The Song of Solomon is a beautiful book.
Chapter two is no exception.
Some people remember this chapter for its beautiful description of spring. “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13)
Others read it as a love poem. “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters . . . He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love . . . O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” (Song of Solomon 2:2, 4, 5, 14) No more beautiful words can be found to describe the anticipation and consummation of the love relationship.
Of course, spring and love go wonderfully together.
My interest, however, is in the foxes. “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes,” Song of Solomon 2:15. I hope this isn’t a disappointment. After all, the lovers, the vineyard, and the foxes are all joined beautifully together. The lovers say, “Take us the foxes.”
THE TENDER GRAPES
As you know, the Song of Solomon is rich in symbolism. This does not take away from the moving and explicit description of love that is referred to in its verses. After all, if the symbol isn’t beautiful, then the thing signified isn’t either. But it is; the love that Solomon had for his Shulamite wife was rich and deep. The inspired author rises to exalted heights as he reflects on his love for her.
Solomon is not simply writing a marriage manual, he is writing to the church. Hence the description of his love for his wife and her love for him symbolizes for us the spiritual love which Christ has for His Church and the love the Church has for Christ. All this is in full harmony with all of Scripture. The most well-known reference can be found in Ephesians 5: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body . . . Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it . . . For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Song of Solomon 2:23-25, 31, 32)
As we watch these two lovers walk in the vineyard, he speaks, “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes.” (Song of Solomon 2:14, 15) Christ is here speaking concerning the vineyard. The vineyard represents the church in the midst of the world. Did not our Lord Jesus say, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit”? (John 15:1, 2)
Christ is now concerned about the well being of the vine, or more particularly the tender grapes that are upon the, vine. It does not take much imagination to realize that the tender grapes represent children, young people, or anyone who is not spiritually mature. Since it is springtime, the grapes are tender. They are just beginning to form in the bud. They are especially sensitive to chill. They can easily be torn loose from the vine. Hence, they must be protected carefully. This also applies to youth within the covenant of grace. You young people are tender of faith. This is no disgrace; it is a spiritual fact we do well to recognize. You have not yet been tested and tried. You can easily be persuaded to follow different ideas. There is glamour in the lust of the flesh; there is pleasure in the cesspool of sin. You are very impressionable and sensitive to the wide world around you. You are tender!
As these lovers walked together through the vineyard, a little jackal scampered ahead of them. This reminded him that they had to do something about those “little foxes” lest they spoil the vines and thereby destroy the tender grapes. As they played in the vineyard they would dig at the roots, tear the vine, and certainly damage the potential of having mature grapes.
I suppose those jackals looked anything but dangerous. A little fox has all sorts of appeal, they even look soft and cuddly. Many children have been tempted to try to make a pet of a little fox. However, it doesn’t take long before its true nature becomes apparent. A little fox is still a fox! The appearance may differ, but beneath that innocent exterior is a sly and treacherous animal.
Within Christ’s vineyard there are little foxes. These little foxes are a threat to the well-being of the tender grapes. What might these be?
In general these little foxes represent anything that appears to be innocent yet can have a deadly influence on the youth of the covenant.
I’d like to hear you suggest what these might be.
I suppose you would come up with quite a list.
Let me help you.
By now you know that there are erroneous views circulating within the sphere of the church of Christ on earth. Maybe you read about them in some magazine. Perhaps you encountered them in school, either because your teacher showed you the errors of others or because your teacher might have advocated a wrong view, depending on which school you attend. Your minister or parents may have showed you some of these views in the catechism class or at home.
The striking thing about error as it relates to our faith is that it doesn’t always seem so bad, particularly while we are young. That’s what makes them “little foxes.” Think of the truth of creation over against evolution. How many teachers of evolution or theistic evolution claim that it doesn’t make that much difference whether we say God created in six days, each limited by 24 hours, or that we say God created by means of a process taking up to billions of years? What’s the difference as to how we got here, as long as we are doing the right thing once we are here? Have you heard this language? Yet what is at stake is the Word of God itself, our original perfection in Adam, the historicity of the Garden of Eden and the events of the fall, and ultimately our whole salvation.
The same is true in so many doctrinal truths. Did Eve actually talk to a serpent? Were the miracles real? Is man really “incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil”? Was Christ really born of a virgin? Was the cross necessary unto the satisfaction of sin? These are in question form deliberately. More and more people are denying them today. Very carefully and subtly they insist that the Bible is not reliable for history, that man is not completely corrupt, and that Christ died for everyone because God loves everyone.
Such lies are presented in a subtle way and thereby become “little foxes” for covenant youth. You may sometimes think that your parents and teachers as well as preachers are getting pretty “technical” over these differences; yet what is at stake is a little fox.
There are other areas.
Certain sins do not seem so bad, and sometimes have a lot of appeal. Think for instance of rebellion. That’s an ugly word. We recall times of civil disobedience, campus riots, strikes. All of these were accompanied with violence, bloodshed, open hostility to authority. We all react to this and agree, “no way!”
Yet, the big fox begins with a little fox. Sometimes you like to accept the challenge to “bug” your teacher. No, I don’t suppose you are going to stand in front of the whole class and mouth off. You’ll try something more sly. Ring typewriter bells—how will she ever know who did that? Let a mouse loose in the room—that’s good for a few laughs. Maybe you’ll get more nerve and crash the monitoring system—and find yourself with an unexpected free period.
Do you get the point? There are the “little sins” which don’t seem to be so bad: the “gosh” instead of “God,” the girlie magazine instead of the real thing, yelling “teach” yet not staging a campus revolt, telling the “white lie” and still not always being a deceiver.
You can take it from here.
We might add one other area. There are many things in our lives which are not sinful in themselves but which can become the means to sin against God. How often have we heard that there is no sin in television! And that’s right! Yet, the television can easily become a little fox. It has such an innocent appearance. Just look at the veneer cabinet, complicated by an array of knobs, and demonstrated in living, dazzling color. It’s a marvel. Beneath that slick outside is a complicated electronic wizard, with resistors, transistors, and all the rest. A human genius developed it, there is no doubt about it. There are more than electrons bounding around, however.
There are pictures and sounds that teach, that teach moral values. They may teach us science, they may teach world events, they may even teach the skills of sports. But, they can also teach the horrors of murder, hatred, lust, crime, and the whole world of iniquity.
It could be a little fox.
There are so many others: books, magazines, musical instruments, record players, projectors, and all kinds of inventions.
There is no sin in things. It just makes a difference what we do with things and how we use them. If we use them to the glory of God, they are instruments unto righteousness; if unto sin, they are little foxes.
TAKE THE FOXES
It is not enough to sigh and say, “Yes, that’s right. I should do something about this in my life.” That kind of sigh only brings one closer to destruction.
We have to take the foxes and remove them from our lives.
To be sure, this is the business of the whole church and all who are involved in the development of children: parents, teachers, ministers, and guardians.
You young people have to realize that this is also yourcalling. In the interest of protecting you, your parents and others are commanded by God to get rid of these little foxes lest you become spiritually torn apart or even ripped off the vine. Little foxes are deadly foxes. They must be taken and destroyed.
As you get older, you have to handle these little foxes yourself. Remember it is in love that Christ tells us, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.”
How good are you at fox hunting?