Big gates swing on little hinges. You knew that, didn’t you? If you look at a door, you can see along the side usually three hinges, not that big. If you took all of them collectively in contrast to the size of the door, you would find that those hinges comprise a very small part of the size of the door, and especially the weight of the door. Big gates swing on little hinges.
Some of us who have a farm background recognize that, don’t we? The big gates of the farm fences have small hinges, sometimes only two hinges on them, secured to a post and a long, large gate swings on them.
I didn’t bring up this topic just to give a description of door hardware or farm gates. It also describes life, doesn’t it? Big gates swing on little hinges. You can think back in your lives to times when what seemed like a small decision, a small occurrence in life, a small business transaction had significant impact upon you life. Sometimes for good, sometimes not so good.
Little things can have big consequences. The history of Israel reveals it. In Israel’s history, little decisions had long lasting severe consequences upon the nation. When they first came into the Promised Land, God walked with them. They conquered their enemies, and they took over the land.
The Israelites saw God work, and they saw him perform miraculous deeds on their behalf. They had seen in Egypt how God protected them from the plagues that he brought upon the Egyptians. Then they observed his power as he took them across the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and brought them into the Promised Land.
After the initial conquest of the Promised Land, Judges one verses one and two say that Joshua died at 110 years old, not too unexpected. Joshua died, and the people of Israel inquired of the Lord.
“Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.”
They had no replacement for Joshua. When Moses died, God identified Joshua to take his place. Joshua led them into the Promised Land and through many victorious battles. Then it came time for Joshua to die. We don’t see anyone assuming the leadership position after Joshua. But the people had learned by observation and experience to call upon the Lord. They had observed it with Moses and Joshua.
So, they inquired of the Lord. “Lord, what do we do? Joshua our leader is gone. We have no one to take his place. What shall we do?”
And God said to them, “Judah will lead you.”
Now that didn’t refer to one man, Judah. The tribe of Judah, the children of Israel who came from the genealogy of Judah the son of Jacob, his children, his offspring, would lead them into battle. The next several verses in Judges 1 describe how the Lord aided Israel.
They encountered 10 battles and won all 10 of them, because of the Lord’s presence with them. God helped them, granting them victory after victory as he had promised Moses and Joshua. After all, God had promised the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before them. God had told them that he would give the land to them and to their seed.
To Moses and Joshua he promised that wherever their feet would trod, he would give that land to them. They had 10 battles and 10 victories. They knew again the presence of God with them, God helping them, God granting them victory as he had promised.
After the death of Joshua, they experienced again the promise of God on their behalf, granting them victory after victory after victory. They saw God work, they trusted God, and they believed him. They obeyed him, and God proved to them his faithfulness to his promise. By his grace, His power and omnipotence overcame the enemies that they faced.
These battles also describe God's justice against sin. He had said that he would drive out the Canaanites and the other occupants in this land and said why he would drive them out. He didn’t drive them out because of some ethnic cleansing as some in our day describe it.
No, he brought Israel into the land to drive them out because of their sin and their rebellion against God. They refused to bow and to worship before God the creator. Israel’s victories revealed God’s justice displayed as the children of Israel overcame the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.
Of the 10 battle victories, Israel could claim only partial victory in one of them. The Bible recorded it in this fashion:
“And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.” (Judges 1.19)
What? You mean God couldn’t overcome chariots of iron? Had God met his match and could not drive away chariots of iron? Could he only defeat individuals who simply had helmets, shields, and spears, but he couldn’t drive out the chariots of iron?
God had told the children of Israel through Joshua their former leader in Joshua chapter 17 verse number 18:
“When you come down from the mountains to encounter those in the plains, don’t be afraid. God will enable you to destroy the chariots of iron.”
What happened? How come they could not defeat the chariots of iron? They didn’t believe God. They failed to trust him. All throughout their battles they had trusted God to provide for them the victory. As they trusted God to defeat their enemies, God enabled to overcome them.
When they encountered the chariots of iron, they failed to believe God and to trust him to defeat even the chariots of iron, a seemingly impossible foe.
After all, they had seen the walls of Jericho fall. They had seen God work on their behalf on numerous battles and occasions previously. Chariots of iron presented no problem to God. They just failed to believe him.
Big gates swing on little hinges. The rest of this first chapter and the rest of the book of Judges describes the severe consequences that Israel suffered because they failed to believe God.