Summary: May we use the failures of Gaza, Ashdod, and Gath to motivate us to follow through on our commitments to God.
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If you have ever tried to master an athletic skill, you know that follow-through is crucial. Follow-through is extremely important in basketball, baseball, football, tennis, racquetball, golf, bowling, and many other sports. Not only is follow-through important in sports, but it is also imperative in a person’s spiritual life. It is one thing to begin to apply the principles for victory in the Christian life and another to follow through to complete victory.
Centuries ago, the principle of follow-through became critically important to the whole nation of Israel. Joshua failed to follow through and bring Israel into full victory. As a result, disastrous things happened. The same lesson is true for us today. If we do not learn to follow through in correcting certain areas of our lives, we will experience defeat in the future as well.
Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel. Moses had led the people from Egyptian bondage, through the wilderness, and up to the brink of the Jordan River. However, God did not permit Moses to enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience. God did allow him to stand on Mount Nebo and look across the Jordan and into the Promised Land, but Joshua took on the responsibility to take Israel over the Jordan River and into Canaan. When commissioned by God, Joshua was given a twofold plan for the possession of the land (Joshua 1).
1. God gave him a promise.
2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.”
God emphasized that Joshua should take every inch of the land because he was given the power to do so. Because of this, Joshua went from battle to battle defeating his enemies. He nearly defeated all of his enemies.
3. God gave him the power to prevail.
5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”
God gave Joshua a promise and the power to fulfill that promise. We need to learn that where there is vision, there is provision. In other words, God said, “Everywhere you go, I have already given you victory.” What a promise! The same promises He gave to His children then can be realized and actualized in our personal lives today. The same power at their disposal is available for our battles as well.
Joshua 11:16-23 at first appears to be a glowing account of full victory. It seems the Israelites would live happily ever after, but that is not the end of the story. Joshua failed to follow through for total victory. Do you remember who the Anakims were? When the twelve spies first went into the Promised Land (Numbers 13), they reported to Moses: 33“We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” They were referring to the Anakims.
The problem for many Christians today is we achieve victory in all but a few areas of our lives, and we are content with that. In this chapter, we will look at Gaza, Ashdod, and Gath. Some terrible events happened in each city because Joshua did not follow through. There are three battles we cannot afford to lose. These battles become illustrations of God’s plans and purposes for our lives about following through. Christians can follow through on commitments by learning from the events that took place later in Gaza, Ashdod, and Gath.
GAZA, THE PLACE OF DEFEAT
In Judges 14-16, we see Samson who was undoubtedly the strongest man ever to have lived. Entire armies trembled at his sight. One time he picked up a bleached jawbone and slew one thousand Philistines. Another time he defeated an attacking lion with his bare hands and on another occasion caught 300 foxes, tied their tails together, and set the enemy fields aflame. In Gaza, Samson ripped the gates from the walled city and then carried the gates more than 20 miles away—up a mountain. However, Gaza is where Samson went from being a victor to being a victim, from being an overcomer to being overcome, from being a hero to being a zero. Samson failed to master himself while he endeavored to master others.