King Jehoshaphat looked across the desert valley, his brow creased with worry for the upcoming battle with Moab. The kings and armies of Israel and Edom stood alongside him. They were all stranded and desperate for water. Their battle plans would fall apart if they could not find sustenance for all three armies, along with their animals.
They had surely heard tales of a grizzled prophet who had prayed for rain during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel in Israel. Although Elijah was gone, Jehoshaphat was still determined to find a prophet in the wilderness. A servant remembered a man called Elisha, who had been the apprentice of the fabled prophet. They sought him out and he offered a very simple set of instructions:
“Make this valley full of ditches.” (II Kings 3:16)
It must have seemed insane. Three armies of fighting men, their swords and shields gleaming in the desert sun, were there for a fight – not to do the kind of work an unskilled laborer could handle. It must have seemed like a waste of their strength and training. Why bring together the armies of three kingdoms just to dig ditches? But they obeyed. They dug the Edomite valley full of ditches. And then came the morning. Although no rain had fallen, water blanketed the valley, filling the newly dug trenches. Their odd job resulted in enough water to satisfy the thirst of both the armies and their animals.
Meanwhile, the Moabite army watched the scene across the border. They saw liquid gleaming in the ditches and were convinced it must be the blood of armies that had turned on each other. Operating under the assumption that their enemies were dead, they impulsively saddled up and rushed the border, hoping for spoils. Instead, a hoard of newly strengthened warriors were ready for them. The victory was won because the armies took the time to dig.
As we wander through life’s valleys, there are times we feel all hope is lost. Dreams may be on hold. All of the things that propelled us forward seem far away and we wonder how we will survive. When we pray God asks us to do something totally unrelated to what we had originally planned. We wonder if we misunderstood – after all, why would God ask us to do something that has no possible chance of helping us?
Had the armies not dug ditches in their valley even though were there to fight a war, they would have found themselves unprepared for battle while the enemy would have been ready. Instead, God turned the tables in such a way that He alone would receive the glory. Even when you do not understand what God asks of you, rest assured that He knows what He is doing.
Sometimes it is in the digging of a ditch that we pave the way for our miracles.