by: DALE NESSMITH
“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches.” II Kings 3:16
One thing about God that we will never fully understand this side of Heaven is His profound calling upon His people to believe in Him, His word, and His ways. No doubt all children of God have faith, since faith is a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, when God lays out instructions so plain and blunt, often we look the other way as if we are trying to ignore Him or we can’t believe that He said what He said. The “Thus saith the Lord” verses in the Bible always reminds us that God is God and we are not. These sovereign salutations also reveal most certainly and clearly that God’s ways and ours have a tendency to separate. Once it sinks in our ordering, resistant wills that pursuing happiness and pursuing God is really the same, we straiten up and press on, trying by His enablement, to meet the mark His “Thus saith” sets.
Most of the time when the Lord tells us to do something that doesn’t make sense to us, we are in a bind of the mind or a bend in the road. And, if neither applies lots of time there is sin in the woodpile. We ought to have so much respect for God’s word, that when His word and will is revealed to us, we humbly submit, whether it involves commission or omission. We’re dealing with the one who spoke this universe into existence. The One whose voice is powerful enough to speak the word of life into dead sinners like us. We don’t seem to have any problem hearing Him say He forgives us or that He will never leave us or forsake us. The word of God so ought to prompt us to prioritize everything else we hear somewhere behind and beneath the Lord’s commands and calling. That also applies to things which don’t make sense to us or because the influence of the world and our culture has desensitized our consciences, we think God will just give us a wink rather than a whipping. Really, if we believe that God is Lord, then if He says jump, we ought to ask “How High.” If He says sit, we should look for a chair and if He says dig a ditch we should get a shovel!
“For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Isaiah 66:2
There are two words which can never be used together. Those two words are “No” and “Lord.” If we say “No Lord,” then He is not really our Lord. It’s time we quit making excuses and justifications for our sins and the sins of others. The Bible says that God’s word is forever settled in Heaven. That means that if a man and a woman are sleeping together and are not married, it is sin. It means that if an abortion clinic or pill kills an unborn baby it is sin. It means that if two women or two men have a gay or lesbian relationship, it is sin. It means that if I am angry, or prideful, or unforgiving that I am a sinner. I could go on! Now, the consequences of sin is death or separation. God’s word establishes our standard of living and righteousness. That standard is perfect adherence to His Holy word! Jesus Crist is the only one who has lived without committing a sin. Therefore He is perfectly righteous. When He died on the cross for us, He took the sins of His elect, including those who slept in adulterous beds, committed murder and lived in a homosexual relationships, and He died for them thereby paying the full price and clearing their sin debt forever. Not only that, He took His very own perfect obedience, His every embrace of “Thus saith the Lord” and gave to all he came to redeem.
God also says that we are all sinners, every one of us. But because of His unconditional love, He didn’t wait until we quit sinning. He gave His only begotten Son to show His love while we were yet sinners and even His enemies. Not only that, He gave us His Holy Spirit to convict us and make us feel guilty so that we would realize the value and need of a Saviour, Jesus Christ. This Spirit He gives is so powerful and wonderful, He leads us to repentance which means we agree with God’s word being right and believe it so much that we change directions and go down the “Thus saith the Lord” way, to unload our guilt and burden of sin.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16
The “Thus saith the Lord” that Elisha told the three kings who were leading the Israelites to battle against the Moabites was not necessarily because of some sin they had committed. The Lord’s word via Elisha was instructions to them to prepare for a blessing which only Jehovah could provide, namely water. Apparently, the kings’ armies were ready and the battle strategy laid out, when they realized that the very thing they had always taken for granted was no longer available. God has a way of reminding us that we are dependent every day, every hour, every moment upon Him. And, not only does God want us to depend on Him, He wants us to believe that we can depend on Him to supply our every need. In this case, the Lord seems to go to the extreme to test His people’s faithfulness. Christianity though is an extreme religion. After all, Jesus Christ came all the way from Heaven to take our place on the cross so we would not go to the lowest hell. God sure has a right to give such commands though. We should be thankful and rejoice that He gives us an opportunity to prove to ourselves that He is almighty and compassionately merciful too. The message to dig the ditches was given to a desperate people. They needed something only God could give—water. Man cannot make water, only God can do that. The stage is set for a miracle to be done. The people were called upon to do what they could do by preparing to receive what only God could give.
You and I may have plenty of water right now. (The rivers, creeks and wells are full, also the ditches). But one thing we desperately need each moment is grace. Not only are we saved by grace, we must also live by grace. There is no telling what we would do or what would befall us apart from God’s amazing grace in our lives each day. Grace is sort of like water in that we can’t make grace, only the God of all grace can do that.
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” I Peter 5:10
So, since we desperately need grace and only God can provide it, shouldn’t we dig some ditches. Alright, God promises that His grace is sufficient. He does not promise He will remove all the thorns of trouble and pain though. Do you believe God’s grace will be sufficient to get you through tough times, even death? If so, you are in for a peace that passeth understanding and are sure to be more than conquerors of any trouble or dilemma you face. Grace enables us to face our fears and find our purpose but we may have to dig a ditch first. God always sends His grace in ditches; so it’s real important that we dig them. A born again child of God is not more or less than the Holy Spirit with digging britches on. Because Christians are created or rather recreated for good works, there will always be plenty to do. Actually, Christians don’t have to go to work, work surrounds them. Farmers during the time of the Israelite journeys would dig ditches through their fields so that when the Nile River flooded, the water would flow through the ditches and water their crops. They did not wait until the river started rising to start digging. Likewise, we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. God may send a flood of His grace at anytime, so it will be wise to have a place prepared to hold it. Let’s start digging right now!
Deepen your faith — These ditches were to be dug not because the water might come but because they were sure it would come. We must prepare in faith, believing in God. Sometimes we have to put our faith where our mouth is. Go ahead and assume you will receive the Holy Spirit’s flood stage. Act for God on the faith of what He will give, rather than on the faith of what you have as yet obtained. Believe that with God, a promise is as good as a fulfillment. A little boy had two fishes and five loaves of bread when five thousand people were hungry. The little boy gave all he had to Jesus, and Jesus took his little and made a lot out of it. That little boy was a ditch digger! Our faith can’t make the bread, but faith can make a basket to put it in when the Divine Baker sends it.
“And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that re- mained twelve baskets full.” Matthew 14:20
Humble yourself —Ditch digging is not a prestig ious job. It’s not a position you aspire to obtain, rather it’s a posture which keeps our priorities in the right perspective. When we are willing to be a ditch digger, the Lord will make us feel like executive engineers. Every ditch we dig in expectation of God’s blessing and sustaining grace will result in God’s lifting us to great heights of spiritual fulfillment and purpose. Haven’t we experienced making a visit to the nursing home or hospital with the intention of making someone feel better or encouraged (ditch work), when we end up feeling like we are the ones who received the blessing? In reality, we have. God’s grace filled the ditch of our humble service and flooded our souls which caused the fruits of His righteousness to bloom.
“Humble yourselves therefore un- der the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:6,7
Humility is the soil from which our faith and God’s grace grows. That’s because humbleness manifests our dependency upon God. By now we should know that we cannot depend on the government or anyone else to help us in the way we really need help. Digging ditches sends a humble message to our Heavenly Father who hears our cry, delivers us, and gets all the glory. Very soon farmers in our area will begin digging ditches as they plant their seed to begin a new crop year. Every farmer knows that while they can make a ditch to plant a seed, they cannot make the seed grow. The preparing and the planting, the humility and the digging is the farmer’s “amen” to God’s promise of seedtime and harvest.
Pray persistently — The more fervently and frequently we pray, the deeper our ditches for grace will be. Prayer is definitely ditch work! When we’re in the bottom of a ditch the only direction we can look is up. And, it’s in the ditches that we gain our spiritual senses which move the mounds of fear and obstacles we face. A shovelfull of persistent, believing prayer opens up the way for God’s life reviving water to flow from the fountain that never runs dry. The more we pray, the higher our expectations will be. Next time you’re traveling across the countryside, notice the ditches along each side of the smooth, open roadway over which you ride. Remember that there would be no road without the ditches! And, often the deeper the ditch the higher the road. The reason you have been blessed so much and have a way to make it in this world is because someone is praying for you. Every road construction project includes ditch digging in some form. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is digging ditches for us right now as He ever liveth to make intercession for us. Men dug ditches on our Lord’s back with whips and drove canals into His hands, feet, and sides so that our sins could be washed out and His righteous grace could flood our sinful souls.
Digging ditches is not a one time deal. Once you dig a ditch, you have to keep it cleaned out, else it will fill up with sand and debris. Likewise, persistent prayer is not a one time monologue to meet man made religious rites. Prayer that prepares us for the blessings we petition our Heavenly Father for is a digging kind of prayer. As long as the Spirit aids and prompts, keep digging. Also, ditching can mean getting rid of something as well. Bad habits, wrong relationships and secret sins need to be excavated from our hearts.
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Luke 18:1
Bend over in obedience — Growing up on a farm offered many opportunities for me to obey my daddy, although it seems I remember best the opportunities I missed in disobedience. One obedient ditch digging experience I had was when I was a teenager. Daddy gave me a brush axe and showed me a fence row he wanted me to clean up. Now I neverknew at the time why I was clearing an old fence which was not even usable. This didn’t make sense to me and there were a lot of other things I’d rather be doing (like fishing and hunting). I did it though because my Daddy said do it. I realize now why he gave me that chore. It wasn’t for the fence, nor the aesthetics, nor was it for him; it was for me! The calluses the work caused on my hands prepared me for the work that lay ahead in my life, even academics to insure I wouldn’t have to clean fence rows to make a living. Furthermore and for the best, my bending over in obedience probably kept me from falling backward in a troubled mess.
Sometimes God’s commands seem strange too. He told a leprosy infected Naaman to dunk in the Jordan River seven times. He told Noah to build a big boat though it was dry and it had never rained. He also told several thousand hungry people with no food to sit down! We often have to be reminded that we are God’s servants, even slaves and what a splendid, gracious privilege that is. That ought to cause us to bend over backwards to dig ditches for His glory. Sometimes we act like Jesus ought to follow us rather than us follow Him. I’d rather be digging a ditch for the Lord than out on a limb with the devil wouldn’t you? Digging ditches always allows us to see more clearly God’s will for us. Every ditch prospect has a “Behold” sign near the site.
“...Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” I Samuel 15:22B
Life is often hurtful and can even require stitches
Things we thought would help us are only fleeting riches
But in our desperation, we feel a strange sensation
The God we cannot see is our only expectation.
So we get down on our knees when we know the Spirit’s twitch.
We’ve been on the wrong track, so we make a switch
It’s time to get down to business, avoiding Satan’s snitches
God’s grace is on the way, let’s start digging ditches.