Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.
Song of Solomon 2.15
On the Sly
When a fox appears, time comes to act alert. Its reputation for craftiness and stealth isn’t exaggerated. It survives on the sly. Unlike larger predators with staying power to overtake their victims, staying is the fox’s power. Once it locates a vulnerable target, it falls back and waits to catch its prey—or its protectors—off-guard. Its cunning depends on a potential victim assuming it need only be vigilant until the fox loses interest and moves on. It’s a fatal assumption. The fox is going nowhere. If it finds a ready supply of food, it repeatedly returns until its source is wiped out and nothing reliable can prevent it. It digs under fences. It steals past watchdogs. It follows no predictable pattern, striking one time by day, another by night. It vanishes for a while and then unexpectedly reappears. There’s only one way to thwart a fox—catch it and destroy it.
Foxes play a small, yet pivotal role in The Song of Solomon, an exchange of unabashedly erotic poems between a lover and his beloved. The couple’s robust passion and tenderness are breathtaking as they progress from courtship to sexual union. It’s particularly wonderful being privy to the beloved’s trepidation about being accepted and how quickly, unconditionally the lover reassures her. She writes, “Do not stare at me… because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected.” (Song of Solomon 1.6) In the next chapter, the lover replies, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”
The Song supersedes its face value as vividly portrayed romance. With no mention of God, it presents a stunning allegory of His relationship with us. Like the beloved, many of us have been conditioned to feel ashamed and unworthy, darkened by days in vineyards we were forced to tend while our own vineyards fell into ruin. Little foxes snuck into our lives and steadily spoiled their fruitfulness. Yet we should listen to the Lover of our souls and shake off the hostility driving us to neglect our growth, trap destructive tendencies that eat at us, and destroy them. “Catch the little foxes for us,” God says. “Our vineyards are in bloom.”
Ours to Give
Very near the end of the Song, the beloved says, “My own vineyard is mine to give.” (Song of Solomon 8.11) Who and what we are—our lives—belong to us. We must tend to our own vineyards and see that they grow. We must be true to ourselves, regardless how many people try to lead us away from all we possess. Our lives are ours to give. When we offer them to God, we begin to blossom. He sees that we grow; He ensures the harvest. All He asks us to do is the fox hunting.
We all have little foxes—unhealthy attitudes and habits that catch us off-guard. We know they’re there. We know they’re not going away. We know they’ll strike the moment we turn our attention to matters other than our own. We know they’ll continue to strike until they consume everything they can. They must be caught and destroyed.
Little foxes wait patiently to strike the moment we turn our attention away from our vineyards.
(Tomorrow: Make Some Noise)