Dig Deep Ditches

Courtesy: nps.gov

I just couldn’t believe my ears! The cheek of it! After a solid seven days march that seems to be aimless and pointless we’d seen no sign of the enemy and now out of water, out of energy, out of morale and now they want us to what!?!

I know the life of a soldier means more than just fighting and marching but digging? Man, oh man! That takes the cake! We’re already thirsty and dehydrated, can’t they see that? Our animals are wilting before our eyes from lack of water. We’ve been out of water for so long our tongues are swollen and now they want us to do some heavy-duty manual labour? Come on, we’re soldiers, not slaves or, or farmers!

Grumbling with my mates I start to dig. Sweat stains are starting to circle on my shirt when Sammy asks the Sergeant “How many ditches do we need to dig?”

The Sergeant clears his throat. I have a feeling he’s a little unsettled about the command he’s been ordered to oversee. “We have to fill the valley. Fill it with ditches and we have to dig ’em deep.”

A moan rises from the ground and disbelief fills the air. We keep digging and digging and digging and digging.

My shirt is several shades darker between sweat and grime, which also cakes to my face and arms. It’s been a long day of digging and yet, even in the late afternoon we still dig. No rest for us, no water to even stop for to quench our thirst, just dig, dig, dig. It doesn’t matter how deep we dig, we never hit ground water.

As the sun starts to set a murmur goes through the ranks. There seems to be a purpose behind the apparent madness of the ditch digging order. Rumour has it that it was the prophet Elisha who gave the order.

Most of us soldiers only know one thing about Elisha – he was Elijah’s disciple. But Elijah we know. His reputation was of a prophet who heard from God and did great miracles. Faith is lifted and a renewed sense of purpose gives energy to exhausted muscles as a final collective effort is made to finish the last few ditches needed to fill the valley before darkness encloses in.

As we settle down to let exhaustion take us sleep whispers float around once more. We’d been wrong in our guess that ditches were for collecting rain. Apparently God was going to do it another way. And Elisha had promised we’d also beat the Moabites. Looks like tomorrow will be the best day of my life!

A new say dawns. I check the ditches. Some are deeper than others. I have a feeling this was more to do with faith and obedience to God than a soldier’s strength and obeying orders. They are still as waterless and dry as the desert, but the valley is full of them. Except over there where the tribe of Gad had been digging, there seems to be less of them and the ditches there seem shallower. Given the talk around camp this morning, it seems their ditch depths truly reflect their belief in the miracles promised.

The only order we’ve been given today is to be ready to called to battle. I’m dressed in my armour, my sword is sharp, my shield is by my side. Hope in Elisha’s promised miracles and a severe desperation for water has me waiting on the mountain side. Waiting to see how God will give us water.

I’ve never seen a miracle myself. But I remember the cozy nights as a child, gathered around as a family, while my father told the stories of old. Of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of Joseph and Moses and Joshua. Wild adventures of faith, obedience and miracles. I can’t believe it’s my turn to see a miracle.

From my view-point on the mountain side I see the priests present this mornings grain offering. At that precise moment I hear it! The sound of water rushing towards me! It’s coming through the valley from Edom. I scramble higher up. Apparently I wasn’t high enough. Water floods through the valley at an amazing rate.

A moment ago the valley was empty. No people, no animals, no birds. Just full of ditch after ditch. Some straight, some crooked, some deep, some shallow. So many ditches. Now it is one swirling , rushing river.

The flood waters disappear as fast as they came. All that’s left are ditches. Ditches full of water. Gleaming in the daylight, reflecting the red of the sun.

“Praise Jehovah!” I yell in glee as I race to the water and drink my fill! Oh, the cool liquid as never tasted so sweet as it runs over my chaffed lips and flows through my parched throat.

Before the first mouth is downed I am joined by the whole army and all their beasts. This water from heaven is better than a feast! Doubters are now praises as we celebrate together.

In a valley full of ditches there’s plenty of water for everyone. No one has to line up and wait. You simply pick one of the ditches you dug yesterday and drink in the miracle.

The horn is sounded as the call to battle goes up. We grab our swords as we head into the slaughter.

“And then Daddy, you beat the Moabites to smithereens!”

“Yes, my little princess, we did! But we could not have done it without the help fo the Lord. And He would not have honoured our efforts if we hadn’t obeyed His commands.

My precious children, I don’t know what God will ask you to do in your life time for Him. Given my experiences and the stories of old, I can only imagine it will involve a crazy idea, a lot of hard work and a big chunk of faith.”

Having heard my story before, they interrupt in unison to chant: “When God asks you to dig ditches, dig ’em deep!”


For the Biblical account check out 2 Kings 3:9-27. It’s not a widely known story so you may like to read it for yourself. I hoped you enjoyed my angle on it 🙂

Which is your favourite faith story in the Bible? Share yours in the comments below.

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