Thought for the Month

Animals play a major part in human life. In British gardens and in our skies we hear and see our wild birds from the dawn of each day, our ponds and rivers are stocked with fish, our homes house our pets, and the farms that are stocked with cattle, sheep and chickens that provide food to our tables.

Foxes are controversial as well as becoming increasing familiar in suburban streets. According to the Woodland Trust there are about 258k adult foxes in the U.K. In previous generations they were seen as pests who would predate chickens and rabbits in the countryside where fox hunting with hounds became a popular activity for horse riders where people would try and outwit the wily fox and in consequence reduce the population of foxes. In 2005 in England and Wales fox hunting with hounds was banned as attitudes had changed and people living in towns and cities looked out for them as graceful wild animals.

In the Bible animals were used to describe the qualities of people. For example people are often described as sheep needing shepherds. Sheep are domesticated animals used to feed and clothe those rearing them. They needed to be protected from animals that would seek to kill and eat them. Peter was told to feed and care for the lambs and sheep (John 21:15‑19) and he spent many years as a shepherd in the early church.

Lambs also are frequently referred to in the scriptures. Our Lord Jesus was described as "the lamb of God" "without spot or blemish" (John 1:29‑30; 1 Pet.1:18‑19). This language would be easily understood by the Jews because of the animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple arrangement. It illustrated that Messiah would not be a warrior‑king but be a suffering servant.

Doves are generally portrayed as gentle, peaceful and helpless creatures. It is in this context that a dove was used at Jordan to tell the world that Jesus was the son of God.

Lions usually are used to signal danger and power as it does in Daniel 6:16‑24. Wolves are also used to signal danger as we are told to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. In addition Foxes also signify a more subtle type of danger. Herod was labelled a fox during Jesus' first advent probably because he was cunning and greedy (Luke 13:32).

In the days of the Judges there were many foxes in the land of Israel. This is why Samson used foxes as there were so many to be used and when tied together could not retreat to their dens or holes when tied in pairs (Judges 15). Jeremiah used Zion the well‑known mount in Jerusalem to paint a picture of Jerusalem and the site of Solomon's Temple in the 70 years of captivity in Babylon as being desolate with foxes. (Lam.5:18) The Temple needed rebuilding in the days of Zechariah following those years. It is interesting to note that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will visit Israel as the British mandate there ceased in May 1948 seventy years ago. Independence Day in Israel is 19 April.

When Solomon spoke of the foxes in the days of the kings of Israel (2:15) he also would have known how plentiful they were and what damage they could do to vines. Such vines would have been knocked by the foxes who would eat the young fruit especially on the first and lowest branches. This can be taken as good advice to those Christians now to beware of cunning things which can look cute but will limit our fruitage. Such things can be many and varied but may include judging others and being impatient in our dealings with each other and in our communities.