Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. (Song of Solomon 2:15)
There is so much wisdom in this little verse if we only pause to consider it. For interest’s sake – and because God never uses a particular imagery without good reason – I took a quick at some of the generally accepted characteristics of foxes. It makes for a compelling context for today’s devotional. In going into this, however, we should take note that the verse instructs us to catch the little foxes – which of course, being little, have one unfailing attribute which is significant in the study that follows. Like all little things, little foxes are unquestionably cute and appealing.
So what are some of the characteristics traditionally applied to foxes? Here’s a quick list: creatures of the night, gregarious, active and agile minds, sly and manipulative, and secretive. This is possibly the point where our preconceived notions begin to point us in entirely the wrong direction. The immediate assumption, for many people, is that this is the ‘perfect’ list describing the powers of darkness, Satan and all his evil spirits. Of course it is. But it’s also a list that very aptly sums up the carnal man, a truth which is so easily missed, glossed over, or even deliberately ignored.
The natural tendency of the carnal, fleshly nature is to draw a line between ‘them’ and ‘me.’ Anything good becomes me, and anything I don’t particularly like or want to admit to becomes them. It’s so much nicer and easier to blame others or something else for failure, weakness, and defeat. Too many people decide that the little foxes that spoil their harvest are those in the enemy camp. It’s ‘logical,’ isn’t it? The evil ones fit into our fox ‘profile,’ don’t they? Yes, they do, and it may well be that they do play a part in frustrating our walk and our purpose in Christ. But the real truth is that we should all, first and foremost, look a lot closer to home.
Our little foxes are thoughts which become sins.
While Satan’s forces may, and do, drop thoughts into our minds, it will be those they know are in line with our existing thought patterns. It’s a purely sensible and logical military strategy. Think of it this way: I you wished to infiltrate a city in order to gain control, would you dress the infiltrators in bright red jumpsuits? Of course not. They’d stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Anyone even simply glancing at them would know immediately that they didn’t belong, that something was up, and that they should be investigated and dealt with.
The point here is that if the enemy does work to infiltrate our thoughts, it’s going to be in line with what we’re already thinking. That immediately makes it perfectly obvious that the problem is, first and foremost, our existing thoughts – thoughts that have nothing at all to do with him. They originate with us. They come from the carnal man within, the one we don’t want to acknowledge and who lives and works in secret, manipulating us into thoughts contrary to the Word of God, and which, ultimately, become sins.
This is the conflict that Paul so eloquently describes in Romans 7:15-20. It is the conflict between spirit man and carnal man, and we need to face it head on and stop making excuses. We need to accept the existence of the carnal man and stop laying the blame elsewhere, or manipulating biblical truth to avoid having to deal with him. The wonderful, liberating verses like ‘there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,’ or those which talk of being a new creation are used as a tactic for avoidance. All of these are true, but it is a spiritual truth, and one we still need to ‘grow into.’ While we remain on earth, the carnal man remains also. To live the spiritual truth, we must deal with carnal reality – take up our cross daily, crucify our self daily, and yield daily.
We cannot do this while we allow our little foxes to run rampant in the vineyard and pretend that they belong to someone else. Yes, Jesus has done it once and for all, the victory is ours, and we are made righteous. But we still have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Salvation is both immediate and complete and ongoing. We are saved, and we’re daily being saved. God requires us to be participants, and that means catching our little foxes before they grow into sins and spoil the harvest.
Our little foxes are our thoughts which grow into sins. It’s something we should write out and stick on the fridge or above our computer. Satan has no foothold that we haven’t given him, and his most fertile ground is our thoughts. When the mind rules over the heart, even secretively by manipulation, we’re in trouble. We’re in danger of being overrun. The problem with little foxes, as we said at the outset, is that they’re cute. They’re appealing, entertaining, and deceptively innocuous. We’re either attracted or tempted by them, or we simply don’t see the harm in them.
Each little fox, though they may generally look alike, has their own personal identity. One may be compromise, one may be temptation, one may be insecurity, another doubt. Our little foxes are the thoughts that emerge from the holes in our character, the weak places within all of us that are still ‘under construction.’ They could be thoughts of failure, of bitterness and anger, of impatience, or of inferiority. Whatever they are, unless we catch them and remove them, they will grow into a relational sin. The devil can and will tempt and deceive us, but he’ll use what we already have to do so.
Remember that, unlike God, he cannot create. God alone is the creator. Satan can only manipulate and emulate, and he does a pretty good job of it. But the sad truth is that we provide him with the raw material. It’s ours, and we need to take ownership if we’re going to defeat both him and our carnal man. This is the real truth here: the carnal man works with the devil against us. Ouch. That’s harsh. But, sadly, it’s true, and the longer we allow him to get away with it, the longer the battle. The trick is to catch the little foxes before they grow into sin.
There’s an aspect of spiritual warfare that is often overlooked, and that is that Satan’s attacks are not always the actual event, situation, or circumstance. In actual fact, the actual attack comes directly after – it’s the little foxes that rise up to manipulate our response to the event, situation, or circumstance. Again, it’s logical – and Satan is the master of logic and legality. Why would he expend all that energy, time, and effort to engineer situations when he could be as effective by simply using the situation to initiate the desired response? The truth is that we live in a fallen world, and stuff happens that isn’t perfect or desirable, or which interferes with our plans and purposes. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control what we do with it and what we allow it to do to us.
I do not doubt, for one single instant, that spiritual warfare is very real. A lot is said and taught about this, and sadly, this is perhaps one of the reasons why so many believers are not victorious. We’re so busy looking for foxes outside the vineyard that we overlook those within. It stands to reason that if we keep our own house clear, we can more easily spot an intrusion. If we catch our little foxes, we’ll know that what we find is outside interference. But if our little foxes, being the gregarious creatures that they are, are running with the enemy’s, how will we know how to deal with them.
The Bible tells us to first submit to God and then resist the devil. This is the way of catching our personal little foxes – to take captive every thought to the obedience of the mind of Christ. It’s the first and only line of defence. “Lord, these are my weak points.” Facing up to the truth is the first step in dealing with it. Ignoring our little foxes allows them to work in secret and in the dark. And we can be sure, while we’re not looking, they’ll be breeding and growing into the sins that will destroy the vineyard while we’re looking over the fence for an imagined invasion.
The Word of God is strong, faithful, and true. Jesus has promised us the victory, and has already paid for it with His blood. It is an established spiritual fact in eternity, but we need to grow into it. The only way to do this is to first defeat our carnal nature. When we do that, we’re able to recognise and resist the devil, because he’ll stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Have you ever stopped to wonder what his reaction is when we stand yelling over the fence and rebuking him for our own little foxes running amok around our feet? It’s little wonder that he so often doesn’t take us seriously. In fact, he’s likely having a good laugh at our expense.
If we look at the New Testament statistically, how many verses are given for instruction in spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness in comparison to those given for us to address our personal weaknesses? God’s focus will always be proportional to something’s importance in our spiritual walk. The greatest part of the New Testament is given to teaching, instructing, and empowering us to take ownership of our weakness, deal with the flesh, and surrender to God. Let’s therefore adjust our perspective and catch our little foxes before they work their destruction.
Your Word, Lord, is faithful to lead us, guide us, and teach us. Help us to not make excuses, but by Your Holy Spirit to discern those little foxes within us. Empower us to catch them and remove them, and give us the grace for absolute honesty before You, lest we make a place for the devil in our minds, and a hiding place for things that are not of You.