In the Vineyard Awaiting the Beloved
I am my Beloved’s and He is mine
August 18th marks the beginning of the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar, the month of Elul. This month is traditionally a time of spiritual preparation as we approach the Fall Feasts of Israel, beginning with the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah), a day which biblically points to Messiah’s return. The name of this important month can be read as an acrostic, for each of the Hebrew letters of Elul (alef, lamed, vav, lamed) corresponds to each word in the phrase from Song of Songs 2:16: “ani l’ dodi v’ dodi li” (I am my Beloved’s and He is mine”). As we enter this month, how can we prepare our hearts to worship our beloved Messiah?
So many things can distract us from keeping the Beloved as the true focus of our faith. We can learn from the example of the Shulamite woman in the Song of Songs who declares her love in the midst of her daily routine while she eagerly waits for her beloved to return. She says:
Eagerly Awaiting our Beloved One
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom. My beloved is mine, and I am his! He pastures his flock among the lilies” (Song of Songs 2:15-16).
Foxes are very common in Israel and are particularly fond of grapes. These pesky creatures burrow holes around the gardens. Unless strictly watched, they would destroy whole vineyards. The fox is mentioned in the Song of Songs because this cunning animal could destroy the Shulamite’s ability to wait with eager anticipation for her beloved.
Catch the foxes…
The ancient Greek writer Aristophanes compares foxes to soldiers. Just as foxes consume the grapes of a vineyard, so soldiers would loot and pillage countries through which they passed. Foxes destroy by stealth and cunning. They represent anything that can bring harm to our most important relationship as we eagerly await our Beloved One.
The Shulamite woman realizes there may be little irritations that could begin to destroy her trust and love for her beloved. She speaks of how he will not be home until evening when his work is done:
While our vineyards are in Blossom
“He pastures his flock among the lilies. Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of Bether” (Song of Songs 2:16-17).
While she is waiting, she desires to catch the little foxes; notice the phrase at the end of verse 15 above: “while our vineyards are in blossom.” In other words, she knows that she needs to catch these foxes while love is blossoming, so it will not be thwarted.
I am for Him and He is for me
With his late arrival. The Shulamite woman could become impatient and complain about her beloved, overcome by negative thoughts. However, instead of allowing her thoughts to be corrupted, she declares her love: “My beloved is mine and I am his.”
She is assured and confident in his love for her. She declares, “I am for him, and he is for me. We love and trust each other. Our love is mutual: I can trust in his love for me and love him right back.”
Foxes among the Ruins
However, there are “little foxes” that will constantly seek to erode her trust and love. These little foxes can be seeds of distrust, complaints, or even false teaching that corrupts the heart and mind. In Ezekiel 13, we learn that if a person keeps his mind fixed on these things, it will corrupt the heart of the listener:
“Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins” (Ezekiel 13:3-4).
Are there little foxes spoiling the special relationships you have? This consideration can apply to a relationship with a spouse or close friend, but most importantly it speaks to one’s relationship with the living God, your Beloved. In our preparation for Him, we need to examine our lives and watch out for the small things. David’s prayer in Psalm 19: 12-14 has become the prayer of my heart during the month of Elul:
“Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults….Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:12-14).