Friday, August 10, 2012

Digging Ditches

Does the concept of Old Testament Israel being divided into two separate kingdoms confuse you as much as it does me?  Well, let me try to break it down real easy-like for us both!  The people of Israel asked for a king, so God relented and gave into their desires. They weren't content with God being the True King, they wanted flesh and blood.  If only they knew what they were getting themselves into!  So, the first three kings were Saul, David, and Solomon.  They each reigned 40 years.

What happened was that Solomon was not faithful to what God required.  He married a whole lotta women, a lotta them foreigners.  This was a no-no.  So, God tells Solomon that he will separate the great kingdom and create two kingdoms after Solomon dies. 

Unfaithfulness always creates division.

So, God names the upper region, Israel. They didn't have a single good king.  Not one.  They reigned from 7 days to over 40 years, but not a single one got it right by pleasing God.

The lower region, Judah, was the one where God would continue His namesake.  There were good and bad kings, but the good ones continued to worship God as Yahweh.

Enter the passage that I can't get out of my head:  2 Kings chapter 3.

Joram is the King of the North (Israel) and Jehoshaphat is the King of the South (Judah).  Joram's problem is this:  the King of Moab had to supply a tribute/tax of a huge allotment of sheep to the North.  But, the King of Moab (Mesha) rebelled.  Joram decided to go to Jehoshaphat for help to fight against Moab for the rebellion.

For whatever reason, the King of Edom gets on board as well, so you have three Kings and their armies entering into the Desert of Edom, which must have been the best route to Moab. 
After marching for seven days in the wilderness, they run into a huge crisis.

Maybe you've experienced it this summer.

No rain.

Zilp. Zada.  No water for the men and no water for the animals.

Catch the Kings' two differing responses.  Joram, the one who did evil in God's sight, immediately responds with this:  "God has gotten us three kings out here to dump us into the hand of Moab."

Jehoshaphat's (the southern king who worshipped God) response is different, "Isn't there a prophet of God anywhere around through whom we can consult God?"

One king wanted to avoid God, the other wanted to seek His face through the prophet.

Elisha agrees to seek God's face on behalf of Jehoshaphat, because he has respect for him as king.
God comes back with this:  "Dig ditches all over the valley."

Umm. Whaaat?

Here is what God says in full:  "Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the LORD says:  You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink.  This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD; he will also hand Moab over to you.  You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town.  You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones."  (2 Kings 3:16-19)

They obeyed.  They couldn't make it rain, but they did what they could. Despite their thirst and despite the fact that there wasn't a cloud in the sky, they sank down low into the hard earth and dug for all they were worth.

God was true to His word.  The next morning, the water had arrived.  The only thing I can figure out is that it rained far away, in a high region, and the water came into the valley as a flash flood, filling the trenches full. But, I guess God could have done it any way He pleased.  He is God like that.

Here's one of the best parts!  Moab looked into the valley, and having not seen it rain, they believed the reflection of the liquid in the trenches was blood.  They assumed the three kings and their armies had turned on one another.  The Moabites entered the camp and were surprised to have all the other armies surround them instead.  The king of Moab quickly realized his mistake.

Here is what keeps jumping out at me (ESV):  "I will make this dry streambed full of pools." In other words, He is going to fill the valley with water.

I don't know what you need water for, but I want to encourage isn't up to you to produce it! 

Here are a few things that I hope stick with me after studying this passage:

1.  Only God brings what we need

2.  He does it in different ways (He allowed Elijah to see and hear the rain and wind (1 Kings 18:45)...with Elisha, he neither sees nor hears it.) "Many a blessing has been lost by Christians not believing it to be a blessing because it did not come in the particular shape which they had conceived to be proper and right." Spurgeon

3.  God's instructions to us often don't make sense...he told Noah to build an ark, an army to march around a city, and this group to dig ditches.

4.  When he gives an instruction, we should do the thing and then expect the blessing. "Men will, when they expect a thing, prepare for the reception of it." Spurgeon

5.  Faith obeys the instruction before receiving the first sign of fulfillment of the promise.

What I keep asking myself is this:  Do I have the faith to dig ditches?  Or will my response to the wilderness be like Joram's, that God has only brought me thus far to leave me to the enemy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a word from God, Becke'! Again, I would like to have a copy of this to share with someone and to keep for myself. Could you do that and send it to my email. (or teach me how to copy it). Thanks!