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The Danger of Incomplete Obedience
by Alon Ronk
For the Born Again child of God, we know that ultimately we have the final victory in Jesus our Lord. However, we have also had our share of defeats in our everyday battles of life. These defeats usually result from disobedience. But what we may not be aware of is that many times troubles are a result of a past defeat that we may have already forgotten about. So the point that I'm making is this: We must recognize that our disobedience to God and His word today may soon be forgotten when we do not immediately experience the consequences thereof. But consider what unseen trouble may be lurking around the corner. This is why Today is always the most important day of our lives.
Joshua, the successor of Moses, was a great military leader; one very much in tune to the will of God. However, we can learn what his incomplete obedience brought on the people of Israel at a much later time and learn a great lesson for us in our time.
Let's turn to Joshua chapter 11, verse 16 through 22. " So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same; Even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses. And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mou ntains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war. "
Several things to notice about Joshua's military campaign which can also be applied to us in our spiritual battles are, first, the battle is not won without a fight. There are no easy victories. Satan ( I use the term in this instance generically for the forces of evil ) would like to take the fight out of you. Stop resisting sin and take the easy way out. Or compromise with sin to the point where you strike a happy balance between self and the Spirit. But there is no victory in that because, number two, the enemy was persistent. In other words, they would not back down. Therefore, Israel could not make peace with them. Notice the words in our opening text, " There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel." How then can we make peace with those things in our lives that are an affront to God? But as I said before, the battle is not easy because, number three, our enemies are strong. It took awhilw to defeat them. It also took strong will and determination. Notice thes e words in our opening text, " Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." This indicates that the enemy was putting up a good fight. But the battle was the Lord's and it was His will to defeat them in battle in verse 20. You see, the enemy stood between Israel and her place of blessing in the promised land. Nevertheless, Joshua did win a great victory. How did he win? Basically, through obedience to God's Word, through the power of God's might, through trust in God's faithfulness, and through patience in God's timing.
There is, however, an important detail in this passage of scripture that is easy to overlook. Basically, our attention is captured by the words, "So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war; " and that is the final conclusion we come to before we read on. But the Bible includes the following detail for a reason; " There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained ". Why does the Bible tell us this? We will look at these three cities of the Phillistines that Joshua left standing and see what becomes of them.
The first city we will look at is Gaza. It is in this city that the tragic events in the life of Samson occurred. Judges 16:18-31 recounts the events. " And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven. Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years. "
Several things to notice about Samson, in vs.21 he lost his sight. In vs.28 he lost his strength. In vs.30 he lost his joy. And sadly at the end he lost his life. Turning your eyes away from Jesus can cause a tremendous spiritual landslide in your life. But what if Joshua had destroyed Gaza back in Jos.11? It may very well have turned out differently for Samson.
The next city to note was Gath. It was from this town that Goliath came from. The story is told in 1 Samuel 17:4-11. " And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be o ur servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid."
Goliath was definitely a huge warrior at over 9 feet tall. This one man came out to challenge Israel. Three things that Goliath had done in his challenging of Israel was, one, to defy Israel in vs.10. Defy, means to dare, challenge, or resist boldly. Number two, in vs.11 Goliath dismayed Israel. This means he had discouraged them to the point of making them afraid of him and his challenge and they did not know what to do about it. Number three, in vs.26, and it took great spiritual insight on behalf of David to tealize it, while all Israel was taking the situation personally David realized that ultimately Goliath, as he reproached Israel, was actually defying the armies of the Living God. Joshua had left the the Anakim in Gath instead of destroying them as God had said. And that was already setting the stage for this major showdown and humiliation of the people of Israel as well as Goliath's challenge to the honor of God.
The third city Joshua left standing was Ashdod. Nehemiah records how the presence of Ashdod in the life of Israel presented some serious spiritual challenges. Neh.13:23-27, " In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? "
Although Ammon and Moab are also mentioned, Ashdod is mentioned first and I want to stick to the cities Joshua left standing. So we focus in on Ashdod. We see that Israel had begun to intermarry with the women of Ashdod. This was strictly forbidden in the Torah. Deuteronomy 7:1-6 says, " When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will t he anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."
The Torah also spelled out, why, Israel was prohibited from intermarrying with other people. And it happened just as God warned it would. It affected Israel in at least four ways. It affected their speech in vs.24. It affected their faith in vs.26. It affected their behaviour in vs.27. And it affected their consecration in vs.28-30.
To summarize the three cities that Joshuah left standing, Gaza could be called, the place of defeat. Gath could be called, the place of defiance. And Ashdod could be called, the place of defilement. There are significant spiritual lessons that we can learn from this.
The Gazas, Gaths, and Ashdods in your life do not have to be literal cities. They could be a look like the story of David and Bathsheba began, or a magazine, or a place, or a person or group of people, or any number of things. Whatever it is that can lead you down a wrong path is an enemy with which you can not make peace with. You must decide to resist the pull before it pulls you down. Yes, it might take some time but it is God's will for you to be victorious. Ephesians 6:10-18, " Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." And 1 Corinthians 10:3-5," For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
What about these three cities and the events of today? It is interesting that these three cities were three of the five principle cities of Israel's ancient enemy the Phillistines. When the Romans drove the Jewish people out of Jerusalem and Israel in 135 A.D; they renamed the Holy Land, Palestine, for the Phillistines. Gaza, by the way, is an area of Israel that the Palestinian Arabs are trying to claim for themselves. It's the name for a strip of land along the Mediterranean sea coast that is under Palestinian control. Moses and Joshua was was told by God not to make a league with them. Somehow the Israeli government thought they knew more about it than God and because of decisions they made, not the least of which is the Oslo agreement (fiasco), are now fighting street battles with the Palestinians every day. Palestinian terroism is an everyday occurence. Israel keeps talking and the Palestinians keep murdering.
Therefore, let us also be mindful of what we allow ourselves today. Tomorrow is coming and we don't need any regets.