Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
I. WHAT THE LITTLE FOXES ARE — what we are to understand as represented by them.
1. A little lie. Not a great, black, ugly lie, enough to make conscience cry out, and to startle yourself and everybody that knows of it, but a little untruth that does not hurt and need not frighten anybody.
2. A little theft. It was only a penny or halfpenny or farthing — only a bit of pencil or a bit of ribbon — only a sweetmeat or a pin. It was only some little unfairness in the class or in the game, that got you a place or credit that did not belong to you.
3. A little outburst of temper. You were provoked, and flew into a passion, and you looked or spoke or acted your anger.
4. A little act of disobedience, refusing to do, or putting off doing, or not doing pleasantly and cheerfully, what a parent asked you to do. You say you must do something else first.
5. A little oath, or slang expression, or low bad word.
6. A little act of selfishness.
7. A little yielding to indolence, laziness.
8. A little breaking of the Sabbath.
9. A little omission of prayer. 10. A little yielding to envy or jealousy.
II. THE HARM THE LITTLE FOXES DO.
1. Little sins are real sins. A little fox is a real fox. A little tiger is a real tiger. A little serpent is a real serpent. The smallness of it does not alter its nature.
2. Little sins are apt to be little thought of. That is one great part of their danger. You say "it is only a little fault. Who would think anything of that? It is only a little fox, what harm can it do?" The little sin does not ruffle your conscience, or make you unhappy, or make other people think much the worse of you for it. That is the worst of the whole case. That is one of the strongest reasons why you should be afraid of it.
3. Little sins prepare the way for big ones, and form habits of sin. I never heard of a boy becoming a drunkard, or a thief, or a swearer, or a liar, or a profligate, or a criminal, all at once. It was gradually — by little and little, that he became such.
III. HOW TO CATCH THEM AND KILL THEM. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes." Have you ever seen a party setting out for a day's fox-hunting? How eager all are — men, horses, and dogs. They are prepared to run any distance, to cross rivers, to leap over walls and hedges, each more in earnest than the other to catch the fox. Their first concern is to discover where he is, and then they set out after him with a will. And so your first concern should be to discover what and where the little foxes are, that are spoiling your vines. And having learned that, your next business is to catch them and kill them. There are two hands with which you must seek to catch them. Neither will do alone. Both must go together. These hands are prayer and pains. The most important is prayer, for that calls in Divine help. But then it is said, "God helps them that help themselves," and it is in helping yourselves — watching, striving, resisting — that He helps you. You must keep your eye ever open. You must never be off your guard.
(J. H. Wilson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.