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The Curse of Thorns & the Hope of Blackberries

I found this post whilst doing a bit of housekeeping in Google Drive. It's a bit old now I think, maybe three or four years, but it seemed like it was worth sharing.

Enjoying life

A couple of weeks ago Katie and I were out and about, foraging. A good couple of acres worth of free food exists along the cemetery path near our home and we collected enough blackberries to make two litres of blackberry gin and a dessert! I was wondering, though, why we were able to pick tasty, ripe, nutritious fruit from what was meant to be God's curse on the earth, a thorn bush. Surely a curse is void of positive, and should not be accompanied by signs of life and sustenance...

Oh, wait, we're still alive!

We find the account of God cursing humanity with toil, labour and thorns in the book of Genesis. But what's even more surprising than a fruit-bearing curse is found earlier in the plot. In Genesis chapter 3, God promises Adam and Eve that they will surely die if they eat of the fruit from the tree which He told them not to. But for some reason, of which I'm still not fully sure why they eat of it! At this point, we're expecting Adam and Eve to just drop down dead, and for the writer of Genesis to start the story all over again with a new account involving Adam Eve 2.0, nervously hoping they get it right this time. So it's quite surprising to us, and I imagine for the culprits themselves, to discover that they haven't actually died. So what, was God lying? Maybe he was just scaremongering, or maybe he doesn't actually care? Maybe He's incapable...? Or maybe what the serpent said was true, they will not surely die because they are now like God? Well, The Lord Himself makes an appearance, and, Adam and Eve, clearly aware of their guilt, are scared. They've dressed up like shrubs, hoping God won't notice them trying to blend in with the foliage. The tension builds. Surely now is the time God will inflict His judgement and bring humanity to an end. They can hear Him walking in the garden. Nervously expecting the inevitable, they listen as He calls out to the man.

Passing the blame; a way of escape

We expect an angry God. We expect shouting and rage; a God on a mission to destroy. Instead of "where are you?" We expect "get out here now!" But, to the surprise of, I'm sure, everyone involved, the calm and collected Lord God engages the man and his wife in conversation. He affords them an opportunity to explain themselves and to give an account of the situation. With this vague hope of being able to avoid judgement, Adam tries to absolve himself of his wrongdoing by abandoning all loyalty to his wife, promptly indicting her as the main perpetrator. Not only that but he implies guilt on God's part, too, for giving him "the woman" in the first place. Passing the blame seems to have worked, though. With a little more urgency in His tone, God turns now to question Eve, who is just as quick to pass the blame onto the serpent for deceiving her. Now God is angry!

God the avenger

In an instant, God's wrath is fully kindled. The serpent is the one who is condemned, and, without affording the same grace of an appeal, God curses the serpent for deceiving Adam and Eve. Deceit! That is the seemingly greater evil than disobedience. God swiftly promises that a toilsome existence for the serpent, a physical struggle and hostile relationship with humanity will ultimately end in the serpent's destruction. God will not be undermined by a lowly snake!

The curses come and death at last

Up until now, we've seen God dealing very kindly with his wayward creation. He has been very protective of them, being slow to anger and has held off His accusation. He has allowed Adam and Eve to explain the situation and it's almost as if He's hoping a way of escape might be found for them, that he might not have to inflict His judgement upon them. As I've been reading this story in the Bible, I just can't help but feel God is acting like a protective parent here, one who really doesn't want to have to punish His children. Adam and Eve did, however, prove themselves guilty, and God cannot just let their disobedience slide... (Surely now will be the end of humanity)? Well, God proceeds to curse the woman. He promises pain in childbirth. Not a pleasant curse, but still no death for Eve, rather, the ability to procreate and to give life is still afforded to her. Next, Adam is cursed. The Lord provided work for him to do in the garden, but now that work will become hard labour as he will have to struggle against nature in what will become a battle to survive against thorns and thistles. Nevertheless, those thorns can still be accompanied by signs of God not giving up on life, like blackberries! Now the Lord does promise death, but this judgement is the last thing He brings about and it is not an instant death. God is affording the time, but time for what?

It's all about God

Well, Eve is allowed to raise up offspring, and Adam is still allowed to enjoy the fruit of his labouring. God has done all He can to hold back His judgement of death, and hasn't stopped hinting all the way through this episode that he still cares for his people and wants them to fulfil the purpose He created them for; knowing Him, living alongside Him and enjoying Him. Him, Him, Him! This is really all about God. He didn't fail with Adam and Eve, He got it right the first time. Damaged goods don't hinder God and His plans. He will accomplish the end for which He set out, despite Adam and Eve's failure and despite the fact that He has to kill them. But there is as much blessing here, as cursing, and we have to think of the curses as a kind of blessing. They serve as a reminder of the consequences of disobeying God. They are designed to make life hard for us that we might long for the enjoyable kind of life we were meant to have. And through such as blackberries, we know that God isn't causing us to long for an un-cursed life in vain…

Thorns are a sign that death will come, but blackberries are a sign that God can, and will, bring life from death.

Photo by Alina Chupakhina on Unsplash


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