The Serpent in the Wilderness

Reading: Numbers 21:5-10

Introduction: Why were the Israelites punished by God? What did they have to do in order to be saved from death?

The story “Little Foxes” was written by Howard J. Chidley and published in Fifty-Two Talks for Boys and Girls in 1914. Now out of print, the book is available free online.


In far-off Syria, a country lying northeast of Palestine, the land in which Jesus was born, the farmers who keep vineyards are very much troubled with foxes and bears, which destroy their crops at night. And so, to protect their vineyards, they build high stone-walls about them, and put broken bottles on the top to keep these animals out, much as some people in this country who have orchards do, in order to keep out small boys.

These fences keep out the bears, because they cut themselves on the glass in trying to climb over, and they also keep out some of the foxes. But after all, when the grapes are nearly ripe, the owners of the vineyards and their men are obliged to build platforms up above the trellises, and stay there all night, in order to guard their crops.
These watchers manage very well with all the other wild animals excepting the little foxes. They can see the big foxes and drive them off, but the little ones they cannot see, and so these destroy the vines. I suppose that it was an experience something like that which led one of the Bible-writers to say that the little foxes destroy the vines.

It seems to me that this is very true with sins, too; it is the little sins that destroy us. When a big sin like stealing, lying or cheating comes along we can see that easily enough, and we will not let it over the fence into our lives. We drive it away, and are soon rid of it. But when the little sins come, like little foxes, we do not see them, and so they get in and destroy our character.

What are some of these little foxes? I think one is pride, which makes you so conceited, because you live in a big house or have an automobile or fine clothes, that you will not speak to or play with other boys and girls who have not quite such fine things, although they may be just as bright and just as good as you. Pride is a little fox that kills the vine of brotherliness which Christ planted in our hearts.

Then another little fox is sulkiness. Sulkiness makes you frown and go away in a corner. It sucks up all the sunlight there is, and makes the world very gray and dull, like a day in November. This fox kills the vine called “peace” which Christ planted.

One more little fox is jealousy. This makes boys and girls dislike others who get higher marks than they in school, or who have more friends, or better toys. It is one of the most destructive little foxes there is, for it kills the best vine of all that Christ planted: that is, love.

Be careful, then, boys and girls, of these little foxes, for they are worse than bears and big foxes, because they look so small and harmless, and slip by when you are not paying attention, but which destroy your character as readily as the others.


For Further Study:

  • In John 3:14-18, Christ talks about Moses and the serpent. What does Christ say about it? How can we be like the Israelites?

  • What are some small problems or habits that are keeping you from fully serving God? Are you having angry or worrisome thoughts about something? Do you struggle with a certain habit? Are you being tempted in some way today? Pray to God about it and think about some Bible stories you can read to encourage you to do better.
Posted in Heart, Joy, King/Judge, Patience, Savior. Comments Off on The Serpent in the Wilderness
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