We hear quite often such a phrase, a “thorn in my flesh,” as the Apostle Paul is talking about himself in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 NIV:
“I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment 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.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We often hear that a “thorn” must be some type of Paul’s physical ailment or something else. In those passages, we don’t know anything about what a “thorn of the flesh” is because those passages do not say anything specifically.
The Bible is the infallible Word of God or God-breezed. We know His Word is related to each other and repeated in the Scriptures.
I firmly believe the cross-reference Bible is one of the best tools to find out what it means. Just use the same approaches as the reference Bible does if we cannot find the particular references that we are looking for in the Bible.
By cross references, we find Numbers 33:55 which reads, “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.”
We now get some picture of “thorns” here. Let’s find some other reference. How about Joshua 23:6-13 NIV?
“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.
The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.
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 snares 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.”
We get more clear picture of “thorns” here. This cross-reference study shows a good example for us to know how God reveals His Word and communicates in the Scriptures. Let the Bible speak by itself. – T