“Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV).
Mankind has, since his expulsion from Eden, battled against nature in his quest for food and shelter. Animals large and small seek to eat the nutritious grains which people plant for their own benefit. Some invade our homes in their own need for shelter from the elements.
The foxes in Song of Solomon are probably a metaphor for a childhood sweetheart of the speakers’ sister, whom they hope to see wed to the king. Like a fox stealing tender grapes, this young man would rob them of the advantages which a royal marriage promised to bring to the family of a famous beauty. We understand their concern.
My own fight lately has been with a particular group of pests – skunks. They have moved into our home area and even made dens under our house. We have tried many ways to be rid of them, with little success up to now. We have finally enlisted the help of professionals. Hopefully, they will solve our problem.
Their method is straightforward. First, they confirmed the presence of skunks around and under the house. Next, they are working to remove them by trapping and releasing in a distant location. When all are gone they will seal the discovered entrances to the crawl space under the house so they cannot come back. Finally, they will clean up the residue and the smell.
As I reflected on this process I could not help but be stricken with the similarity of our plight to that of one overtaken by sin. Sin, like skunks, leaves an intolerable effect. One cannot successfully and happily live with it. But it is not easy to eradicate. The process is almost exactly the same as that detailed above.
First one must identify the problem. The sinner knows he is unhappy. He feels guilt and remorse (See Psalm 32:3-4). But he may not immediately know the source of his suffering. When he finally realizes that he has sinned against God and against other humans he is able to take necessary steps to correct the problem.
At that point, he seeks to remove sin from his life. This is called repentance which involves a commitment to cease sinning and a plea for forgiveness (Psalm 32:5). Just like a house will not cease smelling so long as the skunks continue to live there, so one’s life cannot be healed without the removal of sin.
After sin has been acknowledged and removed through repentance, the various “holes” through which it has entered must be sealed. Too often a penitent asks for and receives forgiveness, but then does little or nothing to prevent re-infection by the same sins. Old companions and habits continue, and with them, the same temptations resurface, often with the same results — that is, sin. Just as the exterminators must seal the entrances to old dens, so the sinner must shut off avenues through which temptation has previously defeated him.
Only then may the lingering consequences of sin be removed. Some scars and painful reminders may always remain, but much of the hurt done can frequently be atoned for and eradicated. At that point, the psalmist’s blessing is obtained. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).