Digging Ditches

And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’ 

                                    2 Kings 3:16-17


I’ve written before how I’ve spent so much more time in the New Testament than in the Old, and have wondered what exactly I was supposed to get out of the Old Testament. Well, a while back the Holy Spirit piqued my interest about learning more about David, so I started with 1 Samuel, and have spent the better part of the past two months studying the old prophets and kings of Israel and Judah, and how they walked with or away from the Lord. I have found myself at times eager to get back to their stories and lives when I have days in which I don’t get to read the Word like I want to. It’s like returning to an old friend who has much to teach me.


In the third chapter of 2nd Kings, we find Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, doing evil in the Lord’s sight and facing a rebellion from the Moabites, who have refused to continue to pay the nation of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams. Jehoram partners with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, as well as the king of Edom to fight against Moab. The three kings and their troops travel via the Wilderness of Edom for seven days, and there was no water for the army or for the animals. Frustrated Jehoram has given up, feeling that the Lord called the three of them together to deliver them into the hands of the Moabites. It is Jehoshaphat who suggests that they inquire of their next steps through a prophet of the Lord, and they are sent to Elisha.


Elisha shares with the three kings that they are to build ditches or trenches in the valley, to hold the water that he Lord would miraculously bring down upon them, through means other than a rainstorm with strong wind. The Lord, through Elisha, promises victory to the three, and instructs them to attack the cities and ruin the lands, leaving no trees and no water.


We don’t have any insight as to the kings’ reaction; we have only their obedience on record. One has to wonder, though, at the enthusiasm by which they and their troops met the challenge to dig trenches all over the valley. Remember, they had marched for seven days through the wilderness without any water to drink. The physical toll such an exercise had to have taken on them was extreme. Perhaps there was grumbling and resistance. Given Jehoram’s quick declaration of defeat, and the assumable lack of belief on the part of the king of Edom, I would presume that the lion’s share of obedience and faith rested in Jehoshaphat and that it was through his ability to encourage and inspire that they were able to build the ditches for the promised water.

That promised water came the next morning after they made their morning offering to the Lord. Additionally, just as the Lord promised them, the defeat of the Moabites occurred as well.

You may recall that one symbols the Bible has for the Holy Spirit is water. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit in John as “rivers of living water”, and that “the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life”. We read in 1 Corinthians that “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body….and were all made to drink of one Spirit.” In Isaiah 44, the Lord says, “For I will pour out water o the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on our descendants.”


If we take the analogy one step further by applying the lesson we learn in 2 Kings 3, we’ll find that we need to prepare ourselves in obedience for the living waters of the Holy Spirit, and this lesson applies to us individually and corporately as a church. I’m not saying that we have wandered for proverbial seven days without the Spirit, nor am I saying that we all feel as if we are assured defeat in our battle against our enemy, like King Jehoram did. I am saying, though, that we should seek His guidance, especially when we face daunting sights ahead. In fact, we should seek His guidance before we try to proceed in our own strength, and then proceed in His.


Metaphorically, the concept of the trenches for us offers two things. The first is the ability to obey instructions, despite our full understanding or even our obvious ability to. This provides the mechanism through which God’s promises come alive to us: we inquire of Him, He instructs, we obey, He provides. And though it may seem to us at times that we are equal partners in the fluidity of this dance (or I daresay it may feel like we’re putting so much more in than He), the balance of the giving is so tilted towards Him. Yes, the tired and thirsty armies had to dig the ditches, but the Lord provided not only the water, but also the Moabite defeat.


The second thing the trenches provide is the need to make room for the Holy Spirit’s living water in our lives. In order for us to have more of the Holy Spirit and His conviction and focus, which is on our beloved Jesus Christ, there needs to be less of us. To me, it doesn’t get much plainer than that. I am convicted!

Prayer Requests

  • For the loss of life that seems to be coming at us almost hourly, as tragedies are reported on instantly—drownings, shootings, tornadoes, and the like
  • For those facing severe loneliness, helplessness, or depression
  • For traveling mercies for Pastor Kevin as he moves to Tennessee, and for encouragement and support for Robin as she stays behind to sell their house
  • For us to share our faith despite the obstacles the enemy throws at us


O, how we should all long to feel the cleansing power of the living waters pour over ourselves. I pray that each of us feels it today.



“Not going to church because of the “hypocrites” is like not going to the gym because of “out of shape people”.


“Get into the habit of saying, “Speak, Lord”, and life will become a romance.                      –Oswald Chambers