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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 2:14-15 The little foxes

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Husband

14 O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the cliff,

The Holy Spirit, who himself sometimes took the form of a dove and so sanctified the image (Matthew 3:16; compare Genesis 1:2), is fond of comparing the church to a dove (Psalm 68:13, 74:19; Hosea 7:11). Perhaps the reference to the bride living in the mountains is another reference to her home in Galilee. Nazareth was of course situated on a high cliff (Luke 4:29). The husband might tease his wife when she is simply out of sight (in a tent, or just around the corner) that she is “in the clefts of the rock” as when he first found her. Spiritually, the Lord seeks out his church.

Luther also points out that Christ calling in this way is not “as a judge, but in order that he may console those who are frightened” (LW 29:167). And Augustine says, “Faith is a nest, which is acquired from Christ as he appeared in the form of humility. In such a nest we must deposit our chicks. Thus the Song of Solomon reads: ‘O my dove in the clefts of the rock.’ For to ponder the wounds of Christ, his words and deeds, and those of his saints: this is to make a nest of them for oneself.”

Therefore the church is not hiding from Christ in the rock, but rather seeking refuge in Christ, and he himself is the rock. “You are my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 31:3, 71:3, 89:26; Isaiah 4:8; Habakkuk 1:12). So Christ himself is our protection. This protection is part of his work as he is presently seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33-34, 5:31, 7:55-56; 1 Peter 3:22). He governs his church with love and protects his church with his might, seeing to it that all things work together for the good of his kingdom of grace (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:20-23). For “the salvation of sinners is by no means an incidental side issue in the government of the world, but it is the chief issue. The world continues for no other purpose than this, that sinners might come to repentance.” The Apostle declares: “The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

let me see the way you look;
let me hear your voice.
for your voice is sweet,
and you look lovely!

The husband coaxes out his shy wife. “Let me see you,” he says. “Why, why would you want to look at me?” she wonders. “Because you look lovely” he laughs. The word mareh in Hebrew means more than face, but the whole appearance of a person. Rebekah was “very beautiful,” she had “a pleasant mareh—very” (Genesis 24:16). Abraham described his wife Sarai with the same word (Genesis 12:11). For every blessed husband, his wife remains a woman with “a pleasant mareh—very!” her whole life; she is beautiful to him because he loves her and she loves him. A strand of gray hair is only a silver ornament. A thin line here or there is only the very slight wear on a masterpiece. She is always his girl; his girlfriend. He always remembers that there was that moment, that unexpected, frightening, and delightful moment in their past when they stood upon the very brink of their two futures, hers and his, and they chose to walk those futures together.

Spiritually, we have another relationship with our Lord, because we did not choose him, but he chose us (John 15:16). But as the husband praises his wife’s voice, “for your voice is sweet,” so also the Lord praises our voices and sanctifies our voices to go and speak his word to his holy people: Mothers to their children, neighbors to one another, teachers to students, pastors to congregations. The Lord commanded his prophet: “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen” (Ezekiel 2:7).

The public teaching, preaching office of the called ministers of the word of God is divinely instituted as an office, but the office takes many forms. Primarily, when we speak of the public ministry, we are speaking about pastors. God promised to give preachers and teachers to the church (Jeremiah 3:15, 23:4; Joel 2:23). He gave the church what he promised (1 Corinthians 12:28). He preserves this ministry to the end of the world (Ephesians 4:11). Christ our Lord performed this office himself (Hebrews 1:1). And he equips teachers and preachers for the church with the necessary gifts (2 Corinthians 3:5). As for forms of ministry, our Confessions show that many forms were in use in Luther’s time (minister, preacher, pastor, superintendent, rector, professor, and even pope), Smalcald Articles III:5 (signatories); Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (list of subscribers). And these forms may change over time to adapt to and meet the needs of the church of Christ. No one can become a public servant of the word without an external, legitimate call, but we have covered this and similar points many times (Acts 13:14-15, etc.), and we will touch on this point more thoroughly when we visit 2 Timothy together.

The Wife (or The Husband)

15 Catch the foxes for us,
those little foxes that ruin the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.

Foxes and their cousins the jackals were a common nuisance for vineyards. Although these animals are related to dogs, unlike dogs, they can and do eat grapes. But they are just as likely to destroy the leaves and stems of a vineyard as they drink dew and rainwater from the green growth.

In a marriage, the foxes that ruin things are all those who violate the Tenth Commandment, which forbids anyone from lusting after or coveting their neighbor’s spouse. The vineyard of marriage is also attacked by everyone who attacks the divine institution of marriage, and those who try to reduce and diminish marriage as nothing more than a social construct when in fact it has its origins in the hands of God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:27, 2:22). This is precisely what Jesus our Lord also says: “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man who leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,’ So they are no longer two, but one” (Matthew 19:4-6). And therefore we want to do everything we can to pray for each other’s marriages, that God would bless our marriages and provide a good spouse for each of our children, and we furthermore pray earnestly and sincerely along with the Small Catechism that “we do not force or entice away our neighbor’s spouse, workers, or animals, but urge them to stay and do their duty.”

Spiritually, the same is true of false teachers who seek to spoil and ruin the vineyard of the church. I had a grandfather who, before he became a Christian, would draw me aside every time we went to visit (most Sunday afternoons), and try to coax me away from my tender Christian faith. He would see me drawing pictures of dinosaurs (like every little boy) and he would try to reason with me that those creatures lived many millions of years ago, and that the church and its teachings are therefore wrong. What wonderful angels the Lord sent to protect me! Such sentences came from my lips in those days! “Geology isn’t really an exact science” I remember saying to him (quoting one of my public school teachers), “but I know that my Lord came exactly to take away my sins (quoting all of my Sunday school teachers),” and things like that. It was brave for an eight- or ten-year-old, but my dad’s calm wink across the room was enough to give me courage and strength.

There are many, many little foxes and jackals and wolves in sheep’s clothing that are out to destroy our faith today. This is why we must not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10:25). We should privately “make every day a holy day… and occupy ourselves daily with God’s word and carry it in our hearts and on our lips.” But since not everyone has this much time, we need to set apart several hours a week for our young people and at least one service for worship to concentrate on the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Then we may regulate our whole life to be in accord with God’s word. “Whenever this practice is kept, a holy (Sabbath) day is truly kept.” We pray that we can encourage one another, be filled up with the true light of the gospel of Christ, and be led to live a life of thanks to God in step with his will, to do whatever we can together to catch or to drive away those little foxes that would ruin our blessed vineyard.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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