Sometimes we think we're following God, but we still seem to harbor one or two little areas of rebellion in our lives--- one or two little areas that we have never submitted to the
Lord's control. And we ask ourselves, "What difference does it make? One or two little things won't matter."
The Bible shows us very clearly that any little area of rebellion we harbor will grow,
and will ultimately bring us defeat, defiance, and defilement.
Long ago, God had told Moses that when they conquered a land, they were to UTTERLY
DESTROY them, showing no mercy.(Deut. 7:2) The Bible tells us that after the death of Moses, God empowered Joshua to rise up as a leader of the Israelites. God gave him the power to do this, and promised him that no
enemy would ever be able to stand against him. (Joshua 1:5; Josh. 10:8)
Joshua obeyed God completely, and God gave the Israelites victory in Jericho. The Bible
says: "they UTTERLY DESTROYED all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." (Joshua 6:21) That was what the Lord told
Moses, and that's what He told Joshua: UTTERLY DESTROY all the pagans and their strongholds. God was pleased when Joshua did exactly as he was commanded. (Joshua 6:27)
After such a resounding victory, you'd think the children of Israel would be convinced to always do just exactly what God commanded, wouldn't you? But in the very next chapter, we read where
a man named Achan disobeyed God, and brought down the wrath of God on the entire nation.
Because of Achan's sin, God told Joshua that He would no longer be with them in battle.
(Joshua 7:10,11) God is very serious about this obedience thing: the sin of a single member pollutes the whole body, and brings it under God's displeasure. Sins known only to
those who commit them and to God may bring calamities upon a whole nation, and bring many to death and destruction. What does one little area of rebellion matter? It matters a lot
to the pure and holy Almighty God.
After all this, if there was any man on earth who knew the importance of obeying God
completely, it was Joshua. He did exactly as God had commanded. (11:15) as a result, he waged war against all these pagan nations for a long time,
finally conquering them all......
except....... The Bible tells us: "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." (Joshua 11:22).
Just three little tiny areas of rebellion remained. They weren't even in the Israelite territory, so how important could they be? Surely it
didn't mean very much; after all, the
Bible then tells us: "And the land rested from war." (Joshua 11:23) Oh, if only the story had just ended there!
Joshua must have thought these three little unconquered areas were of little or no importance; they were inconsequential. But we will see that those
three little areas of rebellion grew to defile, defy, and defeat the nation of Israel. This is a very important lesson to us today: Unconquered areas of sin
and rebellion will bring us to defeat, defiance, and defilement, just as these three little areas did to the Israelites.
The first of these seemingly inconsequential areas of rebellion was Gaza. The name Gaza
means "strong place". Look first in Judges chapter 16. We know Samson was God's strong man. Here was a man committed to God, but he wanted to follow God his own way. He mistakenly thought
he go go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted without consequence. Does that sound like anyone you know?
We read where this strong man of God went in to a harlot, and committed sin with her. (Judges 16:1) Samson's one little area of
unconquered sin was not a little thing in the
sight of the Almighty God. Gaza became a place of defeat for Samson, because he had unconquered sin in his life. In fact, the Bible tells us that Samson didn't even realize
that the Spirit of God had departed from him. (16:20) Samsom lost his strength, his sight, and even his life, due to a small area of rebellion. Samson's defeat took place in Gaza.
Who was responsible for the defeat of God's strong man? Well, Samson was himself responsible, of course. But a contributing factor was that Joshua had not done what
God had said: he had not utterly destroyed these three small areas of rebellion in this land God had given the nation of Israel.
Gath was the second little area of rebellion mentioned. Turn to I Samuel 17. We see that now a giant named Goliath is threatening the nation of Israel. And guess where Goliath came
from? That's right. He came from one of those seemingly inconsequential little areas of unconquered sin and rebellion; he came from Gath. He stood and contemptuously defied the
armies of Israel, (17:10) causing them great fear and dismay. (17:11; 17:24)
Goliath continued to defy the Israelites morning and evening for forty days. (17:16) Saul,
the king of Israel, was afraid to go up against this giant from Gath. He had unconquered areas of sin in his own life. He had lost his trust in God, and was afraid. (17:11) David's
brothers were mighty warriors. They also refused to go up against this giant. They also had areas of sin and rebellion in their lives.
David, however, had a clearer view of this giant. He wasn't afraid to stand against Goliath, for he already knew what the Almighty God could do. God had already given him
strength to kill a lion and a bear with his bare hands. (17:34-37) He knew God could give him victory over this giant as well. King Saul told David that the giant was so much bigger
and stronger than him; David knew that the giant was so much smaller and weaker than God.
Of course, when we read the rest of the story, we see that God did indeed deliver Goliath
into David's hands. With one small rock fired from his sling, David knocked the giant out. He then proceeded to take Goliath's own sword and behead him. David knew that the
battle is the Lord's, and that God could give victory over any giant. (17:45-47)
It is interesting that David chose five small stones to complete his task. Why five
stones? We could logically suppose that they were backups, in case he missed, or reinforcements, to finish the job. But that isn't why David chose five stones. The answer
can be found in II Samuel 21:22. The Bible tells us that Goliath had four brothers. If Goliath's four brothers would have entered the fight, David was prepared. He had a stone
for each of them. God never send us into battle unprepared. When He sends, He also provides.
Who was responsible for the defiance Golaith showed to the nation of Israel, so that they all
cringed in fear and dismay? Well, King Saul was responsible, for one. David's brothers and the other warriors with Saul might also have been responsible. They all had little areas of
unconquered sin and rebellion in their lives. But again, Joshua also has to share in the blame, because all those years ago, he had left those three little areas of unconquered rebellion
- Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.
Now let's look at I Samuel, chapter 4. We see a terrible time in the history of Israel.
Eli was the high priest of Israel at that time, but he was a lazy and careless man. He did not train his two sons, Phineas and Hophni, as a father should. He knew they were doing
sinful things, and yet he was unwilling to rebuke them for their ungodliness. (I Sam.2:22) As a result, God told Eli about the punishment that would come to his house.
(I Sam. 2:31-34; I Sam. 3:13)
The Philistines waged war against the nation of Israel, and things were going badly for
the Israelites. In their arrogance, they thought to bring the sacred Ark of the Covenant into battle with them, certain that the Lord would give them victory of the Ark was there.
Phineas and Hophni were there with the Ark, in direct defiance of God's commands regarding it.
The Israelites were so arrogant now that they had the Ark in their camp. And the
Philistines were afraid, at least at first. But it wasn't long until Israel suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Philistines. Thirty thousand Israelites died, and the
two sons of Eli were slain, just as God had said they would be. (I Sam. 4:11; also refer to I Sam. 2:34) But that was not the worst of it. The Philistines stole the Ark of the Lord.
As we mentioned earlier, God is very serious about obedience. The failure of these two sons of Eli to do as the Lord had commanded them led to their defeat. It brought about their own
deaths, and the deaths of 30,000 of their soldiers. But there was still more. When Eli heard what had happened, and that the Ark had been taken, he fell over backwards, broke his
neck, and died. Then, when the pregnant wife of Phineas heard of these terrible events, she went into labor. She gave birth to a son, whom she named Ichabod, which means
"the glory of the Lord has departed"; then she also died.
The Philistines took the Ark to a place called Ashdod. Remember Ashdod? One of those small
areas of rebellion that Joshua had left, all years years ago? They defiled the Ark of the Covenant by placing it in a pagan temple with a pagan god. The Holy Ark of the Lord,
in a pagan temple. No wonder God was angry!
We see once again where small areas of unconquered sin lead to defeat, defilement,
defiance, death, and destruction. How important is it to have one or two small areas of unconquered sin in our lives? It is extemely important to God.
Who was responsible for all this death and destruction? Phineas, Hophni, and Eli were certainly partly to blame for the defilement of the Ark of the Lord and the deaths
of the Israelite army. The Philistines were also partly responsible, of course. But Joshua was partly responsible, as well, for he had not utterly conquered these three little areas
of rebellion all those years ago.
We read in the question of the prophet Nehemiah: "Why is the house of God forsaken?"
(Neh. 13:11) We sometimes ask this same question today: why are our homes forsaken; defiled, defeated, and destroyed? Could it be some small areas of unconquered sin in our own lives?
Could it be our own disobedience?
Had Joshua been able to see what would eventually take place in each one of these three
small areas, you can be sure he would have gone back, right then, and conquered them. Often when we begin to see the results of our own unconquered areas, we wish we could go back and
conquer them. Our disobedience, like Joshua's, can have far reaching consequenses.
Joshua's failure to conquer all of these areas happened over four thousand years ago,
but the consequences continue to this day. These same three cities, Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod, form part of the West Bank today. They are still dedicated to bringing defeat, defilement,
death, and destruction to the nation of Israel to this day.
What difference does a small area of unconquered sin make? Four thousand years later, we
are still seeing the results. How imperative it is that we surrender every single area of our life to obedience of God's divine will; how imperative that we harbor no areas of
unconquered rebellion. The consequences may be much more than we would ever dream possible, and last much longer than we could ever imagine.