Sermon: The Little Foxes Spoil the Vines
Scripture: Song of Solomon 2:8-15
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: July 5, 2020
Today we are looking at a text from one of the only two biblical books that does not exclusively mention “God” throughout the book. It’s also the only time this book of the Bible is referenced in the lectionary readings for Sundays. Specifically, we will be taking a look at the Hebrew text from The Song of Solomon, or sometimes referred to as the Song of Songs.
In its most basic form, the Book of Songs is a lyrical and very passionate love poem written from the voice of a woman as she expresses herself to her beloved. It is loaded with physical euphemisms to the point some have argued over the centuries whether it should even be in the Jewish and Christian canon of scripture! Yet, as far back as the first century, Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph, renowned Jewish scholar and biblical commentator described the Song of Solomon this way:
The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Scriptures are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5).
What made this late first-century rabbi say such a thing? He said it because it describes the overflowing passionate love of God for her beloved! Even though the Temple in Jerusalem had already been torn down, Akiba reminded people that the beauty and essence of God could be found in the words of the Song of Solomon. Reciting the poem, a person can feel the passion and longing of God for her beloved. The love expressed is holiness indeed! Later Christian scholars believe it’s an allegory that describes Christ’s passion for the church.
I will be reading Song of Solomon 2:8-15. Listen to the Word of God!
Song of Solomon 2:8-15
8The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. 10My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. 14O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. 15Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards— for our vineyards are in blossom.”
The two lovers’ eyes meet and they are totally smitten with the other. They cannot stop staring at one another through the lattice on the fence and they begin to utter sweet words of love to each other. They are words of longing, pleading, desiring and there are words of warning. Did you catch them?
Note verse 15 in our story. In the midst of their intimate exchange come words of warning. “Let us catch the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards – for our vineyards are in blossom.”
The lovers are enraptured with each other. Their love and passion for one another are in full bloom; the enticing fragrance of love is literally in the air; it is palpable! Their desire is real, it is beautiful, it is good! The relationship is strong and fruitful but because it is real, beautiful, and good, the couple must first catch the little foxes that spoil the vineyard. These little foxes are the little things that can intrude into the couple’s relationship and cause havoc in their love together.
You know those little relationship foxes, don’t you? Telling trivial half-truths to your partner. Using the credit card too much without the other’s knowledge. Saying that you will do something for the other but you never do; you only say what you know will to get them off your back. It’s the little things that are the genesis for larger problems.
How do the little foxes destroy a vineyard? First, foxes are nocturnal and come out at night where their mischief cannot be seen. And from where do they come from? They come from their dens and tunnels burrowed under the vineyards. Have you ever seen a dog digging? They are no respecter of the damage they’re doing. They’ll tear through anything – roots, dirt, rocks. You see, when foxes start burrowing near a food source like a garden, they will create a network of underground tunnels that damage the integrity of the ground as well as by chewing and digging through the garden’s root systems. The garden may not only fall in on itself but the fruit or vegetables will be destroyed because the root systems aren’t getting nourishment to the fruit. On the outside of things, everything looks great in the garden; it’s only after time the damage done beneath the surface begins to visibly impact what others see on the vineyard’s surface.
Furthermore, Foxes, if they go unchecked, attract other pests and rodents like mice and rats; when those other critters begin smelling the dying fruit of the vine, they will come running. Then come the bugs and insects swarming to eat the leaves of the vines or the fruit itself. Foxes may be awfully cute (which makes it so hard to do anything to hurt one of them!) but they are an invasive species for a vineyard or garden and we all know about invasive species here in south Florida don’t we? We’ve got everything from Bufo Toads, curly-tailed lizards, and our beloved chicken of the trees, iguanas! A little fox in the vineyard is a catalyst for all sorts of problems in a garden. Hence, the urging of verse 15, “Catch the little foxes that spoil the vineyard.”
So, if Rabbi Akiba is correct and Songs is a glimpse into the Holy of Holies where you and I encounter the Living God, what are those little foxes we need to be aware of in our own vineyards that will prohibit our relationship with Jesus Christ from growing into a beautiful love story?
Little Fox number one: Excuse making. Making excuses for failing to do something or not in a relationship will kill the relationship over time. It conveys to the other, “You’re really not that important to me because I would do what you asked if you really mattered.”
What excuses do you and I make with God? Are there aspects in your walk with Christ that you consistently make excuses for not doing? “I don’t have enough time to read the Bible” but you do have time to play golf. “I don’t have enough to give to the church’s ministry” but you can drop $500.00 on a night on the town? Golf and nights out are all good things, friends, but when God hears our excuses over and over again for not living and demonstrating basic Christian practices and values, Jesus will shrug and move on assuming we really don’t care.
Little Fox number two: Failing to spend time with the other. Our society has bought into the lie of “quality time.” Don’t misunderstand me, quality time spent with others is important but so is the quantity of time spent with others. I may take you on some of the finest, most glamorous dates you have ever been on but unless we consistently spend time with each other on a somewhat daily basis, our relationship will not grow very deep. What happens is the dreaded marital drift. By spending less time with the one you love, your love for them loses its passion and glow and grows duller. In the midst of marital drift, lies are a little easier to say, excuses are easier to make, and absence all the more desirable.
Church, how much time are you spending with God? Let’s not go to little fox number one and start making excuses, but seriously reflect, “Am I spending quantitative and quality time with the Lord?” At the very least, quality and quantity time with Christ is expressed through our worship habits, our growth in spiritual maturity and knowledge, our giving of our time and talents for the care of others and in service to others, and in sharing our financial resources on Kingdom work. You show me a person living consistently displaying these habits and I will show you a person who is devoting time to maintain a holy relationship.
Finally, Little Fox number three: A relationship is damaged when both people fail to say, “I love you,” on a consistent basis. I cannot tell you how many people I have counseled with over the years who have longed their entire life to have a parent or sibling simply say, “I love you.” I cannot tell you how many couples I have met with whose wife or husband yearns to hear their beloved say, “I love you.” I cannot tell you how many parents dream of hearing their child say, “I love you.” You see, when we fail to say, “I love you” we demonstrate that we are taking the other person for granted, or in the words of an old movie, “I’m not all that into you.”
I have named three little foxes that can destroy a relationship’s garden: Making excuses; failing to spend time together; and neglecting to say, “I love you.” There are countless others, my friends, and over the Fourth of July Weekend, I encourage each of us to reflect on those little foxes spoiling our relationship with God and with those who matter to us. We have lots of homework, beloved! Go in peace. Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 The other scriptural book that does not mention God is the Book of Esther.
 Song of Solomon 2:8-13 Commentary by Kathryn M. Schifferdecker in Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL). Accessed on July 2, 2020 at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=385.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.