By Ruth Rieder-Harvey
In the saga of Abram’s life, Genesis 15:6 introduces a brand-new word. For the first time in Holy Writ, the word believed appears. “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” In the previous verses Abram poured out his soul to God concerning the depths of his heart’s desire for a child. Tenderly, the Lord affirmed the promise to Abram’s troubled spirit. At that moment he progressed into a place of believing God. Once he believed, his faith demanded action; consequently, the costly evening sacrifice resulted as evidence of his confidence in God. This foreshadowed the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament law, which ultimately pointed the way in the perfect sacrifice.
Believing God is the next step in our covenant relationship with the Lord. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”‘ After separating ourselves from the world, repentance for our sins will result as we put to death the old man. Traversing the road of redemption, our belief in God will produce a sacrifice in our lives. Faith always demands action. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” It is a costly and bloody experience to put to death the things we once held dear. Nevertheless, in the wake of our first love, nothing is too good and no price too great!
Yet it is important to remember that making the initial sacrifice is not enough. We can learn a valuable lesson upon examining the actions of Abram. Once his sacrifice was made, it had to be diligently guarded. As the night shadows gathered around Abram, the birds of prey sought to steal his offering to God.
Correspondingly, the day is wearing on and the foul spirits of this age have begun swooping around our sacrifices, seeking to dive in and devour them. They would love to consume those things we have consecrated to the Lord, thereby preventing the covenant from being fulfilled. Thus the battle ensues as the night approaches. It is time to get out our staff, the Word of God, and the mantle of anointing. We must drive back the spirits of darkness circling overhead. Relaxing our vigilance for one moment will give them the opportunity to dive in for the kill.
The first sacrifices targeted by the enemy are the little ones. If Satan can devour these, he will be emboldened to assault the larger consecrations in our lives. The enemy understands we cannot be influenced to go out tomorrow and commit gross sin. However, he can lead us into it gradually through a process of desensitization. It could happen quite subtly, should we grow weary in the battle. The following account illustrates this point so poignantly.
In 1936 Margaret Mitchell published a book galled Gone with the Wind. She was paid $50,000, which at that time was the largest sum ever paid to anyone for a first-time novel. Set against the historical backdrop of the Civil War, it became an award win-[ling best-seller. Shortly after the book’s first publication, Selznick International Pictures decided to make the story into a movie. Casting for the screenplay began in July of 1936. Vivian Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara while Clark Gable played the part of Rhett Butler. The motion picture was completed on December 9, 1939, and released to the public in January 1940. It went on to win ten Academy Awards.
One small curse word spoken at the end of the final scene set Gone with the Wind apart from any other film ever released. America was scandalized; this type of language had never been used in the national media. However, it was not long before things calmed. After all, it was just one tiny four-letter word, and it seemed to make such an appropriate ending to the story. There was no reason to get overly concerned about one little dirty word. Or was there?
Where did that single, minuscule expletive take us? That seemingly insignificant indiscretion breached the foundation of America’s morality. Just over a half century later, the floodgates of filth have been unleashed into our society through the film industry–pornography, sex, violence, filthy language, violent video and virtual reality games. Crime is rising. Criminals are on the rampage. Our young people are driven to rape, kill, and commit suicide. The streets of our cities and the halls of our schools have become unsafe. And to think that it started so insignificantly.
What happened to the great city of Ephesus? Often mentioned in the New Testament, it was one of the cultural and commercial centers of its day. Located at the mouth of the Cayster River, Ephesus was noted for bustling harbors, broad avenues, gymnasiums, baths, a huge amphitheater, and especially the magnificent Temple of Diana. What happened to bring about its gradual decline until the harbor was no longer crowded with ships and the city was no longer a flourishing metropolis?
Was it smitten by plagues, destroyed by enemies, or demolished by earthquakes? No, silt was the reason for its downfall–silent and nonviolent silt. Over the years, fine sedimentary particles slowly filled the harbor, distancing the city from the economic life of the sea traders.
Evil practices and little acts of disobedience may seem harmless; however, let the silt of sin gradually accumulate and we will find ourselves far from God. The writer of Hebrews admonished us, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who _for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Remember the words of the wise man, Solomon, as he instructed us in the Song of Solomon 2:15, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” Foxes were not overly dangerous, just destructive. They were cunning hunters, eating small animals and birds and having a fondness for certain fruit.’
The obvious sins will not cause us to stumble; we are constantly on guard against them. It is the little sins and weights that entrap us, enticing us down the path of compromise. After all, they are just “little foxes.” There is no reason to be so concerned over the little indiscretions in our lifestyles. They are just little things and everyone else is doing it. Does it matter? Why must we be so strict and old-fashioned? Are sacrifices we made in the beginning still necessary? Can’t we ease up a bit in this new millennium?
“For our vines have tender grapes.” This is the reason we must protect our vineyards and our covenant sacrifices in these last days. The decisions we make will not only affect us but also have a far-reaching impact upon generations to come. Our children are watching us, and what we allow in moderation, the next generation will do in excess!’ Abram’s actions not only impacted him but determined the future of his descendants as well.
It is a frightening thing to see little foxes slinking into the church, becoming accepted, and in some cases even protected. As the old saying goes, “Vice is a monster of such frightful mien, that to be hated needs but to be seen; but seen too oft, familiar with its face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace!” (Pope)
I’m reminded of the story of two fishermen on the reservoir. Caught up in the excitement of the trip, they neglected to put down an anchor upon reaching their desired fishing spot. Oblivious to the subtle undercurrent of the water, they began trolling for fish. As the hours passed, suddenly one of the fishermen looked up. To his startled horror, their boat had drifted dangerously close to destruction. Shouting a warning to his partner, they began rowing with all their might, seeking to escape the deadly rapids that lay just ahead. After an exhaustive and furious effort, they made it safely to shore. The fishermen wondered how they could have drifted so far. It happened imperceptibly. The danger was not detected until it was almost too late.
How easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of the moment–the latest conference, the next church service, the newest hit song, just the routine of serving God. There are things creeping in that we know in our heart of hearts are dangerous. But they seem like such little encumbrances–oh, it is just a little immodesty, a little makeup, a little hair dye, a little fingernail polish, a little jewelry, a little hatred, a little gossip, and the list goes on. Why, it is nothing to worry about. A little bit of the world won’t hurt. Or so our human reasoning seems to say as we drift ever so slightly toward shipwreck.
A ship once wrecked on the Irish coast. The captain was a careful one. Nor had the weather been of so severe a kind to explain the wide distance the ship had swerved from her course. The ship went down, but so much interest was attached to the disaster that a diver was sent to investigate.
Among other portions of the vessel that were examined was the compass. When the compass box was swung on deck and opened, a piece of metal was detected. It was very tiny, just a bit of steel which seemed to be the small point of a pocketknife blade. It appeared that the day before the wreck a sailor had been sent to clean the compass, had used his pocketknife in the process, and unconsciously broke off the point, which was left remaining in the box.
The bit of knife exerted its influence on the compass, to a degree that deflected the needle from its correct bent and spoiled it as an index of the ship’s direction. That piece of penknife wrecked the vessel. Thus one trifling sin, one small weight as small as a broken knife point can mess up our sense of direction and send us down the path of destruction.’
Not long ago a stranger met an overland traveler, who had walked on foot from the Golden Gate Bridge to New York. He was interested to know what was the greatest difficulty the traveler had encountered in his long journey. He suggested that perhaps the mountains on the trail had been the greatest barrier, but the traveler assured his questioner it was not that. Then he suggested that perhaps the swollen streams, which cut across his road, presented the greatest hazard, but it was not that. After a little he said, “What almost defeated me in my journey across the continent was the sand in my shoes.” Life is forever tripping over trivial things.’
No, it is not the big diversion that will send us down the path of compromise. It is usually just the subtle curve in the road. More than likely the giant assaults of the enemy will not destroy our consecrations. It will probably be nothing more than…little foxes.
1. Hebrews 11:6
2. James 2:17
3. Hebrews 12:1-2
4. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, J. I. Packer, M. C. Tenney (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville) page 229.
5. Judges 2:19
6. Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations, Walter B. Knight (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) page 623.
7. Ibid., page 637.
Article “Little Foxes” is excerpted from “Covenant by Sacrifice.” Written by Ruth Rieder