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A little disobedience can prove devastating, Charles Sullivan says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The disobedience of an Old Testament character some 4,000 years ago is still having ramifications in today’s world, the executive director-treasurer of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary May 2.

Charles Sullivan, speaking on “unconquered areas of obedience,” said that Joshua’s disregard for God’s command had a ripple effect on history. God told Joshua to take all of the land of Israel, but Joshua failed to conquer three areas: Gaza, Gath and Ashdod.

“For some strange reason, Joshua had these three unconquered areas of obedience,” Sullivan said. “[But] before you look at Joshua with hard eyes, look at yourself very carefully. Not only was Joshua a person with unconquered areas of obedience, but many of us have unconquered areas of obedience. Our lives have little Gazas and little Gaths and little Ashdods that represent those areas where we’ve not surrendered our all to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Had Joshua conquered those three areas, Sullivan said, history might have been much different.

“It’s been 4,000 years since God said to Joshua, ‘Take all of the land,’ and he took all of it except Gaza, Gath and Ashdod,” he said. “But do you know that today, right in this hour, Israel is still suffering because of that unconquered area of obedience? Do you know where Gaza, Gath and Ashdod are located? They’re located in what we call today the West Bank. So it goes on, and it will keep going on.”

Sullivan said that Joshua’s failure — which is found in Joshua 11:21-23 — contributed to Samson’s downfall and David’s slaying of Goliath.

“What I want us to see is these three little tiny seeds of unconquered obedience fall into the ground, and as they spring forth they bring forth defeat and demoralization and defiance … to the heart of Israel,” he said.

Sullivan pointed out that Gaza is where Samson met a prostitute (Judges 16).

“He had the idea that he could sleep with whomever he wanted to sleep, that he could drink whenever he wanted to drink,” Sullivan said. “He had the strange idea that he could live in any way he wanted to live and still serve God. There are those today who claim to be the servants of God who have the strange idea that they can do anything that they want to do — and still serve God.”

Sullivan said that Samson wasn’t the only person responsible for his own destruction.

“You say, ‘Who was responsible for all of that?'” Sullivan asked. “Samson was responsible, but there was another who was responsible. It was a man by the name of Joshua. For God said unto Joshua, ‘Take all of the land.’ And he took all of the land — except Gaza and Gath and Ashdod.”

Sullivan skipped to 1 Samuel 17, where the story of David slaying Goliath is found. Goliath was from Gath.

“For 40 mornings and 40 nights that ugly brute stood out there and called across to the army of Israel, ‘Give me a man,'” Sullivan said. “There was a man in Israel who could have stood forth to meet that challenge. It was a man called King Saul. But King Saul couldn’t go out and meet that challenge because in his life there was an area of unconquered obedience. In his life there was a fear and a lack of faith in Almighty God.”

God used David to slay Goliath, but events may have been different had Joshua conquered Gath, Sullivan said.

“Thank God for little David, but none of that would have ever happened if there hadn’t been an unconquered area of obedience in King Saul,” he said. “That story would have never been written in the Word of God if it had not been for an unconquered area of obedience in the life of a man called Joshua.”

Sullivan said that Joshua’s disobedience affected two other Old Testament stories. One takes place in Nehemiah 13. Men from Judah married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab, and in return none of their children could speak the language of Judah.

Another takes place in 1 Samuel 5, when the Philistines capture the ark of God and take it to Ashdod, where they place it beside the temple of the god Dagon.

“When you have an unconquered area of obedience, it will take you down to defeat,” Sullivan said. “When you have an unconquered area of obedience, it will cause you to defy the living God. … [It] will cause you to defile what is sacred and holy in your life.”

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  • Michael Foust