be 3 different approaches to the Apostle Paul’s thorn:
Physical Illness or Infirmity
However, what was profound to my wife was how “God used evil for good”, which struck me odd at first because my brain does not make sense of good using evil for good; that to me sounds like evil is nothing more than a tool rather than a force necessitating justice, and thereby making good and evil indistinguishable.
2 That you may observe discretion And your lips may reserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey And smoother than oil is her speech; 4 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword.
Seductress is an opposing force to the marriage covenant made between a man and woman. The covenant of marriage is a gift given by God (Gen 2:22-25). However, if our hearts lust after flesh even when married, for example… Solomon, according to the scripture presented below… then like Solomon, we’re in danger of doing evil.
1 Kings 11 —But King Solomon [defiantly] loved many foreign women—the [a]daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. 2 They were of the very nations of whom the Lord said to the Israelites, You shall not mingle with them, neither shall they mingle with you, for surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods. Yet Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines, and his wives turned away his heart from God. 4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect (complete and whole) with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abominable idol of the Ammonites! 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as David his father did.
I think it’s fair to assume that Seductress oppresses everyone with a sexual appetite, but how to resist the condition of lust that overtakes us when that appetite is raging — that’s the question isn’t it? I mean, our commentator seemed to express as much:
Those that are entangled in this sin should be reminded that there is but a step between them and hell, and that they are ready to drop into it.
~ Matthew Henry
Thankfully, by God’s grace, our ability to resist Seductress is made possible by faith in the Spirit of God within. At least, from my experience; I can testify to how the relationship between my faith in God and work of the Holy Spirit effectively causes Seductress to move out of my soul.
Now that does not mean that Seductress will not tempt by what pleasure I’ve experienced in sin, after all, it’s her nature to tempt. I think of her as the apostle John describes (Rev 17:4), and if my relationship with God be true… then there is no room for two; I will not compromise my soul with thinking I can have God and sexual immorality too. And the fact of my writing turning into a rhythm and rhyme, like a melody, should cause pause… because it’s not fine.
Whenever the soul embraces compromise for what is thought to be impossible to resist because of our nature to sin, we’re in danger to believing in vain, and stepping into hell.
When reading, “…the lips of an adulteress drip honey…”, two…
Matthew Henry (P5-V3) Commentary 1. That we do not listen to the charms of this sin. It is true the lips of a strange woman drop as a honey-comb (v. 3); the pleasures of fleshly lust are very tempting (like the wine that gives its colour in the cup and moves itself aright); its mouth, the kisses of its mouth, the words of its mouth, are smoother than oil, that the poisonous pill may go down glibly and there may be no suspicion of harm in it. But consider,
(1.) How fatal the consequences will be. What fruit will the sinner have of his honey and oil when the end will be,
[1.] The terrors of conscience: It is bitter as wormwood,v. 4. What was luscious in the mouth rises in the stomach and turns sour there; it cuts, in the reflection, like a two-edged sword; take it which way you will, it wounds. Solomon could speak by experience, Eccl. 7:26.
[2.] The torments of hell. If some that have been guilty of this sin have repented and been saved, yet the direct tendency of the sin is to destruction of body and soul; the feet of it go down to death, nay, they take hold on hell, to pull it to the sinner, as if the damnations slumbered too long, v. 5. Those that are entangled in this sin should be reminded that there is but a step between them and hell, and that they are ready to drop into it.
6 To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.
It’s been nearly a month since I wrote of how the wisest person on the face of the planet received their wisdom—The proverbs of Solomon. And now here we are in the 21st century being fed of its milk and meat to understand the words of the wise and their riddles.
SPIRITUAL MILK AND MEAT
Take milk and meat as our example to a figure of spiritual speech: (a) milk is our figure of speech for those recently born into Jesus Christ by their awareness of good and evil, and (b) meat is for those grown to handle the many questions that newborns will have regarding this developing faith by their understanding to the meaning of the knowledge of good and evil.
If you believed in the gospel last month, your faith is in dire need of milk (the Word of God) provided through the sustenance of our Church Body (your local christian church). The Word of God has revealed to you your condition of death that separates you from God; in other words you’ve reached a state of awareness [enlightenment] to the nature of your condition—spiritual condition—of which condemns you to death because of sin. At this stage of development the soul hungers for the pure milk of the Word because eternal life is a promised result upon believing, but it takes time to grow.
The Helper (Holy Spirit) is that established energy and power of wisdom and truth; Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. You will go through a process of being born while aware of the experience, not like being born as a human baby of which we don’t recall; because a soul that is condemned to death ignores the wrath of God which is directed at the sin, not the person, that person has made a conscious choice to accept the wrath of God rather than repent of their sin by faith in Christ. So there is an experience of deep mourning or spiritual grieving by the separating of loved ones during this process of faith development; they are not accepting this truth when we are, and it’s a very painful spiritual endurance, but this experience is very necessary because it intimate-izes our relationship to God.
At this stage of our faith development there are worldly experiences that will test us, train us, and much pain (healthy pain); think of it as becoming a super saiyan—dragon ball z style! Any of you readers familiar? Okay, well, the point is that our personality transforms into the calling of God; the ministry of reconciliation is taking shape in our psychology, and our faith is developing into a responsibility. Our frame of reference is shifting from an earthly temperial perspective to an immortally eternal perspective; so there will be much discipline from your parents (another figure of speech) whom—if is in Christ—will raise you up in that discipline of our heavenly Father. Expect much correction with edification as your soul is resurrecting to life from the dead (even though you’re awake to witness it).
Remember, it took 3 days before our Lord was resurrected from the dead and many more days later before ascending into heaven to be at the right hand of God our Father; so don’t let anyone try and tell you that this process of conversion happens simply in the day of which you believe, it takes time in respect of salvation. And as we continue to devote ourselves to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will teach us the meaning of Truth; we will learn how to see through the facade of the deceiver, and discern good and evil.
Proverbs 1 (NASB)—blueletterbible.org 1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; 4 To give prudence to the naïve, To the youth knowledge and discretion, 5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, 6 To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; 9 Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head And ornaments about your neck. 10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause; 12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, Even whole, as those who go down to the pit; 13 We will find all kinds of precious wealth, We will fill our houses with spoil; 14 Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse,” 15 My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, 16 For their feet run to evil And they hasten to shed blood. 17 Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net In the sight of any bird; 18 But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. 19 So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors. Wisdom Warns 20 Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; 21 At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: 22 “How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge? 23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. 24 “Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; 25 And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; 26 I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, 27 When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. 28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, 29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. 30 “They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. 31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices. 32 “For the waywardness of the naïve will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them. 33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Hebrews 5:11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Luke 3:16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 12 We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Matthew Henry (P1-V6) Commentary 2. As an interpreter (v. 6)-to understand a proverb. Solomon was himself famous for expounding riddles and resolving hard questions, which was of old the celebrated entertainment of the eastern princes, witness the solutions he gave to the enquiries with which the queen of Sheba thought to puzzle him. Now here he undertakes to furnish his readers with that talent, as far as would be serviceable to the best purposes. “They shall understand a proverb, even the interpretation, without which the proverb is a nut uncracked; when they hear a wise saying, though it be figurative, they shall take the sense of it, and know how to make use of it.’ The words of the wise are sometimes dark sayings. In St. Paul’s epistles there is that which is hard to be understood; but to those who, being well-versed in the scriptures, know how to compare spiritual things with spiritual, they will be easy and safe; so that, if you ask them, Have you understood all these things? they may answer, Yea, Lord. Note, It is a credit to religion when men of honesty are men of sense; all good people therefore should aim to be intelligent, and run to and fro, take pains in the use of means, that their knowledge may be increased.