It is widely acknowledged that Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the greatest military commanders in history. Countless volumes of literature have been written about his military prodigy, rise to power, reforms, operations and his final fall from grandeur.
Film-makers have not lagged behind either. Swiftly, switch by switch, system by system, they have taken a quantum leap and capitalized on Napoleon’s rich legacy to make a kill. His pictures from Hollywood speak a thousand words. Interestingly, it is the same Napoleon who is credited for the famous English expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” However other sources say that his actual words were rather different: “A good sketch is better than a long speech.”
In the midst of conquest after conquest, plunder after plunder and destruction after destruction Napoleon is reported to have said, “I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other.”
Indeed the man was as cunning as a fox and as brave as a lion. He could easily isolate traps and avoid them, and at the same time he could spot opportunities and pounce on them with sheer shattering force and precision. He outfoxed most of his opponents.
Talking of foxes is unfair for most of us as we are only familiar with her distant cousin – dog. It is in this vein that I suggest we flow flamboyantly and finally reach the heart of the matter.
Can we start canine transactions without visiting Asia for some instructions in recipes?
In recent times, the plump martinet of North Korea did set up factories for making pre-packed dishes for export, including fish recipes, noodles and dog ‘delicacies’. They produce recipes using dog meat which include boiled thick dog ribs, steamed dog meat and dog meat soups. The canine culinary will be exported to countries such as China, Taiwan and Vietnam where it is devoured in dances.
We have seen that a dog is a close relative to the fox. There are, of course, discernible differences. Some of these distinct differences are in the character of a fox.
Do we sometimes behave like foxes? I believe we do. There are several occasions I have found myself crafting warps and wefts cunningly. Thus I can say at one point I have been crafty.
As human beings we love to flaunt our powers and prowess, control and commands over things and people we consider beneath us. We can always pass the buck to the inherent fear that resides in our darkest hearts. It is outplay of anxiety within us. We fear someone beneath us is somehow outfoxing us, and we have to do something, however irrational, to remind them that we are the ones in charge.
In the course of Jesus’ ministry, Herod Antipas unmistakably wanted to do away with Jesus because his delusory mind imagined that Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the dead.
Herod Antipas is mostly known as the Herod who beheaded John the Baptist. Secular history tells us that he was appointed by the great Emperor Augustus to rule over one quarter of his father’s – Herod the Great – kingdom.
According to Biblical scholar Morten H. Jensen in “Antipas – The Herod Jesus Knew” in the September/October 2012 issue of Biblical Archeology Review, in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Herod Antipas’s attitude toward Jesus is somewhat nebulous and vacillating.
Besides Herod, the religious leaders also opposed Jesus and wanted to get rid of Him because He renegaded their man-made traditions and revealed their two-facedness. In fact they were so sick and tired of Him, that they plotted how to eliminate Him once and for all.
In their feeble reasoning, they thought they could scare Jesus, or wish Him away with threats. By succeeding in this, they could then retain their religious leadership and status. All these bullying and warnings did not deter Jesus.
In Luke 13:31-33, we encounter a Jesus who is fearless, and determined to finish His work within His timelines, irrespective of what Herod is thinking, saying, or doing.
Intentionally snubbing the Pharisees’ real purpose, Jesus says, “Go and tell that fox”, that He intends to complete His mission as per His Father’s will. Unfazed, He would continue to preach and heal until the appointed time of the cross. Sometimes it is prudent to look discouragers and fear-mongers right in the face and tell them the truth they do not want to hear.
Why would Jesus call Herod Antipas a fox? Or why would He compare him to a fox? Why would He do it metaphorically?
A fox is a member of a dog family and shares characteristics with jackals, wolves and coyotes.
Foxes are most active at night. In fact, zoologists say that their pupils are vertically oriented to allow night vision. There are people who thrive well in darkness. They plot in darkness, and execute their evil schemes in darkness. They hunt you at the time when you are vulnerable. They strike at the time when you are tired. They sneak in at the time you least expect. They are like Amalekites, they attacked Israelites at their weakest point. They only attacked the old, children and women. They directed their strength on exhausted and circumcised Israelites.
These are people who wait at a time when you are at your weakest and then attack. They cannot dare confront you at your strongest time. They dare not face you in person but prefer to speak in darkness; behind your back. They are very smooth at that.
This not-so-gentleman guy called Antipas could not refute what Jesus was teaching and doing, thus he could only threaten Him. He had no answer for Jesus except threats. Religious zealots too could only afford to scare Him. That is one of the major weapon of Satan-fear. There are many people around us who are bend on instilling fear in us. The purpose of fear is to stop us from finishing our work. In the Old Testament, Nehemiah and his comrades faced similar scenario as they rebuild the Walls of Jerusalem. In fact he was told that whatever he was building could be brought down by a fox.
A fox hunts by trailing and pouncing on its prey. It is the behavior of the insolent to stalk and strike. Herod and the Pharisees kept stalking Jesus as they waited for an opportune time to make a kill. Have you ever met people who you know little about, but it seems they know more about you? They scarcely mind their own business and keep trying to gather information about other people with unclear agenda.
Many foxes have retractable claws that allow them to climb rooftops or trees. Herod was an insincere person. He could hide his intentions just like many foxes do with their claws. There are people who hide dangerous cards under the table, just waiting for the right time to brandish them and claim victory. They take advantage of your ignorance and/or kindness. They can go to all length – including climbing rooftops – just to stalk and steal from you. They do not allow you to know them better and they continually have something they are hiding. They cry with their lips Peace! Peace! But their hearts are shouting Pieces! Pieces! They do not go about wielding their swords to all and sundry. Instead they hide them in the sheaths and then hang under their skirts.
Foxes make about forty different sounds. The most upsetting is the scream. These are people who say one thing today and another one tomorrow. They are as honest as politicians. They are con artists. They are known to lure their victims with pompous words and downright deception. In this category you will find cultists. They know how to communicate with their fellow ‘foxes’ for they speak the same language. They have a jungle jargon.
Most of the time they define things subjectively. They are led by circumstances and always shouting for popularity while pampering pluralism.
They scream even when they are just supposed to speak calmly. They want everybody to know they are around. They know how to advertise their stupendous stupidities and naivety.
A fox’s den is ordinarily a burrow underground. Burrowing underground is a trait of unreliable people. You cannot easily tell their intentions. They hide their main agenda. You can rarely see them in the open. They would prefer to stay in soil rather than on soil. But they would soil you without batting an eyelid. They would eat you from under. They would wreak havoc from within. Perhaps they are the ones who ate Rodger Williams.
Foxes eat just about anything, including berries, worms, spiders, insects and small animals such as rats and birds. This is symbolic of people who would want to have everything. Their appetites are as huge as the grave. They attack anything and anybody. They davour in the bush and in the town. They are voracious eaters.
Herod, despite witnessing the works of Jesus, he still wanted to do away with him. He was a voracious eater. He could not be satisfied with John the Baptist’ blood. He craved for more blood.
When foxes live in the city, they eat rubbish that people leave out. They relish small talk. They swallow it hook, line and sinker. They don’t mind getting into murky waters of decadence. You will always find them in one indignity after another. And they appear to be happy of that: Little do they know they are being imbecilic. Even if taken to the town, they still eat rubbish. Even if you give them enlightenment, education, training, discipleship, they still want to eat rubbish. Delivering them from the village does not deliver village from their minds and hearts. Taking them to town is necessary but not sufficient.
If they have extra food, they hide it in a small hole and eat it later when they are hungry. They are selfish. They only think of how to better themselves, even if it means trampling their fellows down. They do not mind their neighbours. They thrive in fertile soil of egocentrism. They will knock you down just to get what they want.
Foxes can live anywhere, in towns or the countryside. They do not choose the best place. They jump on any train that appears. Their borders are fluid and imaginary. Instability is the word that described Herod and Antipas; and it is the same word that define such people. Continuity, consistence and persistence are vocabularies to this cohort.
According to University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, foxes live very short lives in the wild: they do not manage to celebrate their forth birthday. However in captivity they can live much longer – up to 12 years. In the wild, our hearts become a wilderness. This wilderness is a black-spot for hopes, dreams and visions. But in captivity, at least there is a higher being to take care of matters, even our wildest dreams and visions do not perish before maturity. We can allow our hearts and minds be captured by God.
Foxes are found all over the world – in North Africa, Middle East, North America, Europe and Asia. What they call a home is actually a wide terrain. This speaks of us whenever we lose direction and start investing in scattered places. Our investment and permanent abode rest with Jesus. Restlessness is the hallmark of such a person.
Do you believe we can outfox the foxes in our lives?