The Valley Full of Ditches
2 Kings 3:16-25
And he said, Thus said the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.

Two troubles had come upon Israel at this time. The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom were gone forth to battle against the King of Moab. Strife is an evil between nations or individuals. It takes years for a nation to recover from the devastating effects of war. Terrible is the destruction of life and property which war causes. To the horrors and perils of war in this case was added a fresh difficulty. Their armies, passing through the desert, had no water to drink. Under the burning heat, they suffered fearfully from thirst. We know how greatly our own troops suffered from lack of water in Egypt and the Soudan. Dr. Livingstone, in his travels, has given us an idea of what it is to be without water in the desert. When he saw his children almost perishing of thirst before his eyes, he had a new idea of the value of water. It was no wonder, then, that, with the soldiers weak and languishing from thirst, with no water either for them or for their horses and cattle, they began to despair and regard defeat as certain. But the Prophet Elisha was sent for, as we have seen, and, on being consulted by the kings of Israel and Judah, he said, "Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand." We have here -

I. A STRANGE COMMAND. "Make this valley full of ditches."

1. It was a strange command that ditches should be dug in a desert place. But so it is also in the spiritual kingdom. God often chooses the most unlikely places and the most unlikely persons for the operations of his grace. Is it not a fact that, in thinking of the spread of the gospel, and in engaging in Christian work, we are too much guided by human calculations? We judge too much by outward appearances. We forget that God's ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts. People have sometimes refused to give to certain missions because they did not think there was any use in sending the gospel to the particular people for whom the mission was intended. Is God's arm shortened that it cannot save? It is time for us as Christian Churches and as Christian people to work wherever God gives us the opportunity, even though it should be in the most unlikely and unpromising sphere. God calls us, wherever we are, to dig up wells in the valley.

2. Further, it was a strange command, because there was no appearance of rain at the time, and there was no river at hand from which the wells could be supplied. Why dig wells when you don't know where the water is to come from? We live in a utilitarian age. Men like to have a reason for everything. They like to be assured of a return for their labor. Consequently, even professedly Christian men are disposed to question the utility of many of God's commands. Why rest on the sabbath more than on any other day? Why attach any peculiar sanctity to the sabbath? Why not worship God at home, or walk in the fields, instead of going to church? We might show the benefit to the nation of religious observances and of religious teaching. We might show the benefit to the individual of assembling with others for devotional exercises instead of merely worshipping God in private or even in the home. But it is enough here to notice that God has commanded these duties. That ought to be enough to convince any intelligent being, any religious being. God gives no command for which there is not a good reason. I may not see the reason. I may not see the benefit that will result from it. But I am convinced by reason, by conscience, by history, by human experience, that whatever the command may be, a real benefit follows the obedience of it, and real unhappiness and suffering the disobedience of it.

3. One other thought this strange command of God suggests - God wants us to be fellow-workers with him. God could have sent the water and provided a place of storage for it without the assistance of the Israelites here. But he does not choose to do so. He says, "Make the valley full of ditches." When modern missions to the heathen first began to be spoken of about a century ago, those who advocated them were met on every side, and in many a church, from pulpit and from pew, from prelate and from presbyter, with the objection that God could save the heathen without their instrumentality. It is obvious that those who reasoned thus about God's method of converting the world had read their Bible to very little purpose. We find human agency, as a rule, accompanying Divine grace. Christ's own command is clear, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations... and, lo! I am with you always." How do we stand in regard to the commands of God? Is there any command that we are deliberately and constantly disobeying? It ought to be the daily prayer of every Christian, "Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight."

II. SUBMISSIVE FAITH. It is clear from the narrative that the men of Judah did as God had commanded them, and made the valley full of ditches. These Hebrew soldiers gave a good example of submissive practical faith.

1. They might have reasoned - Better to be going forth against our enemies than to be wasting our time digging these trenches. So men reason when they hurry forth to their work in the morning without waiting to give God thanks for the rest of the night, and to ask his blessing upon the work of the day. Is it any wonder that the life is so dry, and that things so often seem to go wrong, when we do not take time to dig up wells for God's blessing? Is it any wonder that the Churches are so unfruitful, that conversions are so infrequent, that revivals are so rare, that there is not more spiritual power in the preaching of the Word, that the influence exercised upon the world around us is so slight, when, with all the attention to congregational machinery and church order, there is so little attention to congregational prayer? It is a fine sight to look at the great engines of a steamer when in motion, and admire the beautiful mechanism of cylinder and crank and piston. But all that elaborate and powerful machinery would be utterly useless unless the steam was there to set it in motion. Let us have our church machinery and organization as perfect as may be, but let us remember that the secret of power is behind and beyond it all. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." The Hebrew soldiers did not think the time lost which they spent in preparing the way for God's blessing.

2. They might have reasoned - Better to move further on where we shall have water than to spend our labor in this desert place. So Christians are sometimes disposed to reason. Ministers grow weary of seeing no fruit of their labors. Sunday-school teachers grow weary of their class. But if all the workers in God's vineyard had reasoned in that way, and abandoned any sphere of labor because it seemed unfruitful or because they were weary of waiting, the gospel would have made very little progress in the world.

3. They might have reasoned - If we're to be saved, we shall be saved. It is not likely that digging up trenches in the valley will deliver us out of the hands of the Moabites. So the sinner reasons when he is urged to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan, for his soul's destruction, prompts him with objections to the plan of salvation. But objections to the plan of salvation can no more alter it than any suggestions which a man of science might make could alter the course of nature. The way of salvation is clear. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shelf be saved." Is it not better for us, as these soldiers did, to take God's plan, to believe that whatever he commands is for our good, to accept his loving offers of salvation purchased for us by the precious blood of his beloved Son, and to yield ourselves to him as willing servants, doing the will of God from the heart?

III. STREAMS OF REFRESHING AND SAFETY. "And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water." Not more eagerly do the weary watchers watch for morning than those languid soldiers watched for the coming of the water. It was a welcome sight. So it is with the blessings of the gospel. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,"

"As dew upon the tender herb,
Diffusing fragrance round,
As showers that usher in the spring
And cheer the thirsty ground, -

So shall his presence bless our souls,
And shed a joyful light,
That hallowed morn shall chase away
The sorrows of the night." And then also the streams that filled the trenches proved to be streams of safety. When the Moabites arose in the morning, and looked over to the place where the Israelites were encamped, they only saw the glare of the sun upon the water as red as blood. They had probably no idea that water could be there. And so they said, "This is blood; the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another." They thought they had nothing to do but plunder the deserted camp of the Israelites, and the result was that the Israelites gained an easy victory, and were delivered out of the hand of their enemies. It is the same with the blessings of the gospel. The gospel which satisfies also saves the soul. And it satisfies because it saves. Herein all human religion and philosophies fail. They may point out a high ideal, but they give us little help to attain it. They may point out the evil of sin, but they cannot strengthen us to overcome it or deliver us from its power. And all they can offer us is only for the present life. But the gospel not only puts before us the high ideal, but enables us through Divine grace to attain to it. It not only shows us the guilt of sin, but it points us to the cleansing blood. It not only shows us the evil of sin, but gives us the victory over it through Christ Jesus our Lord. It not only gives us blessings for the present life, but secures to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ the life of heaven, life with God, life that shall never end. Make the valley full of ditches. Open your heart to receive this satisfying, saving gospel Children of God, if you want God's blessing to flow in upon you in reviving, refreshing streams, prepare the way for it. Dig up wells in the desert. Value your Sundays, your opportunities for private prayer, the house of God, the prayer-meeting. You need them all to refresh your souls and to revive your spiritual life amid the parching, chilling influences of the world. And then in your short life do what you can to make channels through which blessings may flow to others. In this aspect, what a privilege it becomes to help missions, to built! churches and schools, and to take part in every effort for the benefit and enlightenment of others! You may never see the streams of blessing flow, but at any rate you will have dug the channels for them. Such labor is not in vain in the Lord. - C.H.I.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.

WEB: He said, "Thus says Yahweh, 'Make this valley full of trenches.'

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