Are There Foxes in Your Wheat Fields?
Mar 12, 2017 05:34AM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith
Judges 15:4-5, ESV
So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards.
We have been slowly working through the book of Judges in the Sunday School class my husband and I teach every week. After revisiting the cycle of redemption playing itself out over and over again in the book of Judges, we finally made our way to Samson, the infamous judge whose strength was his unshaven hair and whose heart was easily seduced by enemy women. Not exactly the hero one might picture helping Israel get out from under enemy oppression, Samson was fond of sleeping with the enemy.
For a quick review of biblical history at this time, Israel had wanted to define itself much in the same way as surrounding people groups did at the time. It wanted a national identity, a ruler, a king. But God’s plans were to have Israel follow Him, with allegiance to Him alone. He wanted to set it apart from other cultures and establish it as His own.
When the book of Judges begins, the Israelites had already made their exodus from their oppressor Egypt, wandered the desert, and reached the Promised Land: Canaan. All God had asked them to do was to clear out the land of all other people and to not make a covenant with any of them. They were not to intermarry or follow foreign gods.
Well, they made a sad attempt at clearing the land and then gave up, intermarried, and worshipped in the style of those they were living among. Yeah, not exactly obedience. Hence the first turn along the cycle:
- God’s consequences to bring Israel back to Him
- Israel’s repentance
- God’s blessings on Israel
God, in His provision, provided Israel with judges, leaders who could bring His people back to repentance and help them fight their enemies. The problem was, by the time of Samson’s appointment as a judge, Israel had become complacent. The Philistines were living somewhat peaceably with them—but with Israel clearly the lesser nation.
God told Samson to keep a Nazirite vow and grow hair (as part of that vow). He set him apart, from his birth, to create a conflict with the Philistines so Israel could show itself mighty again. And how did He do this?
He used Samson’s greatest weakness: women.
Judges 15:1-3, ESV
After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.”
Samson had a “thing” for enemy women, and when his first Philistine father-in-law gave Samson’s almost-wife (a marriage not-yet-consummated) to another man, Samson went out and caught 300 foxes.
Because he wanted to taste some revenge. He tied them tail-to-tail and set them running with torches on their tails to burn enemy grain and olive orchards.
Foxes. Fire. Fury.
All because his wife was given to another man.
It was absolutely fascinating to see our students’ faces light up when we talked about this fox scene. Really, the wheels were turning. We tried to imagine what it would be like to see 300 foxes tied to each other running through fields. Not only was it a violation of a basic need (food), but it was a ridiculous scene.
But God didn’t think so. He knew all along what would light a fuse within Samson and, consequently, the Israelites. He knew what it would take to get them to wake from their complacency and push back against the foreigners. God set aside Israel as His people and Canaan as His Promised Land. The Philistines were an offense to His plan. And Samson’s lust (evidenced by him later taking up with a Philistine prostitute named Delilah) was the path to get there.
Did God condone Samson’s heart wandering toward enemy women? No, I don’t believe the Bible suggests that. But, He gave Samson the Holy Spirit, when needed, to strengthen him for battles that God wanted to be fought—and won—even if that meant by one shaggy man with a penchant for romance.
Back to the foxes.
If we think about it in a more personal way, are there any foxes on fire running through our stored grain? Have we given anyone a reason to strike up a conflict? Are there unresolved issues in our lives we have not been careful about? That burn in the hearts of those we have hurt?
We aren’t always the cause of trouble that comes our way. Some days it feels like all I can see are foxes, and not all of those were welcomed by my own wrong choices or behaviors.
But, what if we could identify some of them as a result or consequence of our own played-out brokenness?
If nothing else, foxes in our wheat fields offer us a red flag, a chance to self-reflect.
Is this a result of something I have brought upon myself?
Is this someone else’s sin being visited upon me?
Going a bit further, like Samson, we can ask ourselves:
Are these foxes coming to bring me punishment, to take something from me?
Is there a greater purpose? Is God clearing my land?
Samson took his own revenge on a wrong done to him. His attack on the Philistines was part of God’s plan.
The problem was: It was part of God’s original plan, which Israel did not adhere to.
He was setting fire, clearing land He long ago told Israel to clear.
This story is not just about personal retribution.
The truth is: Foxes come whether we invite them or not.
God will send consequences when we are our own worst enemy. He doesn’t want us to live a life of disobedience.
In this case, the Philistines were the ones being punished, but Israel now had to engage in war. Ultimately, what God commanded was going to happen: Israel could either cooperate—or not.
So when our foxes come, tail-to-tail, lighting fires in our lives, we might want to ask God:
Father, what is Your purpose in this? Is this a way of preparing me or strengthening me as I go through a trial, or is this the result of my own poor choice? Help me get the foxes out of my wheat field, God, if You didn’t put them there. And if You allowed them to enter my field, please help me to see what You are clearing in my life because You love me and want me to live:
in the fullness of the Promised Land,
where there is fullness of joy.
Psalm 16:11, ESV
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.