There is a cryptic verse in Isaiah 55:

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Whatever could it mean? We can investigate the meaning of thorns and briars using the “Principle of First Mention”. This is a Bible study method that suggests the first time that something is mentioned in the Bible can shed light on the subsequent meanings of the word or concept.

Here is the first mention of thorns:

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;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
Genesis 3:17-18

Interesting. Thorns seem to be part of the curse, and connected with sin.
Later, in Judges 9, a righteous man called Jotham warns Israel about Abimalech by speaking to them this parable:

“Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us. But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?' And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.' But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?' And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.' But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?' Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.' And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'

The unworthy ruler in this parable is likened to a bramble bush, and Judges speaks of Abimalech and his followers as “worthless fellows” in the English Standard Version. In fact, looking at Judges, this concept of worthless fellows comes up repeatedly, and the picture of them as briars is fitting.
So to recap, we have the following concepts linked with thorns and briars:

  1. sin
  2. curses
  3. worthless fellows
  4. ungodly, unworthy

Isaiah 55 is a chapter about calling people to repent and come into joyful relationship with God. It ends with the declaration that thorns and briars can become like noble cypress trees, which were used for worship instruments and to build the temple… or like a myrtle, which represents the lowly loveliness of Israel and the Bride of Messiah.

And to think that a crown of thorns was driven into the head of Yeshua as he was led to his death…

To think of all the sin, all the weight of the curses that should have fallen upon us, digging into his flesh… drawing his blood from his precious head… flowing for us, for our forgiveness.
That crown of thorns holds both the evil of our sin and the curse that we deserve, but also the majesty of the one who willingly paid for it on our behalf. He willingly bore that pain and so much more to pay for our transformation from ashes to beauty, from despair to praise, from sinful to holy, from thorns and briars to the cypress and myrtle… as an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Our eternal life is a never ending sign of his greatness and goodness, and we will praise him forever.

Why not use Isaiah 55 to inspire your prayers for Israel today?

Isaiah 55 – An Invitation to the Thirsty

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Please pray for the economic troubles and social injustice Israelis are protesting about at the moment… for those who find they cannot make ends meet. Please pray that in this time of financial difficulty, God would catch their attention with his generosity and offer of everlasting sustenance.

3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

Please pray for Yeshua to be well presented throughout the land – that he is the Messiah, the promised One from the house of David. Pray that those who hear or see or read about Yeshua will listen and take note.

5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Please pray for the Gentiles that have been called and summoned to share their faith with Israelis – for them to stay close to the Father and led by the Spirit in their ministry and witness.

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, righteousness and the judgement to come, and for many to repent and turn.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Praise God for the openness that there seems to be in Israel regarding spirituality, and pray that people would have open minds and open hearts to consider that Yeshua really is the Messiah

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it
without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Pray for all those who have come across the good news in some way or another, that God's words would accomplish the purpose for which he sent them. Pray for the truth to take root in their lives, and for faith to grow.

12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

Thank you, Father, for your promise that you will pour out your Spirit on your people, and we look forward with you to how you will bring forth men and women of God where there was only sin and curses. We rejoice with you and all creation, and say “Yes and amen!”

Show the world you are One for Israel!

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