“The Hedge Trimmer, the Hedge Thinner, and the Hedge Eliminator”
by Brother Austin Marriott
Austin Marriott is the assistant pastor and youth director at First Baptist Church in Dwight, Illinois, and also works on the staff of Bible Tracts, Inc.
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:6-12)
As we look through scripture, we see that God describes a hedge, and how it is a type of protection, a wall of protection that God places around individuals. We see here with Job that God had placed a hedge of protection around him, and Satan brings that point to the forefront. He says, “Well yeah, he is doing good and he is a great man, and everything is going well for him because you have protected him with this hedge.”
Pastor Anglea teaches a message many of you probably have heard, talking about staying inside the hedge for young people. I heard it as a young person at teen camp and youth conference, and it greatly impacted my life. As a youth pastor, I had heard him preach it at camp a couple of times. The last time I heard him preach it, this thought came to my mind. I am not here to preach Pastor Anglea’s message, but I want to lay a little bit of the groundwork, kind of give you the premise of his message, so that we can jump into the thought that God gave me. This has helped me, and challenged and convicted me, and hopefully it will be an important message for you, as well.
In his message, he talks about staying in the hedge. He challenges young people that God has placed a hedge about your life. He makes such a vivid illustration, and he talks about hunting. If you are a bow hunter at all, you know that when you are in your stand that you need a shooting lane that’s open. That animal, whether it be a deer, or whatever it is that you are hunting, if they are in the hedge and if they are behind a thicket, you have no shot. You cannot make a clean shot and take that animal’s life; not until that animal steps out from behind the hedge or steps outside of the hedge into the open and into the shooting lane can he then take that animal’s life. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16)
God talks about some of Satan’s wiles that he uses as a fiery dart, as an arrow that pierces through and can take someone out. He challenges young people and takes an illustration of a young person like a Weston Colvin, and for sake of time we are not going to play this illustration out, but he takes Weston and puts him in the middle, and he gets up his youth pastor, his preacher, his dad and mom, his school administrator, and all these individuals and they surround Weston, as the hedge protecting him. The authorities that God has placed in his life.
The challenge is for young people is to stay in that hedge. God has given you that protection. Stay in the hedge. Don’t step out of the hedge, because the moment that you step out, Satan’s fiery darts are going to pierce you. You are going to give him a clear shot to take you out. But that is not the point of this message to you today. The point of the message that we will look into today is more about the hedge trimmer, the thinner, and the eliminator.
When that hunter is hunting, and I have done this many times with my dad as we would go out and help Brother Gomez set up tree stands. He would scout out the land, look at the rubs, he would look at the trails, and he would look at where he wanted to go, and then he would set up a stand in the most likely place where he would get a shot at the deer. He would climb up a stand once it was secured, sit up there and he would tell my dad and me, “Hey, I want you to cut this branch, trim this here a little bit. I am creating my shooting lanes so that when the deer come, I have an open lane when the target steps out that I can shoot at. I want you to trim this and cut this and pull that root out. Eliminate it. I want to create a shooting lane so that I can take out my target.” Hunters take their time, and they wait. They are very patient. I have heard Brother Gomez tell many times how he would come to full draw and then the deer would step out of his shooting lane, and he would have to stand there for some times many minutes, holding it full draw, because he has got to wait for him to step out into the open. That opening was made by trimming and thinning, and sometimes eliminating what was in the way of the shot.
Satan is out to destroy and devour every young person who is saved and wants to live for God. “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9) Satan is on the hunt, waiting for you to step outside that protection where he has a clear shot to take you out. He doesn’t want God to use your life, he wants to destroy you before you ever get to the point of serving God, and every day that you do. God has given you a hedge or wall of protection, but sometimes we can damage and destroy it.
Today, I want to look at when we trim the hedge, or when we thin the hedge, or when we eliminate the hedge. Look at the Hedge Trimmer. “Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.” (Psalm 89:40) “Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?” (Psalm 80:12) A hedge trimmer is the person who trims authorities when they cut them down. They cut down an area of a young person’s life. They are where they need to be, but when authorities in their life don’t keep a unified front, there becomes holes and gaps in that hedge. That hedge gets trimmed a little bit here and there. I have heard stories, and this blows my mind if this is true, about when a Sunday school teacher teaches something that the preacher doesn’t agree with, or tells their students that they disagree with what the pastor believes and preaches. You are trimming the hedge that God put around that young person’s life! When the youth pastor decides to do his own thing, against the leadership of the pastor. You are trimming the hedge in that young person’s life. When that school administrator doesn’t follow the preacher’s vision, you begin to trim the hedge of protection in that person’s life.
How about when mom and dad go home on Sunday and you say, “Hey, the preacher preached a good message, but….. you don’t have to... I don’t think it’s so important...” Careful! You are trimming the hedge that is protecting that young person’s life. If you are not careful, the result could be that young person is going to get taken out by the devil.
Satan is going to find out, and Satan is a good hunter. The Bible describes him as a lion. He is going to stalk his prey. He is going to look for that perfect opening where he can take his shot. If we are not careful, leaders, he can take out that young person because the hedge was trimmed. We may face God someday with that kind of responsibility for destruction in the life of someone God called us to protect.
The hedge thinner is the individual that is part of the hedge, but they remove themselves from the hedge, and it is sad to say that we have a lot of men, young and old alike, who are supposed to be part of the hedge, but because of their selfish choices that they have made on their own, they have to remove themselves from that hedge. They are no longer in the place that God has for them, or the hedge of protection that God had placed them in where He wanted to protect that individual, they can’t be there anymore because they made a selfish, sinful choice.
You know, we preach to good people all the time that hey, God gave you a free will, and He did, and you can make the choices that you want to make and you can. But you cannot choose the consequences of those choices, and preacher, teacher, school administrator, youth director, and parents in this room, you also have a free will to choose, but you do not get to choose the consequences of the choices that you make. Many times and sad to see, there are men that once could have been here but now can’t be because of the wrong choice that they made, and now for those young people, that hedge is getting thin. The hedge that should have been thick and strong, that should have been protecting that young man or young lady is getting thin, because of the hedge thinner.
In this day and age, I believe that a vast majority of society’s problems stem not only from people being unsaved but from fatherless homes. There is no dad there to help, to lead, to set an example, to provide discipline and teaching. There is no dad there to stand in the gap where he is supposed to be part of the hedge that God intended for him to be a part of to protect his child, and he is not there. Young man, you have got to have a purpose in your heart that, that is not going to be you. I don’t care what background or family history you came from, and if you are in a home with a single parent, you better respect your mom, but don’t make that an excuse for doing wrong and passing on the heartache to another generation, saying,“Well, that is how I lived,” because that is one of the true pandemics in America, fatherlessness.
Young men often think that they can do whatever they want and there is no consequence to what they do, and that is the farthest thing from the truth. That young man and that young lady, that child that you bring into this world that God ordained for you to have and be a part of their protective hedge, but you are gone, and you have thinned it. You have made that child more vulnerable to Satan’s attack, by not being present and doing your job in their life. The hedge is not where it is supposed to be.
Think about David and Absalom. David, his sinful actions and choices that he made drove Absalom to his sin and rebellion. Remember, when they told him what Amnon had done to his sister, he wanted justice to be done, and David refused and didn’t do anything. Absalom took it into his own hands and had Amnon killed and Absalom suffered the wrong of his sin, but he was bitter because of the choices that his dad made. Now, I’m not giving Absalom an excuse for his wrong. He has the freedom and the free will to choose right and wrong, and don’t you dare, young man, take this message and think, “I am the way I am because of what happened to my hedge, so I have a good excuse to do wrong.”
No, you still have a choice! You still have a choice to do right! You still have a choice to stand! I can tell you story after story after story of young men and of youth pastors and evangelists that had everything stacked against them, and they could have said, “I had no hedge at all” yet, they still survived and God used and blessed them. They are still standing strong and they are in the hedge that they are supposed to be in, so don’t use this message as an excuse, saying “That’s just the way it is.” No, it is not. You have a choice just as much as that person has.
Absalom could have easily been the next King of Israel, but David and the influence that he had on him, he made those wrong choices. Leader, be in your place. Stand for truth and right. Don’t waver. Don’t get caught up with the allures of this world. Don’t ever think it’s not important that you do right, right now. You are someone’s hedge, and they are depending on you, so stop being so selfish and self-centered, and thinking that you can do whatever you want, and I am the only one that it is going to affect.
No! There are countless individuals that you should be a part of their hedge and you are removing yourself from it. You are thinning it. Preachers stand strong. Youth pastors stand strong. Sunday school teacher stand strong. Moms and dads, stand strong! Stand where you are supposed to be. Don’t thin the hedge. Stay in your place.
Men, stay close to your wife. This world wants nothing more than to see Christian families and churches torn apart with immorality, and we are seeing it in exponential form in these last several months. It is absolutely insane how vile and wicked this world is, and they want nothing more than to prove you wrong and see you fall into Satan’s trap. They want to prove the lie as truth that we are no different than them, but I am sorry, the Bible says we are to be different. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness.” (I Peter 2:9)
What happens when these holes are created in the protective hedge? What happens when a young person’s protection from the attack of Satan is trimmed or thinned.
First, it creates confusion. You know, there are a lot of young people that are inside the hedge that really want to serve and please God. They have a desire to serve God, but the authorities in their hedge are creating confusion because Preacher says this from the pulpit, but then they get home and mom and dad don’t do any of that. The authorities that God has placed in that hedge are creating confusion for that young person to where they don’t know for sure what is right or wrong. They are so confused because no one is on the same page.
Young person, if you are in that hedge of God’s protection and you face confusion, I would recommend one thing, go to God’s word! Go to God’s word because it will never change. We as humans, we can falter. We can fail because we are not perfect. Many leaders would stand up here and say the same thing. We can do the best that we can, but we are not perfect, and we are going to make mistakes. If you put your faith and trust in a man, he is going to fail you, but if you put your faith and trust in God, He will never fail you. He is the same as yesterday, today, and forever! You can go to that Book, and you can see which person in the protective hedge is teaching you right.
God said in His word that He is not the author of confusion. So, if He is not the author, who is? Satan! He is trying to confuse you. He is trying to get you to step outside of that hedge so he can take his shot. He is trying to lure you away from your protection. Don’t let him lure you. Don’t let him do it. Don’t let him create that confusion.
Also, it creates opportunities. Coaches, how many times during your week of football camp do you try to teach your kids that when you get the ball and when you see the hole, hit the hole! You have to go over this time and time again. You’d think it would be common sense, but it is not! Hit the hole. Don’t go where there are ten guys, go where there is no one.
In the hedge, that is what has happened. When we fail them, when we go against the pastor, we have created a hole in that kid’s protection that they may go out. They slip out of that hole that has been created because we trimmed or thinned the hedge. They will take that path of least resistance, but not only that, but when you trim it, it creates that shooting lane for Satan. Satan will attack. He is a prowler, a stalker. He is looking for that opportunity to strike.
Lastly, the hedge eliminator. The hedge eliminator. Brother Mick, can you come up here and pick one of your young men from your youth department. Joe, come up and stand over there. Brother Mick and I grew up together. We were in the same youth group, we went to the same camps, and I can guarantee you that you probably saw the same message that Brother Anglea preached about the hedge.
Brother Mick had a protective hedge. He had his dad, Brother Hall, his mom, Mrs. Cindy Hall, Brother Jay Reed, our youth pastor, Brother Steve Szwarga for a time was our youth pastor, Pastor Gomez, and different Sunday school teachers. All these individuals were his hedge, and they protected him and he made the right choices, but was he perfect? No. (I can tell you the stories later.) No, he wasn’t perfect, but he made the right choices.
Imagine with me if you will that someone in that hedge caused it to be trimmed. Someone in that hedge thinned it, and that hole was created, so he steps out of the hedge through the hole and Satan takes him out. Because that individual trimmed and thinned, the devil won. God’s plan for Mick was to be inside this hedge. That is the God that we serve. God can think beyond what we can think. He can plan and put together a masterpiece of a plan that none of us can comprehend, and he is supposed to be in this hedge, but because this person trimmed, this person sinned, Satan took him out.
Now, this hedge is eliminated. This hedge isn’t there. The hedge that is supposed to be there to protect this next generation is gone, eliminated, because of someone trimming, someone thinning, and because of bad choices he made. You see, it is not just the trimming, the thinning, it is also the choice.
He has a choice to make, and young man, you have a choice to make. You may have a hedge that is a little trimmed, and you may have a hedge where there is thinning going on. Maybe some leaders and authorities have failed you or disappointed you. But you still have the opportunity to choose to do what’s right and stay inside God’s hedge of protection and not fail the next generation. You can still choose to stay in there. You can still choose to stay close to God and stay close to His word, because there is a hedge that God has for you. He wants you to stand and stay inside and stay protected from the devil’s plan to destroy you, just like it says in Ezekiel 22.
There is a gap that is for you to fill in the next generation’s life, in their protection. Where are you going to be? Are you going to be where you are supposed to be? Are you going to be in the hedge where you are supposed to be? Or are you going to be eliminated because you use the excuse that someone trimmed or someone thinned, somebody chose to do wrong, so I am going to take a step out, and Satan is going to take you out, young men.
Not just the young men, but what about us, leaders? Pastors, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, evangelists, we are in that hedge. What choices are we making in our life? We preach to young men to make the right choices, but how about us? We need to make the right choices, too. We don’t need to trim the hedge. We don’t need to thin the hedge. We need to be where God has commanded us to be and stand strong where we are, because if we are not careful, we are going to eliminate the next person’s hedge.
In Sunday School, when I was in 7th and 8th grade, I first heard a principle that has resounded in my mind for years. Have you ever been to a lake or pond, and almost at dusk when it literally looks like glass and you can see the perfect reflection, as a little kid, what do you want to do? You find a rock, and throw it in the pond. When that stone hits the water, it breaks the glass, and a ripple is formed. That ripple will continue on and on until something stops it.
Friend, the choice that you make, whether you are going to trim, thin, or take the opportunity of the hole and step outside God’s will, there is a ripple effect to that choice. For some of us, we may never see the entire ripple effect until we get to eternity someday. I am not saying that this is exactly what is going to happen, but I guarantee for some that they are going to stand there, and watch someone be bound hand and foot and be cast into the lake of fire, and I was supposed to be their hedge. I was supposed to be there for them with the Gospel, but I wasn’t because of the stupid choice that I made. Blood will be on your hands because of the choice you made, because you trimmed a hedge, you thinned a hedge. Others of us will see who went astray and was destroyed because of our wrong choice or bad example. It’s so heavy to think of facing our influence at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
So how do we keep the hedge maintained? How do we make sure that we are not the cause of young people being taken out because of the fiery darts of the wicked? We must always look to the One who has the answers. Stay close to that Book. You won’t go wrong following God’s word. There is a sign out in front of our church, and it has been there for years. Many of you have seen it. It says, “The preachers, the teachers, and the parents all pull me in the same direction.” If we can maintain a unified front, not just act, but actually believe what our preacher says because he preaches from God’s word, we can stand strong, and we have a unified front because we are all in harmony, focused on God’s word and on Christ. As we all draw closer to Him and getting closer together, then we become that unified, strong hedge of protection that we need to be, and the hedge will remain what it needs to be for their protection. There won’t be any thinning going on, and as a result of that there won’t be eliminating going on.
The choices you make don’t just affect you, and they don’t just affect that person that you are protecting. You have no idea whose hedge that person is supposed to be a part of, and you may be affecting someone that you may never even meet because of the choices that you make. Young people, it is your choice to stay in the hedge. You step out of it, and it is a sure recipe for disaster, but authorities that are in here, your young people’s lives are at stake. Don’t trim it! Don’t eliminate it! Don’t think you know better. No, you don’t. Follow God’s word and get in the Bible, and as you get in this Book you will begin to realize, preacher you and I may not agree on every little thing, but that’s okay. I can respect that he is the man of God that the Lord has chosen for this ministry and these people. God has put him where he needs to be, and God has placed me where I am supposed to be, and I am supposed to follow him. That is my calling in life to be the assistant pastor and help that I can be to him, and if I can’t handle that, that is on me, because I am not yielding to God’s word like I am supposed to according to what God has said.
Leaders, we need to have that unity and harmony. We need to not trim the hedge. We need to not thin the hedge. Don’t make a wrong choice and think it’s no big deal. Today, we see left and right people leaving the ministry that they are supposed to be in the hedge that’s protecting a lot of people, and they are leaving and thinning the hedge because of a stupid selfish choice that they made on their own. For whatever reason it may be, it is selfish and stupid, and you are thinking only of yourself.
Don’t thin the hedge. Don’t create opportunities for Satan to attack, and God forbid, do not be the hedge eliminator. You have no idea who it might be, and the ripple effect that is going to take place, and those young people are going to be taken from us because of your choice.
It’s a warning for us all, young people and leaders, too. God provides a hedge of protection to prevent the devil from having access to our lives. Don’t be the hedge trimmer, the hedge thinner, or the hedge eliminator in somebody else’s life.