In this sermon, Khaleef Crumbley looks at Song of Solomon 2:15 and the admonition to “catch the little foxes.” After giving some background information to the book and passage, Khaleef explains why and how we must catch the little foxes of sin in our lives. Khaleef also looks at other verses in Scripture for examples of little sins that, when not dealt with quickly, properly, and fully, lead to ruin.
Today we are going to be looking at, what is an often ignored, kind of controversial, book of the bible. You’ll see why in a second. Song of Solomon might be called Song of Songs in your bible.
Before I begin with that, I must do what I promised. Sometimes, either before or after the service, my nephew will either draw a picture or write a note for me, and just give me a lot of encouragement. One time he did a few months ago, and he said: this is for you to read the next time you stand and talk to everybody. But I do that every week, at least when I give an announcement. I said: well, the next time I preach, I will give this message to everyone. So, this is what he wanted the whole church to know. I think it’s a very important message. And, for someone to be six and understand this is just great.
If you see this little note here, it says: you need water, food, God, love, and Jesus. The “love, Nathan” part was for me, but the rest of the note was for everyone here. For a six-year-old to be able to say, you just need the basics of life to get by as long as you have Christ, he may not fully understand the complexities of what he said, but that simple message is what we should live by daily.
Let’s go to the Lord in prayer: Our gracious God, we just want to thank you that we have the time where we can open your Word, and see what you have for us, see what you have spoken to us. I pray God that you would use me to communicate your Word, and that you will prepare all our hearts and minds to receive it and to live it out. I pray this in Christs’ name, Amen.
We are going to be looking today at Song of Solomon 2. There are a few things that I want to say about this book first. First, it comes right after Ecclesiastes. Those of you who were here last week when Pastor Dave finished preaching through Ecclesiastes. He did 27 sermons throughout the book. Those of you who were here last week, we ended with an overview explanation, and then Pastor Dave actually reading through the entire book.
I think I mentioned to Greg that I probably would just read through the Song of Solomon, and we’ll just consider it couples counseling. I’m not going to do that, but it is in the same family, same genre, of books. It’s poetry, it’s wisdom literature. There are a few ideas on who wrote the book and what the book is about. Some people would say it’s a compilation of songs of these poems, or love songs that many people wrote, and some wise person, could have even been Solomon, who took them and compiled them together and said these all sound similar– they follow a similar theme so I’m just going to put them together in one collection.
There are people who think that this is a book depicting the love between God and Israel. There are others, and this is a very common view, who believe that this shows the love between Christ and His church. There are still others, and I hold to this last view, that this is a book that shows the love between Solomon and his bride, because that’s what it says. It is considered the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs, and once you can read through it you will see that it’s one message. It shows this love between Solomon and this unnamed woman, who is known mainly as the Shulamite. We get to see their courtship, what we would call their dating phase, we get to their actual wedding and their wedding night. Many of you who have heard some of the compliments given from the Song of Solomon, many of them come from either the wedding ceremony or the wedding night when they see each other. It shows their actual marriage, and them walking in their marriage.
It would seem, based on the language of this book, that this was his first marriage. So, if you remember he ended up with 700 wives and I believe 300 concubines, so this seems that this was his first. When you look through the language of the book, I’m not recommending that by the way I see a couple of people nodding their heads and stuff, you don’t want 700 wives. Nope, we’re not doing that here.
One of the other things that makes it a little bit difficult when you’re reading through the book, is figuring out who the speaker is. because there are multiple speakers. Sometimes it’s Solomon, sometimes is the Shulamite woman, sometimes it’s the daughters of Jerusalem, and sometimes you’ll even find that it’s relatives of the Shulamite woman. There is one popular verse where her brothers are talking about how to handle their sister as she comes into maturity. They say if she has been pure then this is what we’ll do, and if she has not been pure then this is how we’ll have to handle her and treat her. So, you have many different speakers.
Even in our passage, if you turn to Song of Solomon 2, you’ll see that there may be some ambiguity, even in the text that we are going to look at today.
The first nine verses, verses 1-9, the Shulamite woman is speaking and if you look in particular in verse 1, she says:
I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys.
Now those two descriptions may sound a little common, because many times they are spoken of Jesus. That comes from the idea that this book represents Christ and His bride. I grew up not a Christian and I heard that Jesus is the lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon. However, this is a Shulamite woman speaking here. Though sentiments may still apply to Christ, but here she is talking about herself. She goes through verse 9 speaking. Then in verse 10 she is still speaking but she is quoting Solomon. So, from verses 10-13, we’ll actually get to see the words of Solomon spoken through the woman quoting. He is basically saying to her there that winter has passed and now the spring is coming. You know, the weather is changing, we look, and all of the flowers are blooming, all of the beauty of nature is coming out – come out to me, let’s go for a walk. Then in verse 14, Solomon is speaking directly, and he is asking her to come out, asking her to see her form and hear her voice. He says that her voice is sweet, and her form is lovely. Then we get to the verse that we are going to focus on-verse 15. It’s a little bit unsure who is speaking, although it looks like there is I think more evidence that it’s the woman speaking here. It says in verse 15:
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.
Then the woman is speaking in verses 16 and 17. You can see just there that there is switching back and forth that happens pretty abruptly. Also, because of the mutual declarations of love and even physical intimacy on both parts, it’s hard to know just because someone is talking about a physical attraction it doesn’t mean it’s the man looking at the woman. Sometimes it’s the woman looking at Solomon. So, just by saying, oh it’s a physical attraction then it must be the man because men are all about the visual. That doesn’t apply here because they both express their physical love and physical attraction to each other throughout the book. It is a beautiful picture. I know I kind of joked about it earlier about it being couples therapy, but it is a beautiful picture of how this love is displayed between a man and woman through them meeting, through them becoming husband and wife, and through them living out a married life. We can get much instruction from this here.
I will say, I’m not going to say how I know this, but if you tell your wife quoting from Solomon 4:2:
Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes which have come up from their washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost her young.
It really doesn’t do much. You’re talking to a woman in 2021 and you tell her that, it doesn’t really help that much. Although I heard if you do quote from Solomon 4:1:
Your hair is like a flock of goats that have descended from Mount Gilead.
Then you may get somewhere, you may impress her with that. I won’t say who told us that because they may get embarrassed. But they are in this church.
But we get to see a beautiful picture of love between a man and a woman, and we even get to see how they handle disagreements if you look later in the chapter after they are married. It’s a beautiful picture of what God has ordained, marriage. I do believe that it could be the woman speaking. She spoke in chapter one. If you look there, in Song of Solomon 1:6, she is talking about her own vineyard. She says:
Do not stare at me because I am swarthy.
I like that word; it just means dark or black.
For the sun has burned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me a caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard.
Her speaking there about not being able to care of her own vineyard, she had to take care of the family vineyard, it could show that Solomon heard her say this and felt that she needed extra prod, an extra push to take care of the vineyards, because she failed to take care of her own.
In our text, 2:15, it could be Solomon saying catch the little foxes, you know what happened the last time with your own vineyards, so make sure you do this, it’s important. Or it could be the woman being so aware of the dangers of not caring for a vineyard that she yells out to Solomon, take care of the little foxes! Catch the little foxes! Do it now, it’s important, I know what happened when I was younger, and I was forced to care for the family vineyard so much that I couldn’t take care of mine.
Also, this seems to be a line in a popular song of vineyard dressers that they would sing this song to warn about the real dangers of not properly caring for a vineyard. Also, this line is used figuratively to talk about the dangers of not taking care of things early in life. I think as we see here, and we think about foxes, other places in the Bible talks about foxes and mention foxes here. They are seen as being sly and slick and deceptive and destructive. One of the things about foxes, in fact, this word in Hebrew, the translated word foxes, refers to animals that burrow. Sometimes in the bible it’s translated as jackals, more often it’s translated as foxes, but sometimes it’s used as jackals as well, animals that burrow into the ground. So, by them burrowing and them nibbling on the vines, and eating the young grapes before they fully mature, they can wreak havoc on a vineyard, and that’s what happened.
We see that inn Ezekiel 13:4, in that chapter, God is speaking through Ezekiel about the prophets, the false prophets in Israel at the time. He says in Ezekiel 13:4
O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins.
The prophets who were supposed to care for, and educate in the Word of God, and speak on behalf of God to the people, were instead taking advantage of them, like scavengers coming after a dead animal. In Luke 13:32, Jesus is talking, and He says about Herod:
And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’
Jesus calls Herod a fox. Even just thinking about the destruction about foxes, if you remember when Sampson lost his Philistine wife, the way that he got back at them, is he caught 300 foxes. I don’t know how one man caught 300 foxes. He tied two of them together by their tail and he stuck a torch in between them and then set them loose. Then they went and they burned the whole city.
Foxes are always depicted in the bible as, not just destructive, but they are sly, and they are sneaky. Foxes travel around at night. I remember, I think it was last year, pretty much everybody was inside over the summer, and all the wildlife, you know, I live in the boonies, so all of the wildlife that came out would come day and night, and they were all these fox sightings in our neighborhood. And it was very difficult to find them, and sometimes I would walk around the neighborhood at night, and I saw one and I took my phone out, took a picture of it, and it was blurry. It just moved so fast, and it was hard to catch, it was hard to even see. The only way I was even able to see it was because its eyes lit up from the streetlight shining on them.
So, foxes are seen as sneaky. They are seen as things that oftentimes go undetected. They are small. They are kind of cute. I mean, they are canines, they look like dogs. They are probably cuter than some of the dogs you have at home. Foxes are little cute animals, but they are very destructive. And that is the point here, and that is why it’s brought out in this way.
I think we can clearly see the spiritual application here of the danger that these foxes cause. There are many things, I think, in the Christian life, that are small, that seem harmless, may even be cute, but they cause destruction. There are two main reasons for the destruction. The first is volume. A lot of a little thing can still hurt. You can talk to anybody who has had insect bites, anyone who goes out and they get, some people mosquitos seem to be attracted to them. And mosquito bites are so small that you don’t even feel it when it’s happening. But go out and have 100 mosquitos land on you and bite you at different times and you’ll feel it, and you’ll certainly feel it after. Sometimes just the number of attacks or the number of attackers can be so much that it overwhelms and causes destruction in that way.
Another thing that can happen, a second reason for the destruction, is growth. Things that are little don’t always stay little. When they are little, we have an easier time in handling them. But when they grow, sometimes it’s just overwhelming. The attacks can grow in number, but they can grow in intensity and strength. So, we must catch the foxes while we can. We must catch them while they are still little.
When we think about our lives, when we think about our sin, and how sin comes in, many times sin sneaks in. Many times, we don’t even detect it. Or we don’t even really want to address it. But what does the text tell us here? In using this illustration of people caring for a vineyard, what are we to find about dealing with our sin and caring for our own vineyards? What’s the first thing we should do? We should recognize that they are dangerous no matter how little they are. And look at the way the text describes it. It says:
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
Saying it the first time would’ve been enough, the foxes, doesn’t matter the size, get rid of the foxes. But the emphasis here is placed on them being little and destructive. And many times, we want to give a particular mindset or a habit or a behavior a pass because it seems so small relative to what we would classify as the larger sins. And it’s so small that it’s not a big deal, matter of fact, might even be cute, might even be profitable, who knows.
A lustful look can happen, but it’s not adultery. It’s not a big deal, I just looked, I just glanced, and it’s their fault for being uncomfortable with the way that I looked at them, or the way that I brushed their shoulder, or the words that I said being overly complementary. It’s their fault, it’s not even a big deal, get over it, stop being so sensitive, should take it as a compliment any way. I mean, all these things are the things that are said, but then of course, Jesus in Mathew 5 tells us that if you look at someone and you look with lust, you have already committed adultery. If you look with the purpose of lusting, then you have committed adultery in your heart.
So, the small things, that seem small to us, we realize that one, we are using the wrong standards. That when we are talking about sin, now don’t misunderstand what I am going to say, but there is no such thing as small. It’s either an afront to God or it’s not. It’s either an offense to God or it’s not. It’s either something that Jesus Christ died on the cross for or it’s not. It’s sin no matter how small it is, no matter how socially acceptable it is, its sin, and we must deal with it.
A social media insult versus murder. I didn’t do anything serious; I wasn’t even in their face. I am just on the keyboard, I am just making a random post on Facebook, a random tweet that I liked or retweeted, and they are getting bent out of shape. And we don’t see the sin, or we want to give it a pass, because I didn’t hurt them, punch them, or I didn’t murder them.
Often, though, we won’t even detect the sin because we’re so busy looking for the larger ones and we determine the larger ones by usually two things that will take causes to deal with a sin and say this is large. First, it will have to be problematic to many people, and particularly many people that we respect. If it’s one or two people, we’ll say ah, they are soft, they are a snowflake, they don’t know how to handle how tough I am being right now, this is not a big deal, this is not offensive. I was able to say this and do this twenty years ago, what’s the big deal? Stop being so politically correct. And we go on and on and on, you’re just being too sensitive.
It doesn’t become problematic to us unless a lot of people are offended or we respect the people who are offended because even if a lot of people are offended, let’s be real, we’ll just put them in a category. Like, they are all liberal, they are all just a bunch of weird snowflakes, they are all just conservative Trump supports, whatever, we just blow them off. I can insult them; I can say what I want about them. Oh, a preacher said that. They’re just woke. They’re just ultra conservative, right-wing. And this is what we do: they are just…. he’s just… she’s just… and now we remove the fact that they were created in the image of God from the equation. And we say, I can be offensive; I can be what the bible says I shouldn’t be, because I don’t have much respect for that person. But then when someone we respect or someone who is in our “camp,” takes offense then we may say, oh wait, maybe I am doing something wrong? Maybe I do have to look at this? Okay, maybe I should talk about this.
That’s one way that we try to deal with sin. Another way that sin will jump up, and we say we should deal with it is if we are embarrassed by it, if we are outed, and we don’t like it. You know, many times I get to see parents who are okay with a certain behavior in private, but when a child does it in public, in front of others, and they are embarrassed, then they want to react. Then they want to get angry. And the child is confused saying, I do this all the time at home; I say this; I talk with this tone in my voice all the time, and you’re fine with it. Now suddenly because other people are around, it’s bad, it’s terrible, and whatever punishment you usually dull out, its thrown to the child at that time. And it’s similar with us, we think certain behaviors, certain sin, is okay and fine, until it gets exposed and other people see it, and then we want to start cleaning up. We’ll see how deadly that is in a second.
This is a huge problem in American Christianity. One of the reasons why is because we live in a country where many of the things in society that were considered wrong, especially just going back a few decades, kind of agreed with the bible on a lot of things. You know, a lot of things that were considered wrong in society were wrong because people knew that the bible was the Word, even if they didn’t follow it, there were people who know that. The image you get in your head of the person who is carrying liquor down the street, and they walk by a church, and all of a sudden, they hide it, even if no one is in the church, it doesn’t have to be on a Sunday. Or there were just certain things you just don’t do around Christians. I mean, I remember going to, people having barbeques in their backyard and when I show up, they hide the liquor. You know, just because I’m a Christian, just because I’m a minister, and they say oh no, Rev is here right now, we can’t have that here. I have literally heard that and, seeing people say we got to hide this, we got to do this then it’s okay, it’s acceptable, but when we are getting into a Christian environment then it’s not acceptable, and that’s just being hypocritical.
But, in America, it’s been easy to develop that because even people who don’t know Christ would have this kind of moral code, loose understanding of what’s right and wrong. And a lot of things that they would say would kind of line up with the bible, even if they don’t know it. It’s easy to look at drinking or smoking or premarital sex or homosexuality or one time a woman who are showing more than their ankle and see those things and say, they are wrong! I think these are wrong! Not because the bible says them, but because they are either illegal or they are considered unethical in society, and that would drive a lot of our thinking on our behavior that we need to check and the foxes that we need to get rid of and catch, rather than the word of God. Now, I think everyone can admit, it’s getting harder and harder to look at society and to get our moral cues from society. Now, we never should have, but many of us have to admit that we did, we got our cues from society on how to behave, and then we came to the bible and said, hm, wow, how convenient it matches, wow, I should obey the government, hm, wow, Romans 13 is in here. But you believed it before you came to the bible, because that’s what society pushed us to believe. Society said, these are the things that are normal, this is how you treat people, this is how you respect their property, these are the things you do.
Now, those things are becoming more difficult to hear that from society and to find those things in the bible. So now, we’re being pushed, which may be a blessing, we are being pushed to go back to the Word of God and return to what God has said. How do we know what is an actual fox and what is just a dog that is out and is not going to do any damage? How can we tell the difference is we don’t go to the Word of God and have our consciousness fed and get built up by God’s Word? That is the only way that we are going to know. We are not going to turn on the news or listen to our favorite commentor to figure out wat God wants us to do.
Now, if we really want to become fox hunters, then we have to be able to go to the Word of God, constantly searching the scriptures for everything, and at the same time asking God to search our hearts. Because just on our own, we are going to be faulty if I am just trying to determine what’s right and what’s wrong. But here is one thing that we do a lot, and Jesus brought this up, it’s such a beautiful picture and it ties in perfectly.
I want you to turn with me to Matthew 7. This is probably the passage that has the second most popular verse among unbelievers, in Matthew 7, which says don’t judge. That’s what they (unbelievers) latch onto, don’t judge. Or they say what’s worse: only God can judge me. Trust me, you’d rather have my judgement than the judgement of a Holy God. We are going to start in Matthew 7:3-5. It says:
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your bother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Now, I want you to notice two things from that text. The first is that we are great at detecting little sins when they are part of another’s character. You want somebody to find the fox? Put them in someone else’s vineyard. As soon as we go into another person’s vineyard, we see every fox imaginable. We see foxes that may not even be there, and we just imagine things are foxes that they aren’t. The second thing that we see is that the little sins need to be dealt with. He didn’t say, hey you have a log in your eye, forget about respect, take care of the log and let’s go home! He said, no the speck must be dealt with! The little sins must be dealt with! But don’t be a hypocrite and ignore your logs.
Now, one thing about the speck that got me thinking of myself, my eyes are very, very, very sensitive. And for some reason, God gave me sensitive eyes and very long eyelashes. I used to go several times a day with my eyelashes breaking off and going into my eyes. My eyes are so sensitive that I can’t even have water enter my eye or they start burning. So, imagine someone who can’t put anything in their eye, with something in their eye and they can’t flush it out. Imagine how irritating it is after struggling, putting a drop of water on my finger, and just have the piece of water touch the eyelash. I would do all this stuff just to avoid touching my eye or flushing it out with water having it burn. But the piece of hair would get so painful and irritating, and I knew eventually that if I kept closing my eyelid to rub it, it would do actual damage to the soft sensitive flesh that’s part of the eye. I would have to take it out, I would have to remove it. And that’s how we have to be with little foxes, with specks in the eye, whatever the illustration is that we’re thinking about our sin. We must remove the small things because they can cause irritation, pain, and they will do damage. Not just to us, but to others around us as well.
The first thing that we’re told to do is to recognize that the foxes are dangerous, no matter how little they are. But the second thing in our text says, which is the first, is to catch them. So, it specifies that these little foxes should be caught. There are other ways to deal with them and other pests, animals, besides catching, but it specifies catching here. This is important because this isn’t our typical normal reaction. We would rather shoo them away or hide them for a more convenient time. We would rather keep our sin and hold onto it but be seen by others as holy. We would rather be able to yell and scream or use profanity with our wife and our children, but then come to church and sing God’s praises. Rather than deal with what’s in our heart that cause those things to flow out of it. But God says no, deal with the heart; deal with those little foxes, catch them. Don’t just shoo them away and say, now it’s time for me to go to church and put on this face. Or now it’s time for me to go to work and pretend that I’m a holy person and place my bible on my desk while I know that I was looking at pornography last night. That’s not what God is calling for!
In fact, in the book of Amos, and we’re not going to turn there, He actually told Israel that I don’t even want to hear your songs, I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want your sacrifices because you are not doing right in the land. So, if you’re not going to live a life that exalts Christ, Christ doesn’t want you playing dress up. Christ doesn’t need people putting on a mask, which is truly what a hypocrite is. It’s someone who has something underneath them and they put a mask on, and that is not what we are to be. We are to deal with little sins with as much vigor, and as much strength, and hatred as you deal with the larger ones, and as we hate the ones we hate in other people. We are to deal with our own and clean up our own vineyard.
The Hebrew word here for ‘catch’, it literally means to seize or grasps something. It’s used in Genesis 25 in talking about the birth of Jacob and Esau. Saying that Jacob grabbed onto Esau’s heel and latched on to it, not letting it go. That picture is how we are to be with our sin, with these foxes. We catch them, we don’t shoo them away or put some repellant. We want them to be identified, we want to see them so that we can catch and deal with them, not having them return.
I work with someone, and he loves all kinds of animals, insects, anything. He has gone around to a lot of people and said: if you see a bug or something in your office, come get me, I’ll take it and I’ll bring it outside and I’ll let it go and give it a little kiss before I send it off. I’m like, what? Just, “oh, it’s a spider,” then okay, I know what to do with it, just squish it. You know how you get mad when you hear a bug flying by your ear, just buzzing in your ear, and you get mad but then you finally catch it, and you do that kind of foot twist, too? You say to the bug, you’re going to feel this! That’s what I want to do with these says, but he says no, let’s take them and catch them to put them out. Many times, that’s what we do with our sin. We want to say no, don’t crush it, stop reading that verse, stop preaching that, no, no, no, I want to take my sin and say come here little fox, it’s okay, he didn’t mean to hurt you, just go off and I’ll come pick you up later when it’s a more convenient time. No! God says to deal with your sin, to catch it, get rid of the logs and specks out of your eye. Catch these little foxes before they do serious damage.
I’ve said many, many times to anyone who is willing to listen, if you say you are struggling with a sin, then first I’m going to call you out because most of us don’t struggle with sin. We love and coddle our sin; we don’t struggle with it. Struggle is a fight. Struggle says I’m going to put this thing to death and it’s coming back, it keeps coming back, and I’m going to keep going at it. That’s the struggle. A struggle is not walking hand in hand, side by side, but if we are truly struggling with our sin then we should be experts in it. We should be experts with everything that the Word of God has to say about our sin. We should know the bible inside and out when it deals with whatever. If we have a problem with our anger and temper, then I should know everything the bible says about it. So, in my prayers, I am praying God’s Words back to Him, asking Him to search my heart and to show me more. And I am asking people to hold me accountable in my anger. All of my meditation, prayer, everything should be about attacking this sin, even in my rejoicing and knowing that I will ultimately have victory over this, I should be focused on this sin and putting it to death.
Little sins, these little foxes, one of the things it causes us to do is blame things on personality, and we say: I’m just made that way, I am just a hot-blooded Italian, or I’m from the hood and just like this, can’t do anything about it. I grew up with nine siblings and I have to be aggressive or tough, sorry if it comes off cold and mean to you. I don’t have to check my heart because it’s just part of how God made me, it’s just who I am, and I don’t need to change. God calls us and tells us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we are new creatures, we are a new creation, the old has been put away and all things have been made new. We are to put off our sin, we are to put on righteousness. We saw that in the scripture that was read today. There are sins we are to put off, and there are character qualities and traits that we are to put on.
If we are to look at Galatians 5, we are looking at the fruit of the Spirit in our Young Adult Ministry, and it’s taking a long time to get there because we decided to go through the whole book of Galatians. But right before you get to the fruit of the Spirit, which is beautiful and wonderful, you get to the works of the flesh. You get three verses of all these things that you should not be doing and should not be a part of your character, and that if it is part of your practice, then Paul says you will not inherit the kingdom. But after he tells you to put off all those things, then he says, but this is what the fruit of the Spirit should be, this is what should be cultivated in your life daily. It’s not just a nice little song you sing, saying oh, I know all nine of them, I probably can’t now because I didn’t grow up in Sunday school. But a lot of people can just name them and using them, but are you living them, are you cultivating them in your life? Are you using those things to drive out the sins, to catch the little foxes, to put that sin to death?
Here is a couple of little foxes that the bible mentions, and remember, some of these things will remain small or grow and see a progression. The first one we see here is lust. If you turn to James 1:13, and we’ll see this progression play out that starts with lust. I want you to see what James is saying even here, when you look at verse 13, there are people who are getting tempted, and because we serve a God who is sovereign, they will say: oh, it’s God fault that I was tempted and it’s God’s fault that I sin, because God put this thing, this tempting thing, in front of me. So, because God did that, God is the reason why I sinned. We don’t have time to go fully into it, but James 1:13 says,
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Note the progression here and James says, no, this is where your sin really comes from. First, you are carried away, or drawn away by lust, so the first thing you do is you give it your attention. This is the very moment; you need to catch the little fox! As soon as you give it your attention, as soon as it draws your gaze, as soon as your thoughts start to move in that direction of this little sin, whatever it is. Lust, here, is any type of desire for something that is unprofitable and ungodly and the way we go after it. He says, you’re first carried away by it, you give it your attention, you begin to look at it, and think about it. Then the next thing is that you’re enticed by your own lust. Here, this means that you’re taken with bait. This is just like we saw in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent was speaking to Eve. There was a bait and she looked, starting to think about what he said, and then she saw that the fruit was good for food, and then she decided to eat it. She knew what it would do for her, or she assumed what it would do for her, and then saw this was good to take and eat, and then she ate. Then at this point, completing disregarding everything that God told her. Many times, we want to blame Eve or we say, I don’t know if I would have done that. Come on now, you can have any fruit from any tree except that one, and she had to go to that one? Thanks Eve. You know, we do that, as if we don’t follow that same progression every day of our lives.
James here is saying that there are steps that you can catch. Even when you are enticed, you are taken by this bait, and you see how this work with a mouse trap or anything. You put something that’s enticing in it, the mouse goes over to get it, and there you go. Or if it’s a food trap, that’s possibly more humane. The trap usually has something in it that’s enticing and looks good, that makes you forget about the potential danger. If you take care of the sin when it’s little, although it still may look enticing, we still have power over it. We can still catch it, it may be a little bigger or harder, if we didn’t when we were carried or drawn away and we gave it a first glance, then when you see the bait, we can recognize what the bait is. But if we don’t, then lust conceives, and the language here takes on the sense of pregnancy, or of conception, pregnancy, and birth. It gives the picture of our will just giving itself over to the lust, and they come together, and they conceive. And what is born is sin.
We see this progression, how it started off as this little fox, as just something that caught our eye and our attention. This can be in our thoughts away, it’s not just physical. Then we were captured by this thing that baited us, then we gave our will over to it, and then we conceived with lust, sin. Then sin will grow in power and when it is finished, or complete, it brings death. There are some things in this world where this progression leads to physical death. There are some things in this world, where even for a believer, while not leading to an ultimate spiritual death, can lead to a death of many opportunities and can lead to the death of your ability to witness to somebody, can lead to the death of things that God has put before you to do.
I mean, how many people, as Paul has said, become shipwrecked in their faith? How many people have given themselves over to sin? Not just thinking of pastors and pulpits: I have sinned! Some people know that many people are too young to know who said that and why, but when we are crying out and we see that, that’s the only time people think: oh man, that sin really ruined their life, because they were a preacher or a pastor, and they got caught in sin that God exposed. So many of us have marriages ruined, even opportunities taken, have children who no longer respect our walk with God because they saw the hypocrisy. They saw how we were in Christian settings, and they knew how we were at home, when all the Christian eyes were off them. Many pastors’ kids deal with that as well. They see how pastors have to be on and how we have to communicate with people and have to be this way but as soon as get in the car, you know many people will just take it off saying, now I can be myself. Fortunately, here, I would be at least about the other three elders here, and people would hopefully also think it’s true about me, but I don’t see that, and I wouldn’t be here saying that just because they’re sitting here looking at me. But I don’t think we have that here, where we see a pulpit/church-face and then a kind of everyday-life-face. We see that in the people who aren’t in the pulpit, with people who aren’t in full-time ministry. We see that in our own lives how easily destruction can come. We can still be going to heaven, but just not be doing all the things that God has called us to do because we blew those opportunities or because we no longer have the respect of someone, and our witness has just been tainted and ruined.
We see another thing: anger, and bitterness, so turn to Ephesians 4. This is part of what was read for you earlier today. We are going to look at Ephesians 4:26-27:
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Now we don’t have the opportunity to go into the idea of righteous versus unrighteous anger. Fortunately, if you go online, Pastor Babij has preached through all of Ephesians, so you can read or listen to a full sermon on that. We do see a couple of things here that is related to Song of Solomon. So, no matter the cause of our anger, we must do our best to deal with it. Whether it’s considered righteous anger, we get angry because somebody offended God, or we get angry because the country is moving in a direction that is making more things legal that the bible says are unrighteous. Whatever it is, if that is our anger, or our anger is because somebody hit our car, or our child spills a bowl of cereal, or anything in between. The response should be the same, we need to deal with it in a way that does not lead to sin. Romans 12:17-21 says:
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of al men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ say the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COILS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
Our response to anger should not be anger. Did you get that? Our response to anger should not be anger. The initial feeling of anger that overtakes us sometimes is difficult to control in the moment we get angry, that’s the emotion that stirs up, but our response to that should not be to continue in anger. Our response to that initial emotion is to subject it to everything that the Word of God says about anger and how we interact with each other.
Another thing that we see here is that our unresolved anger gives the devil an opportunity, and one of the things that the bible says, one of these opportunities, is to sow seeds of bitterness into our hearts. In Hebrews 12:14-15, it instructs us to:
Pursue peace with all men and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it and many may be defiled.
There are many of us who are walking around with bitterness in our hearts because we didn’t deal with the anger when it was a semi-little fox. We didn’t catch it; we let it grow and become bigger, we let it do more damage and dig holes all through our vineyard. And now we have this bitterness in us that is making it impossible for us to serve, or impossible for us to enjoy the relationships that God has given us. We need to repent of this bitterness, and we need to attack anger and bitterness in the same way we do all sin: with prayer, study, meditation, and counsel. Real counsel. Many people will see counsel as someone else who is angry about the same thing, saying, let’s go together to talk about how angry we are about it. Now, in the last two years, with all the controversial things going on in this country, how many of us have gone to people who we know feel the same way as us? Whether it be about administration, public health guidelines, inter-personal relationships, whether things are systemic or not. Whatever it is, we go to somebody who agrees with us and say, can you believe what they just did? That law they just enacted? Can you believe what this person just said? Can you believe this thing happened? How many times do we hear a message in church, and say, can you believe that? Can you believe the pastor said that? Can you believe that they believe that? How many times will we do that, and we say, this is just counsel, we are going to pray about it later, so this gossip is holy.
Then the bitterness just stirs up because now we feel vindicated in how we feel. Now we think that talking to another Christian who also has the same problem with anger about the same issue or the same person means that God has ordained this anger and the bitterness and all of the ungodly things that flow out of it. But we see here, and we can go to book after book in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, we are getting instruction on how to live as a body, and constantly we are being told to forgive, to put aside differences.
Think about how in Philippians 4, and you don’t have to turn there, but there are two ladies in the church who don’t get along. And Paul doesn’t say why they don’t get along. Most likely, it wasn’t a theological issue, because he probably would have said this is the answer, you guys are a little confused about this theological issue or point about Christ, so I’m going to clear that up so there’s no more confusion. All the things he’s talking about, he says, alright you need to tell them two to get along. Yinyin and Natalie, y’all got to straighten out whatever is going, y’all just need to get along. I mean that is not what you do in the middle of a sermon or the middle of an apostolic message that you’re writing to someone, but it’s in the Word of God that you guys have to get along! Even if it’s just some personal thing, even if one woman’s child hit the other woman’s child, and didn’t apologize, and that caused a big commotion, which actually happened in of the churches I was in before and could happen here as well because we are human and we are subject to sin. The bible teaches how to get over that. Constantly, we are being told that holding on to anger or to bitterness is sinful.
So, when you look for counsel, don’t look for counsel to just sit and talk about why this thing is wrong, why this thing is evil, let’s talk about how evil and wicked this person is, these morons, these lib-tards, these ultra-right-wingers, and every other thing that we throw out at people. Let’s just get together to talk about that and then we’ll feel vindicated.
Another thing is speech. Now I want us to turn to James 3. One thing you’ll notice about each of these passages is that, I mean, they can be sermon or sermon series on their own, that God has so much to say to us about this. So, our speech in James 3, starting at verse three, looking at what he says about the tongue:
Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder where the inclination of the pilot desire. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
We see even James say that even though the tongue is small, it has great power, and cannot be tamed. We cannot tame our tongue on our own, but we are not on our own. We constantly boast that and sing that and pray about having power in us-the same power, according to Paul praying in Ephesians, that raised Christ from the dead is in you and I right now! That same power, that resurrection power, that can tame the tongue. That is the only thing that can tame the tongue. Because if you were to remove the tongue from the body, you still have the thoughts. So, the only thing that came tame the tongue is the power of God in us and we need to yield to it, ready to catch these little foxes.
There are some other things that are seen as small, and we’ll just kind of look at those briefly. I am going to come to a close soon. Turn to Proverbs 6. While you’re turning there, I am going to read verse 12, but I want you to see other verses in there. Proverbs 6:12 says:
A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,
Just again, the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, whether its Solomon or Paul speaking, James or Apollos, or whoever wrote Hebrews, constantly the Word of God is directing us to take care of these little things, not letting them grow to the point where they overtake our lives. Proverbs 6:9-11 says:
How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest”- your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man.
So again, you see, now we are talking laziness. Something small, that can be a one-time thing. Now, this doesn’t say that you shouldn’t take naps-I can’t, I wish I could take a nap. But anything less than four hours makes me feel worse. So I just can’t nap, I just sleep. But there are people who are like: yeah, I napped for twenty-five minutes, I feel great now, ready to take on the world! I envy you. But Solomon is saying here, your laziness will overtake you. It may seem little now, just a little rest here, a little sleep there, little bit of slumber, little bit of leisure here, and it becomes the main thing in your life, and you can’t even get things done, or work for the kingdom, partially because you’re just too lazy.
Now obviously, we have to be careful here, because a little bit of rest for somebody can be a lot for someone else and it doesn’t dictate the number of hours you should sleep or how many vacation days you need. It doesn’t dictate how many ministries you should serve in to be seen as useful for the church, none of that is spoken here. So don’t go to other people saying, hm, a little bit of slumber, I see you over there, you didn’t come to bible study this week, a little bit of sleep. Now, don’t go around doing that. But make sure we are examining our hearts to know if we are working for God, and that even means working at our jobs, because the Bible teaches that when we work for our employer, we are really working for Christ. And that same attitude of having excellency in all that we do should permeate every part of who we are, even if we are just doing something at home, or were doing something that the world doesn’t value, it’s something that God values. You don’t have to be in a corporate office to do work that God is pleased by. You don’t have to be in the pulpit to do service that God is pleased by. We need to make sure that we understand that every work that has been assigned to us has been given by God, so we need to apply ourselves to it fully and excellently.
Foolishness, we don’t have time to fully go into that. But look at Ecclesiastes 10:1. Fortunately we just heard a sermon about that recently. But Ecclesiastes 10:1, if you are in the Song of Solomon, just flip back a few pages. Ecclesiastes 10:1 says:
Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.
Now, how many times can we see that is true? We have something that is beautiful, pristine, pure, and it only takes very little of an impurity to ruin it. I don’t know why, but I consider myself to be a very neat eater, but Sherrian can tell you that whenever I am eating something and I have a light-colored shirt on, for whatever reason, my mind is just like, pick the marinara sauce, whatever it is, just something that’s dark, or something that has oil, and it always find its way on my shirt. I will eat hunched over like this, and somehow something will touch me or fall and roll and hit my shirt. Only when it’s light-colored though, but its ruined! The little, tiny drop of oil, little piece of a sauce here, just ruins the entire shirt. I’m like alright, its done, throw it in the garbage, use it for rags. You know, it’s just ruined. You can think the same thing about water, you don’t want to drink water and then someone takes something that you consider impure or nasty, and all it takes is one drop in the glass, and it’s ruined. The same way of course if you have a perfume, a dead fly will ruin the perfume, no matter how beautiful it smells, you’re not going to apply it to yourself.
And even thinking about our character. You can have great service, thirty or forty years, and be known for one thing. Imagine if Pastor Babij came up here now and just stabbed me. That’s the only thing you’ll remember! How long have you been a pastor 41 years. If he came up and attacked me, that’s the only thing you would remember. 41 years and you would just remember that he attacked one of his elders in the pulpit, I can’t believe it! That’s all you would think about. You wouldn’t think about him marrying you, you wouldn’t even remember him coming to the hospital to see you or think about him doing a funeral of your loved one. You would only remember that act. Even many who were faithful in service in other ways, and they could preach faithfully, they could do one thing and their whole ministry is ruined. Many times, in a marriage, you could have a faithful marriage, but be unfaithful in one thing, and that hurts much more than all the days, weeks, years, or decades of faithfulness.
We want to take care of the little foxes whether its laziness, foolishness, pride, speech or anger. In Galatians 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 5:6, we’re told that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. So rather than naming a sin, it’s any sin! Any sin that you can think of or imagine, even if there’s not a passage in the bible that shows its progression from little to destructive, is a sin that we need to avoid. If it’s a sin, then we need to be putting it to death. If there’s a fox in our vineyard, we need to catch it because it will cause destruction no matter how little it is.
The thing about foxes is that they tend to work alone. Or they tend to travel alone. So, they are not like jackals or other animals that travel in packs. Foxes tend to travel alone. Now they will all be in a vineyard together, but they are not part of a pack together. While we’re working on one sin, trying to catch one fox, we are not going to catch the alpha fox of the pack and drive the rest away. We have to deal with all of our sin. That’s why I think it’s just so beautiful that the illustration uses a fox. Now, if this was a song that they sang to try to keep them in line in their behavior, I think we should as well. I think every day we should be looking for little foxes, trying to remove these little foxes and catch them.
Just as I am about to take my seat, 1 Corinthians 6:12, says:
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
Brethren, it’s not just sin. There are things in our lives that are not profitable, even though God doesn’t say, don’t do this thing, or there’s no verse that explicitly says that. There just not profitable for believers in our walks with Christ. We can turn to Hebrews 12:1 where it says,
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
Again, it is not just sin. We see that we are told here to lay aside the sin which so easily entangles us. If you are trying to run a race, and you are engaging with something that is entangling you, it is impossible to run. You’re not going to be able to run. Just imagine just having your feet and legs tied up with something, the best you can do is shuffle along. How many Olympians are going to win their race just shuffling along. We don’t want to walk our race that way. We want to be able to move as fast as we can, without being tied up in sin. But it also says to lay aside every encumbrance or every weight, everything that is going to weigh us, hold us back, make it more difficult for us to walk this race, possibly injure us, change our gate, we need to remove it from our lives. We have to be diligent, not just the things that are outright called sin in the bible, but anything that is unprofitable, anything that is a weight, work to remove it.
In Ecclesiastes 12:13, don’t turn there, we are told to fear God and keep His commandments. In Hebrews 12:2, we are given another formula on how to live a life that honors God, especially if we are going to be catching foxes for the rest of our lives. It says in Hebrews 12:2,
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Calvary, I know I may have made it seem difficult, because it is. But we have God. We can fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter, finisher of our faith. I am begging you all to do that today. To look to Christ, to ask God to show you your sin, to show the things that are hidden. To protect you from things that you might otherwise walk into. To help you when catching the foxes. To turn the lights on in your vineyards. To bring people into your life, situations, circumstances, that will expose the sin, so that we can get rid of it. That we will have people that we can walk along with, and we won’t be doing this alone. God has given us a body and other people who love us and will pour into you and will walk with you. Don’t neglect that, don’t neglect coming together, don’t neglect fellowship, don’t neglect the people God has put in your life. All of us here are accountable to each other. We are part of the same body. When one part of your body hurts, the body is in pain and the body is in dysfunction. So, it’s all of our job that we aren’t walking around with a dysfunctional body.
I am challenging all of you to look into your own hearts and be ready to receive others as they’re searching their hearts. We all should going out on fox hunts. Every night, just think about this. Every night we are going out on someone’s vineyard, and we are going to catch some foxes. I am not going to judge you for the number of foxes you have or the way your fox looks, it doesn’t look as pretty as mine because mine is acceptable in society, and yours isn’t so your fox looks uglier than mine-we are going to catch them. I just pray that will be what we are focused on, and that will be what drives and unites us as a body.
Let’s go before God in prayer, our gracious God, we thank You that Your Word gives us instruction on how to please You. We thank You, God, that You have given us the power to overcome sin and that we know that Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, will keep us encouraged, keep us strengthened, connects us with each other, we all are filled with the Holy Spirit. I pray, God, that You will constantly show us our sin. And Lord, keep us encouraged as we are fighting our sin, Lord. Keep us encouraged the more things that we see that are not like You. Help us to not be discouraged. Help us to be encouraged in knowing that You are bringing us closer to the image of Christ. That You are working things out and sanctifying us and that our future in heaven with You will be completely free from sin! And that we will be glorified, that we will no longer have to put up with these foxes, we will no longer have logs, or specks, or anything in our eyes, that we will be perfect and sinless, but until that day, give us the fire, give us the fight, to constantly engage in this lifelong fox hunt. We ask these things in Christs’ name and for His sake, Amen.