The fiendish Mr Fox

Church bulletin:

It doesn’t need to be a big gift to be a big blessing. It doesn’t need to be a serious injury to cause serious pain. It doesn’t need to be intense temptation to cause intense regret. Sometimes, little things have a large effect. This is what the wise man teaches in SoS 2:15, Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.

Foxes don’t get a good rap in the Bible. One of these creatures can cause a great deal of destruction. But why does Solomon introduce this saying in the middle of a discourse about the love between the bridegroom and the bride? He is not changing tact – suddenly concerned with farming. He is not referring to grapes and foxes at all. The little foxes and the vines are symbols within this poetic ode. Just as small feral animals can destroy crops and other animals, small issues can destroy relationships, careers, reputations etc. In the context of the bridegroom and bride, how many marriages have unravelled because seemingly small matters of poor communication, indifference, possessiveness, mistrust, harshness, etc have had free course.

Solomon instructs us to “catch the foxes, the little foxes.” It is another way of saying (to use another metaphor) – nip things in the bud. Deal with the potential for problems before they grow, before they spread, before they intensify, before they get out of hand. It is not only relevant to marriage, but all areas of life. Some examples –

Glances are small things. To glance is only to take a quick look. But a quick look can be to look longer than we should. David had a quick look at the young woman bathing and it led to some big sins. For this reason, Job said, I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (31:1). Peter described false teachers as having eyes full of adultery. When they look at women, they see them a certain way. Their eyes are trained in covetousness. There is no such thing as just a harmless glance, Jesus said, pluck out your right eye if it causes you to sin.

Thoughts are small things. I suppose we can have grandiose thoughts, but what are thoughts – only the quiet secluded musings of our minds. Yet, it is in our thoughts that we engage in envy, jealousy, covetousness, lust, hatred, pride etc. We first water our thoughts before our actions produce the poisoned fruit of unrighteousness. Prov 23:7, For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. No actual sin has ever been committed that was not first pondered over in the mind. Adultery, murder, theft, lying, etc. all have their provenance in a thought.

Words are small things. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but………. We all know how it goes. We also know that it isn’t true. James certainly indicated that it isn’t true. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell (3:5-6). How many problems and how much hurt has been caused by this tiny muscle. It never ceases to grab my attention – the unbridled tongue is set on fire by hell!

Catch the little foxes. Nip the possibility of sin in the bud. Deal with issues as they arise. A little fox has very sharp teeth, give him enough room, he may just devour you.

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