Big gates swing on little hinges. The first chapter and the rest of the book of Judges describe the severe consequences that Israel suffered because they failed to believe God. It started with their failure to believe that God would drive out the chariots of iron their enemies possessed. The consequences of that partial victory went further than that one battle.
Did you notice some things in the Bible text from Judges? No where does it mention the Lord or God. No mention of his presence. No mention of his intervention on his behalf, not one occasion.
Did you notice a second thing? Did you notice not one of them were victorious? Not one of them experienced victory.
Did you notice a third thing? They assimilated together. If we go back and look at the beginning of it all, we find that doubt led to disobedience. God said, “Drive them out. Destroy them. Don’t make them slaves. Don’t let them live in the land amongst you. Don’t cooperate with them. Drive them out. Destroy them utterly. Leave nothing left.”
Their doubt drove them to disobedience. Their disobedience brought decline. Decline brought desertion from God. God did not display his presence on their behalf.
Oh, it seemed like such a little thing at the time. “We will leave that tribe down there alone. That is not big territory down there. After all, we do have the mountains. Maybe we will let them have little plot of land down there. Maybe if we don’t... maybe we will curry their favor a little bit by letting them have that little plot of land down there and they will cooperate with us.
No. Doubt. Disobedience. Defeat. Decline. Desertion. Big gates swing on little hinges.
As we look back over these verses, we see that as long as the children of Israel believed and trusted in God and obeyed him, God manifested himself to them and on their behalf. They experienced victory over their enemies, and over sin and evil. They knew God’s presence fellowshipping among them, displayed mightily on their behalf.
When they doubted God, questioned him, thought their ideas superior to his, they suffered severely. The justice that God brought upon Israel’s enemies who had sinned against him now began to assault Israel, because they sinned against God.
God had warned them. “If you fail to obey me, I will become your enemy,” he said. Oh, I don’t now about you, but I don’t want God as my enemy. I can’t even stand for myself, let alone resist God and fight against him.
Why do you think God moved upon the author—theologians believe Samuel wrote it—to write this record that we see in the book of Judges? God wanted to reveal to the ages how he would bless those who believe and obey, and how he would judge severely those who doubt and disobey.
He also wanted us to see the character and nature of God. Faithful to his word, God keeps his promises. When he makes a promise, he keeps it.
In addition, he wants us to see the evidence of his glorious presence among his people when they obey and when they trust him. He also wants us to see the disastrous results of doubt and disobedience, God’s judgment.
The children of Israel, helpless in their own strength, could experience victory only as they trusted and obeyed God. When they doubted they experienced defeat.
How do these events connect to Jesus? Jesus told his friends on the road to Emmaus, “You need to believe all the Scriptures and what they have said about me.” Jesus began to teach them beginning at Moses and all of the prophets, including Samuel, a prophet and a judge of Israel.
Can we find Christ anywhere in these events? Before we answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning. When God created the heavens and the earth and all things in it, visible and invisible, and placed creatures and animals in his creation, he had a purpose behind it all. He wanted to glorify himself and to manifest himself to his creation.
We read how God came down and visited Adam and Eve, his first human creation. He walked with them and talked with them. They knew intimate fellowship with him.
God told Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth. He wanted them to go throughout all of the earth with his presence so that his glory would go throughout all of the earth through his creation and with his creation.
However, you know the story, how Adam and Eve sinned. They doubted God. They disobeyed…one small bite. Big gates swung on little hinges.
God in his mercy promised a champion. “I will send someone, the seed of the woman, who will crush the head of that serpent who tempted you into sin and disobedience.”
As God began progressively to reveal his plan of how he would fulfill that, he chose Abraham. And he told Abraham, “Through you and through your seed, I will reveal myself and manifest myself to all of creation, to all of the nations of the earth.”
These children of Abraham, the seed of Abraham, Israel, became part of God's plan to restore his presence and his fellowship with mankind throughout all the earth. His plan included the children of Abraham inhabiting the Promised Land according to his promise. God directed the Israelites how to occupy the land: “Drive out all of the enemies and I will give that land to you and to your seed, and you shall bless all of the nations of the earth from there.”
They failed. But, did God go to plan B, plan C, plan D? No. God in his sovereignty knew what the children of Israel would do despite all of his warnings. He used even their failures to bring about his plan. He turned their failures for good.
In the process of their failure, he revealed to them their helplessness without him, that they, indeed, needed a Savior, they indeed needed a champion on their behalf. They had no chance against evil in their own strength. God used the failures of the children of Israel to prove to them their sinfulness and the necessity for them to trust God and his provision on their behalf.
Throughout the ages, the history of judges reminds us of the sinfulness of man and the necessity of a Savior. We find another example a few centuries beyond the book of Judges when another man, leading the children of Israel by the name of King Saul, faced the command of God to destroy an enemy, the children of Amalek. God instructed Saul to destroy them all. “Saul, don’t leave anything. Don’t even save any of the animals or the creatures or any of the children. Destroy everything.”
Saul, however, had a better idea. Saul’s better idea included saving some of the sheep, the best of the sheep, and the best of the cattle for use with their sacrifices, instead of their own sheep and cattle. Oh, yes, he preserved alive the king of the Amalekites, Agag, by name.
God saw it and sent Samuel to him who said, “Saul, how did you do in your battle against Amalek?”
“Oh, we had great victory. We destroyed all of the people, but we did save the king.”
Samuel replied, “Saul, Saul, what meaneth the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the cattle in my ears? What am I hearing? You didn’t obey God. You didn’t believe him. You didn’t trust him. You saved out what you thought good that God called wicked. Because you, Saul, failed to believe and to trust God, you will no longer serve as the King of Israel. God will replace you with someone after his heart.”
Oh, we cannot take chances with God, my friends, because big gates swing on little hinges, both for good and for evil. By preserving this record for us, God warns us through the example of the children of Israel how doubt brings disobedience and disobedience brings defeat. Further, it brings decline and disaster from God.
Ah, but it also shows us the reward of faith and obedience, God’s presence with us. It, too, gives to us a picture of the Lord Jesus, the necessity of a Savior. We find it fulfilled in the birth and arrival of Christ, the Savior. He restored once again God’s glorious presence on the earth in human flesh as he originally designed it in creation.
God promised that all who come to faith and trust in Christ experience the reality of that living presence within them.
We can learn from the error of the children of Israel. We can heed the warning and remember on the one hand the disaster of doubt and disobedience. Ah, but on the other we can also gain comfort and encouragement from the effects of belief and obedience: God’s presence, God revealing himself to us and in our midst, collectively and individually.
How can the Spirit of God apply these truths in your life today? He can open your eyes to see that which is false and point out error and identify it to you. It looks so simple, so little, so insignificant. This little thing won’t hurt very much. Oh, yes it will. God wants total, absolute faith and obedience, not just part of the time or in some things.
We can also see displayed for us the truth, the effects of faith and obedience. The Spirit of God can take these truths and comfort us, encourage us to believe and to trust. He can also convict us and point out to us our failure to trust him and to believe him.
In the time of Jesus, some of the scribes and Pharisees came to him and said, “Show to us the works of God that we may do them.”
Do you know his answer? Very simple. “Have faith in God.” That describes the works of God. That tells us what he wants to see in your life and in my life. Have faith in God.
The Spirit of God can take these truths and he can make us uncomfortable and show to us those areas in our lives when we have failed to have faith in God. We can deny these truths or delay until another time our consideration of them.
Unfortunately, we do not have any promise of tomorrow. We must consider them today. We must turn in trust and faith upon Christ today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Don’t wait for a better day. We have no better day than today, because a better day will never come.
I pray that the Spirit of God will open your eyes to see these truths, to understand them, to see where you have failed, like the children of Israel, in something you thought very insignificant and yet God views as very significant. I pray that the Spirit of God will bring you to where you trust him completely, wholly.
Trust God's provision in Jesus Christ for people like you and like me, and find his faithfulness true in your life today.