It’s amazing how little things can ruin your day. Lost keys. Alarm failing to go off. Getting stuck behind a school bus while running late for an appointment. ATM out of cash. Broken dishwasher. An unexpected bill. Forgetting to pack a lunch. These are all little things, but like a paper cut, they sting. And when these little things happen one after another, they build up into bigger things. Until you get to the end of the day and count it as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
Little things cause problems in marriage too.
The Little Things of Marriage
The Song of Solomon is a book of poetry celebrating the love of marriage. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). It focuses on the romantic love between a young shepherd and shepherdess in ancient Israel. Through its prose, it reveals God’s wisdom for the marriage relationship, especially a marriage’s faithfulness, enduring love, physical affection, and security.
In the midst of this romantic work is the caution, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Foxes love to eat the grapes in a vineyard. Like rabbits that devour your vegetable garden or ants that come after your picnic lunch, foxes are trouble for the vineyard.
In this passage, the vineyard represents the relationship between the husband and wife. The foxes are those things that cause damage and spoil the marriage. The verse refers to the foxes as “little foxes” meaning those small things that cause problems in a marriage. Just like a little pebble in your shoe can become a great irritation for your foot, small problems in marriage can do great damage over time.
Catch the Foxes
We all have little foxes in our marriage that threaten to spoil the vineyard. These little things might hurt the marriage outright or might prevent our marriage from flourishing. They could be sins we commit against our spouse or simple failures to nourish and protect our marriage. These foxes could be anything. They could be stinging sarcastic comments thrown at our spouse when we are irritated. They might be failures to be considerate of their needs. They could be complaints made to our friends about our spouse that nurses a growing discontentment. Other foxes might include bitter thoughts, failing to encourage or listen to one another, speaking in a sharp tone of voice, giving them the silent treatment, and putting all our energy into our work or childrearing and having nothing left to give our spouse.
The verse says that the foxes have to be caught. Just like any sin in our lives, we have to catch the little foxes one by one. We have to catch those sarcastic comments, that sharp tone of voice, that put-down, that sinful thought. We have to be intentional to love and encourage our spouses. We have to seek ways to grow and nurture our relationship.
Just like rooting out any other sin in our lives, it requires work. We have to watch over and tend the vineyard, always being wary and on alert for foxes. When we find them, we have to do whatever is necessary to capture them. Like a gardener who puts up barriers and deterrents to keep pests away, we have to do the same to keep foxes out of our vineyard.
The Master Gardener
The Song of Solomon is included in the wisdom literature of Scripture, alongside books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Like the rest of the Bible, it ultimately points to Christ. He is the only wise One and is wisdom incarnate. Christ is our Bridegroom, the one who alone loves us perfectly, sacrificially, and completely. Marriage was created to reflect the gospel, to image the relationship between our Bridegroom and the Bride, the church. Therefore, as we read the Song of Solomon, and reflect on passages like that of 2:15, we know we can’t catch the foxes apart from the wisdom, strength, and grace of Christ. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Therefore, we must turn to Christ and seek him to lead us and guide us in finding and catching the little foxes. We have to repent of our sin and apply the gospel to all the ways we contribute problems to our marriage.
As the Song of Solomon reveals in its vivid prose, marriage is a beautiful thing, a gift from our gracious God. May we treasure that gift, watching over our vineyard, protecting and keeping it from all the little foxes that threaten to spoil it. And may we not do so in our own wisdom and strength, but in the strength and wisdom of the Master Gardener, Jesus Christ.