Chapter 15 – The Valley of Ditches

“Thus saith the Lord, 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.” 2 Kings 3: 16-18.

This is another of Elisha’s parabolic miracles; for it was both a parable of divine teaching and a miracle of divine working. It is full of practical lessons about the Holy Spirit in our lives.

1. A GREAT EMERGENCY. First, we see a great emergency. The king of Israel and the king of Judah had united in a campaign against the Moabites, and in marching through the wilderness they had come into great straits. Their water supply was cut off, and they were in danger of perishing of thirst. This may represent any hard places in our lives. Such an emergency is God’s opportunity of blessing, and is the only way by which many of us can ever be brought to realize the fullness of divine grace.

There was a peculiarity, however, in this trying situation to one of the party at least. To Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, it was a trouble that he had brought upon himself, and he had no one else to blame for his ill fortune. Because he had hastily and generously formed an unholy alliance with a wicked king, he was suffering on account of his forbidden act. As God has warned us to have no fellowship with wicked men, we never can disobey this commandment, either by mixed marriages or by business partnerships, without suffering in consequence.

We see at once the difference between a wicked man and a child of God. In his extremity the wicked king of Israel gave up in despair, and never once thought of turning to God for help. He uttered a hopeless cry, and said practically, “God has brought us here to destroy us.” That is the way ungodly men look at their troubles.

In contrast with him, Jehoshaphat at once thought of God and called for His servant and His message. No matter how trying our situation, no matter how much to blame we ourselves are for it, let us always go at once with it to God, and seek his direction and deliverance ; and we shall never seek in vain.

Jehoshaphat called at once for the prophet of the Lord. It was a prophet he wanted. He was willing to hear God’s message and to take God’s way of deliverance. It is so beautiful to find that the prophet was there. Elisha was the beautiful type of the Holy Ghost and the ever present Christ. Unlike Elijah, who was the prophet of judgment and represented the law, Elisha was always among the people, helping the poor widow in her poverty, the students on the banks of the Jordan when the axe went off the handle, and even the army of his country when on this laborious and dangerous expedition. He represented that God who is always within our call and a God at hand. The very meaning of the word Paraclete or Advocate is, One near by, One we can call to our side and call upon in every time of need. Let us bring Him all our burdens; let us cast upon Him all our care; let us use Him for every emergency, and prove His all-sufficiency in every time of need.

2. PREPARATION. We next see the preparation for God’s deliverance. First, Elisha called for a minstrel. You know that this minstrel represented the spirit of praise. Our prayers, too, should always begin with praise. If our difficulty and dangers be met with a song of believing triumph, we shall find God ready to echo it back with the song of deliverance. When we cannot pray, it is a good time to praise.

Next came the divine message, “Thus saith the Lord.” God must be heard in this matter, His voice must be listened to, His message received, and His way adopted. When trouble comes we usually run in every other direction first, get everybody else’s advice and help, and then at last think of appealing to heaven.

The first thing in trouble is to hearken and ask, “What saith the Lord?” What lesson is He teaching? What rebuke is He sending? What direction is He giving? What way of escape would He have us take? God has always one way out of every difficulty, and only one.

Next, they must make room for the coming blessing. “Make this valley full of ditches.” One would have supposed that the valley was deep enough without the ditches. But the valley was there anyhow; the ditches must be made on purpose. It is possible to have need of God and not have room for God. These ditches represent special preparation and the opening of the channels of faith to receive the blessing.

What is a ditch? It is a great, ugly opening in the ground. There is nothing ornamental nor beautiful about it; it is just a void and empty space, a place to hold water. How shall we open the ditches for God to fill? By bringing to Him our needs, our failures, the great rents and voids and broken up places in our lives. It is a good time at the commencement of another year to think of the places where we have come short, and the needs in our hearts that have not yet been supplied. Let us bring them to Him, and like the widow’s vessels, He is able to fill them all.

The answer must be claimed by simple faith. “Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain,” said the prophet, “yet that valley shall be filled with water.” There was to be no outward demonstration, but it was to come quietly and without observation. This is the way God loves to bless us, and this is the way that faith must always receive the blessing. This is not, however, the way that unbelieving man likes to have it come. He would like to see wind and rain, and have
great display of outward circumstances; then he would be able to believe in the coming of the water. “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe,” was the Master’s reproof in His own day; and it is as pertinent today as ever.

Faith, however, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” and it loves to claim the promise and rest in the Promiser, allowing Him to bring the answer in His own way and time, and counting upon it as though it were already a present fact. Shall we thus trust our God and learn to walk by faith and not by sight?

3. THE DIVINE ANSWER. The divine answer was not long in coming. With the morning light, lo! the ditches had disappeared and the valley was filled with water, reflecting the crimson hills of Edom from its glassy bosom, and looking to the Moabites as pools of blood.

It was water that came, and only water. That was all they wanted. Water was the symbol of the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost is all we want in our extremity and need. He will be to us answered prayer, temporal provision, spiritual supply, and all things pertaining to life and godliness.

Notice again that when the water came, the ditches disappeared from view. Likewise, when the Holy Ghost comes, our needs will be supplied, and the very remembrance of our sorrow and distress will leave us. So long as you are looking at the ditches and thinking of your desperate need, you are not filled with water. God wants so to fill you that He will even obliterate the remembrance of your sin and sorrow, and, as Job beautifully expressed it, you will remember your misery as waters that pass away.

Again, when the water came there was enough, not only for them to drink but also for their cattle and their beasts; so when God fills your life with the Holy Spirit, the blessing overflows not only to every person around you, but the very beasts that serve you will be the better for your blessing. That truck-man was not far astray when he said that his horse and his dog knew that he had been converted. Oh, the groans of the irrational creation around us that are ever going up to God, because of man’s sin. Oh, the blessing that will come to the whole universe when man receives his Savior and becomes prepared to be the lord of this lower creation!

There is a very remarkable expression used respecting this glorious miracle of divine grace and bounty. “This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord.” This wonderful blessing was not, in God’s estimation, anything extraordinary nor at all hard for him to do. Nor is it a great or difficult thing for Him to baptize you and me with the Holy Ghost till all our wants are supplied and all our being is filled with His blessing. We are constantly thinking of it as though it cost Him some great effort. Thousands of Christians are looking forward to it at a great distance as the culminating point of life. On the contrary, it is but a light thing for God to do, and is intended to mark rather the beginning than the close of a career of usefulness.

The great purpose of Christ’s coming was “that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in righteousness and holiness before him,” — not the last days, but “all the days of our life.” It is not our preparation for heaven but our preparation for life.

4. THE GREATER BLESSING. Next comes God’s deliverance and the greater blessing which He has for them. “This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.” This was the great purpose of their campaign and the design of God in delivering them in their peril, that they might go forward and conquer their enemy and His. This also is God’s purpose in our sanctification.

He does not give us the Holy Ghost that we should receive a clean heart merely, and then spend our lives complacently looking at it and telling people about it, but that we should go forth in the power of His Spirit and His indwelling life, to conquer this world for Him. We, too, have a great foe to face and a great trust to fulfill. We are sent to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to give the Gospel to the whole inhabited earth. It is a shame that thousands of Christians should spend their lives without even claiming this baptism; and it is a far greater shame that thousands more should be occupied all their days in getting a satisfactory interest in Christ and an experience of sanctification.

What would you think of the gardener who, after spending five years in planting an orange grove in Florida, in watering, pruning, and cultivating it, should then find that he has to spend a quarter of a century more keeping the plants in a healthy condition, without any return of fruit? You would certainly think it a poor investment. It is all right to spend a while in getting your orchard ready; but you expect this to end some day, and the trees will begin to do something better than grow, even to reward your labors with the abundant harvest.

What would you think of the manufacturer who took all the trouble to set up a water wheel, and a lot of machinery, and then simply amused himself with having the wheel turn round, without driving any machinery, or doing any practical work? God must get very tired of everlastingly keeping us in repair. Surely he has a right to expect that the time of fruit will come. God help us, beloved, to get at things and to stay at them. Keep your engine out of the repair shop. Get it in working order as quickly as you can, and then ask God to put an express train behind it, and let it run and carry its precious freight on the great highway of His holy will.

It is very miserable work to be always getting sanctified, and it is very unworthy of God’s infinite grace and power. Let us get into conflict and victory and aggressive work for God and this lost world, and He will surely deliver our enemies into our hand, and make us more than conquerors through Him that loved us. And then we shall find that the using of our blessing is the best way to keep it, and the running of the wheel is the surest means of keeping it from falling.

5. THOROUGH AND FINISHED WORK. They were commanded, as soon as they had conquered the Moabites, to do thorough work, to smite every fenced city, to spread stones upon every fertile piece of land, and to fill up every well of water, leaving the land desolate and worthless. It was simply an illustration of thorough and completed work.

When God begins to work for us, it is time for us to work for Him, and our work should be as thorough as His. It is all folly for us to sit down and fold our arms, and say, “God will do it.” We must work out our own salvation, all the more because it is God that worketh in us.

When David heard “a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees,” it was the very time for him to bestir himself and do His best, for God had gone out before him to deliver his enemies into his hand. When we see the almighty working of our God, it is the very time for us to stir ourselves up to faithful cooperation and thorough work.

It was the failure of Israel to do thorough work that lost them the blessing which Joshua’s conquest secured. They left some of their enemies in the land, and in due time this remnant became their masters. It is very foolish for us to leave a vestige or a trace of evil behind us. Let us do thorough work in our repentance, in our obedience, in our sanctification, in our divine healing, in our service for God.

How foolish it is for the builder to rear the costly walls and leave them unroofed; the elements will soon crumble the unprotected masonry to a heap of worthless ruins. Let us finish our work day by day. Let everything we say and do be as thorough and complete as the finished measure of the musical melody and harmony, without which the rest of the note would be thrown away. So let us live from day to day, that, when the close shall come, we shall have nothing to do but to go to our reward and say with our departing Master, “Father, I have glorified thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do.”

Beloved, it is a time of God’s mighty working in the world and among the nations. Let it stimulate us to arouse ourselves to holy action, and to cooperate with Him in His mighty purpose of preparing the world for the speedy return of His dear Son, our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There is “a sound of going in the mulberry trees,” and the Lord has gone up before us. Let us bestir ourselves, and haste the day of our Master’s coming and the cry of victory around the world and from the ranks above, “Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

As Dr. Chalmers has so wisely said, “Let us trust as if all depended upon God, but let us work as if all depended upon ourselves.”