Study 5 THE LITTLE FOXES THAT SPOIL THE VINES
THE SONG OF SOLOMON
by Francis Dixon
Key-verse: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Songs 2:15)
There is one verse in the Gospel of John which tells us of the Lord’s purpose for every one of His children. That verse is John 15:16, which contains the word of Jesus Himself – “You did not choose me, but I have chosen you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last”, and it would seem most appropriate to set the key-verse of this study against this one great declaration of our Lord. To do this will enable us to learn some lessons about fruitfulness in Christian living and in Christian service. Consider the following sequence of teaching:-
1. TO BEGIN WITH, WE SEE THAT JESUS HIMSELF IS “THE TRUE VINE”
We are sure of this because we are told in John 15:1 that He said of Himself, “I am the true vine”. He said this in connection with the institution of the Lord’s Supper, when the bread and wine were employed by Him as symbols of His sacrifice and offering upon Calvary. He was therefore saying to His disciples, “I am the real, genuine vine”, and of course the vine is the source of the fruit. Any fruit which appears on the vine does not derive its life from the branches or from the leaves, but from the vine itself; nor is any fruit that appears on the vine the result of any effort on the part of the branches or the leaves! This leads us to the second truth, which is clearly emphasised in John 15.
2. BELIEVERS, CHRISTIANS, ARE BRANCHES IN THE VINE
We are also told in John 15:1 that our Lord said, “My Father is the gardener” – that is, He is the One who tends the vine and busies Himself with the branches, as verses 2-6 indicate. But who are the branches? We have the answer in verse 5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The branches, then, are believers, Christians, and incidentally this verse shows us exactly what a Christian is. A Christian is a branch in the vine, one who is joined to Christ, united to Him and deriving life from Him, and he is a participant of His very nature (2 Peter 1:4). A branch is not a dead stick, it is a living thing. This leads us to the third truth.
3. AS BRANCHES IN THE VINE, WE ARE TO BEAR FRUIT
It is the function of the branch to bear fruit. Thus we read in John 15 verse 2, “Every branch in me that bears not fruit…”; in verse 4, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must…”; in verse 5, “He will bear much fruit…”; and in verse 16 we read that we are “chosen…appointed…” – for what? To “go and bear fruit”! The Lord is looking for fruit in our lives, and as He looks He says – look up Hosea 14:8. The source of this fruit is the Lord Himself; the manifestation of this fruit is seen in the branches of the vine. What kind of fruit are we, as Christians, to bear? What is the fruit that appears on the branches which are united to the true vine?
4. THE FRUIT WE ARE TO BEAR IS “THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT”
This is not “the fruit of the spirit” (small s), but “the fruit of the Spirit” (large S) – Galatians 5:22-23 which, in the Amplified Bible, reads –
“But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit, [the work which His presence within accomplishes] – is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness; (Meekness, humility) gentleness, self-control (self-restraint, continence).”
These verses give us a vivid picture of the Christian life as our Lord intended it should be. We should be loving, joyful, restful, patient, kind, good, trustworthy, humble and disciplined. This is the fruit we should be bearing. These are the graces which should characterise us as Christians. Now notice the next point.
5. THE “LITTLE FOXES THAT RUIN THE VINEYARDS”, THAT HINDER THE GROWTH AND TAKE AWAY THE TENDER FRUIT, ARE THE SINS OF THE SPIRIT
This time the word ‘spirit’ is spelt with a small ‘s’ (2 Corinthians 7:1). The “sins of the flesh” are the gross sins of adultery, murder, blasphemy, drunkenness etc. The “sins of the spirit” are “the little foxes” that creep in almost unnoticed and spoil the vines and take away the fruit. What are these “little foxes”, these “sins of the spirit”? There are three kinds: there are the wrong things we think, the wrong things we say and the wrong things we do. These may be described as heart sins, lip sins and behaviour sins.
- (1) Think of the heart sins, the secret sins. David had something to say about these in Psalm 51:10. What are they? They are sins such as jealousy, pride and impurity. These are “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards”, the sins of the spirit that hinder the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. God can see these ‘secret’ sins – look up Psalm 90:8.
- (2) There are the lip sins. Do you ever pray the prayer recorded in Psalm 141:3? Or did you ever notice the testimony of the psalmist in Psalm 120:1-3? What a lot of harm this “little fox” of an unruly, undisciplined tongue can do, especially when it is a lying tongue, a critical tongue or a tale-bearing tongue!
- (3) There are the behaviour sins. These are sins that we commit when we act in such a way that it is obvious to an onlooker that we have an unclean heart and a wrong spirit – when we are unkind, thoughtless or harsh in our treatment of others, or when we are wrong in our relationship with another person.
How these “little foxes” spoil the vines! How they rob our lives of the fruit that the Holy Spirit is waiting and wanting to produce in and through us! What can we do with these little foxes?
6. THE WAY TO DEAL WITH “THE LITTLE FOXES” IS TO KILL THEM
They must be rounded up and put to death (Galatians 5:24); they must be mortified (Romans 6:11). If the little foxes are not put to death they will grow into big foxes! For an illustration of the way to kill the little foxes read Judges 15:4-5, and turn to Romans 13:14. But how can we do this? We cannot do it in our own strength.
7. THE WAY TO KILL “THE LITTLE FOXES” IS TO RELY UPON THE HOLY SPIRIT
We learn this from Galatians 5:16 – “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Yield to the Holy Spirit, trust Him and rely upon Him to give you the victory. Then there will appear in your life an abundance of fruit – “the fruit of the Spirit”.