By David Ward, PhD | September 12, 2017
by David Ward, PhD
Before starting college in Louisiana, I grew up in a little town called Sugar Hill, Georgia. Our brick ranch-style house resided off Level Creek Road, surrounded by pine trees and friendly neighbors. It was there my mother built a garden every year—a family tradition obviously inherited from her father. When spring arrived, we picked a Saturday morning to buy plants, seeds, dirt and fertilizer. For the rest of the day, we tilled the ground, removed grass and weeds, planted the garden and started watering. Our choice of plants changed annually, but the staples included several kinds of tomatoes, peppers, radishes, squash, zucchini and a fruit-like cantaloupe. A garden represents many things. It is hard work. It is precious work. A garden is organized. It is set apart from God’s natural order and made for a purpose. More importantly, a garden is rewarding and meant to be enjoyed. Therefore, unsurprisingly, a garden is often used as an allegory throughout the Bible.
For this article, the most important description of a garden is in the book Song of Solomon. In this book, a garden symbolically describes the beauty and loving relationship between King Solomon and his wife (beautiful). As I reflect on my life, my garden includes my relationship with Christ, my wife and our children, my education in becoming a dentist, our house and cars, the community God is building in our CMDA chapter, and our friends and families. It’s a big garden. For the reader, what is your garden?
Maintaining the garden of our lives requires significant diligence. Otherwise, it will cease to be. This warning occurs in Song of Solomon 2:15, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (ESV).
There are two aspects to this warning: an external (i.e. the enemy) and an internal (i.e. ourselves). From 1 Peter 5, we know the enemy, like a lion, is constantly seeking whom he may destroy. This is likely an obvious “fox” that, as promised, we can steadfastly resist him in faith. However, what about the internal? Are these foxes as easily seen? In a great display of self-reflection, apostle Paul wrote Romans 7:14-24:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (ESV).
If we, looking inward, recognize the same issues Paul did above, then we have major “foxes” that will potentially ruin our garden. However, if there is a problem, then there must be a solution. Fortunately, Paul tells us the solution at the end of the passage above in Romans 7:24b-25a, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (ESV).
The garden of our lives is a glorifying provision from God. However, the little foxes of Satan and ourselves constantly threaten it. Therefore, in a word of encouragement, let us wax strong in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Be intentional in our personal relationship with Him. Seek Christ daily, for He is the only one who conquered every form of fox during His earthly life. Through Christ we have numerous promises of grace, fullness of joy, mercy, prosperity and guidance. However, we must recognize, as Christ said Himself, that He is the vine and we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
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