2 Kings chapter 3 gives us an interesting story from the era when the one nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom called Israel and the southern kingdom called Judah. The story features a wonderful spiritual lesson that I want to share with you in this post. Before you can properly understand that lesson, though, you need to understand the basics of the story.
As the chapter opens up, Jehoram becomes the king of the northern kingdom. He is the son of Ahab and Jezebel, the northern kingdom’s most notorious royal couple. Ahab is now dead (1 Kings 22:29-40), as is Ahaziah, the son who had replaced him on the throne two years earlier (2 Kings 1:1-18). So now the crown falls to Jehoram, Ahaziah’s brother. Meanwhile, down south in Judah, Jehoshaphat is in the eighteenth year of his reign.
Jehoram, like his father and his brother, is a wicked king who does “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 3:2). The best that can be said of him is that he isn’t as bad as his father Ahab had been. Certainly he is an idol worshiper, as everyone in the northern kingdom is, but at least he puts away a well known pillar of the false god Baal that Ahab had ordered built (2 Kings 3:2-3).
As for Judah’s king Jehoshaphat, he is for the most part a godly king but he isn’t perfect. Even though he walks with God, that walk is marred by the fact that he allows idol worship to continue in Judah (1 Kings 22:43). In addition to this, he is also known for having made a peaceful alliance with the wicked Ahab during Ahab’s reign (1 Kings 22:44).
Unfortunately for Jehoram, as soon as he ascends to Israel’s throne he is immediately confronted with a political problem that has been brewing ever since Ahab’s death. Ahab had forced the Moabites to pay him an annual tribute of 100,000 lambs and the wool from 100,000 rams, but since his death they haven’t been paying it. Ahaziah, who had replaced Ahab on the throne, should have dealt with the problem, but he hadn’t and had died in the wake of an accident after only a two-year reign (2 Kings 1:1-18). Now it was Jehoram’s turn to deal with the matter.
His answer is to, first, rally his troops and, second, to send word to Jehoshaphat in Judah and ask him to help him fight against Moab (2 Kings 3:1-7). Since Jehoshaphat had been a loyal ally to Ahab (1 Kings 22:1-40), he agrees to also help Jehoram. Was this decision God’s will? That’s doubtful, but, as I said, Jehoshaphat isn’t perfect.
Since Moab is located southeast of Israel and northeast of Judah, the two kings must decide whether to attack it from the north or the south. Quickly the decision is made to attack from the south by way of Edom, which is located just east of Judah and just south of Moab. By doing this, they can add the army of Edom to their coalition because Judah controls Edom and Edom’s king will do whatever Jehoshaphat tells him to do. So, now we have three kings and their armies aligned together to attack Moab (2 Kings 3:8). On paper, the plan of attack looks pitch perfect.
Like many plans, though, an unforeseen problem arises. One week into the campaign, as the three armies are slogging their way through the wilderness of Edom to get to Moab, they run out of water (2 Kings 3:9). There is no water for the soldiers and no water for the animals. The situation becomes so desperate that Jehoram loudly complains that God has called the three armies together in order to have them fall to the Moabites (2 Kings 3:10). Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, takes a more godly approach and starts trying to find a prophet of God who can give them wise counsel. When he learns that Elisha is in the area, the three kings make the trip to see the prophet (2 Kings 3:11-12).
Initially, Elisha balks at the idea of helping the idol-worshiping Jehoram. He even sarcastically tells him to go ask the prophets of his father and mother (2 Kings 3:13). Finally, though, Elisha does agree to help because he wants to help Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 3:14). And what word from the Lord does Elisha give the kings? He tells them that even though they won’t see any rain or hear any wind, they should make the valley full of ditches to catch the coming water (2 Kings 3:16-17).
As is so often the case when you get involved with God, things just got weird for the kings and now they must choose. They can scoff at God’s word through Elisha and refuse to have their soldiers dig the ditches or they can accept the word by faith and have the ditches dug. So what do they do? To their credit, they accept the word and have the ditches dug. In turn, the next morning they and their soldiers watch as water suddenly comes rushing into the valley by way of Edom and all the ditches become full (2 Kings 3:20). It’s possible that God sent this water by means of a direct miracle. It’s also possible that He sent it by having flash floods hit high up in the mountains of Edom and wash their way down into that valley. Either way, He gets all the credit for providing the water. Just to finish out the story, He also gives the three kings the victory over the Moabites (2 Kings 3:18-19, 21-25).
Now, as I close out this post, I just want to ask the question: Have you dug your ditches in anticipation of God fulfilling that word that He has spoken to you? Phrasing the question another way: Have you put shoe leather to that word you received from God? Truth be told, far too many of us are the type that has to see some tangible evidence before we will believe anything from God. You see, it’s one thing to hear God say, “I’m going to bless you and your spouse with a baby.” It’s another thing to go out and buy a crib the next day. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7, we Christians are supposed to walk by faith rather than sight. And faith will have you out there digging ditches in the midst of a dry, arid land.