Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.2 Corinthins 12:8
“Three Times” – This means that Paul sought it on three separate and particular occasions. Many commentators supposed that it merely means Paul prayed for this often. However, it seems probable that Paul on three specific occasions earnestly prayed for the removal of this problem. It is worthy to note that Jesus in his agony did the same: at three different times he asked the Father that the cup might depart from him. Each time he spoke the same words, Matt 26:39-44. There is, therefore, a clear allusion to Jesus’ experience seen in these words of Paul. The third time he submitted to what was the will of God.
The Jews were in the habit of praying three times for any important blessing or for the removal of any calamity or curse. Paul would not only conform to the usual custom, but especially he would be likely to imitate the example of the Lord. Among the Jews three was a sacred number, and repeated examples occur where an important action is mentioned as having been done three times: Num 22:28; Num 24:10; 1 Sam 3:8; 1 Sam 20:41; 1 Kings 18:44; Prov 22:20; Jer 7:4; Jer 22:29; Joh 21:17.
The probability is that Paul on three different occasions earnestly sought the Lord Jesus that this calamity might be removed from him. The passage shows that it is right to pray earnestly and repeatedly for the removal of any calamity. The Saviour so prayed in the garden; and Paul prayed similarly here. Yet it also shows that there should be a limit to such prayers. The Saviour prayed three times; and Paul limited himself to the same number of petitions and then they both submitted to the will of God. This does not prove that we should be limited to exactly this number in our petitions, but it proves that there should be a limit. We should not be over-anxious, and that when it is plain from any cause that the calamity will not be removed, we should submit to it. The Saviour in the garden knew that the cup would not be removed, and he acquiesced. Paul was told indirectly that his calamity would not be removed, and he submitted.
Regarding the matter of “buffeting”, [κολαφίζω] kolaphizō means to
- to strike with the fist or
- to maltreat, treat with violence.
Clearly it refers to the body blows that come to us and strike us time and time again. Like an advancing wave of calamity or the single discreet occasions when we are struck or “roughed up”.
Some have commented on the numbers involved here. Three requests made to remove the “thorn” and the third heaven. As noted above, the number three was a sacred number to the Jews symbolising the God Head or the Trinity or the fullness of God. Is there a link here or not? I don’t believe so but I have been wrong before.
Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.Anon
Be optimistic, even against the odds – Be true to yourself, even against the tide – Be courageous, even against a wall!Brian Houston
You were born an original, don’t die a copy.Ian Vail