Sermon delivered July 5, 1997

by Pastor Don J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Down in the Valley of Life

Yesterday was Independence Day. Today is Dependence Day. For Christians, dependence is more important than independence. I want to talk to about being down in the valley of life and how to get out of it.

Once upon a time in the days of Elisha they had a crisis. Now all through the Bible it seems the Bible is full of crises. Does it seem like your life is full of crises? Then al lot of these thing are not uncommon.

In Elisha's day the evil Moabites rebelled against Israel. They had a problem. The kings of Israel, Judah and Edom combined their armies and took a sneaky route to attack their enemy, the Moabites. In the hot desert they ran out of water. Now you don't want to run out of water in the hot desert. When they were dying of thirst they called on the prophet Elisha, and he told them to dig ditches. God sent water and filled those ditches. In the morning those ditches were full of water! They were refreshed. But the enemy looked out there and saw all those ditches with the water and thought the water was blood, and that these three forces had argued during the night and killed each other. So they rushed in to take the spoils & were overwhelmed in a devastating battle. They got slaughtered.

This remarkable story is in II Kings 3.

The setting for our story is the death of Ahab. You remember Jezebel? His son, JEHORAM, was just a smidgen better than his evil daddy and his very wicked mother. Ahab had conquered the land of Moab and made them pay some heavy taxes to Israel. If you think our taxes are bad here in Tennessee, listen to this.

II Kings 3:4- "Now Mesha, king of Moab raised sheep. He was like a modern Arab Sheik. This wealthy, powerful sheepmaster revolted because he detested the Israelites. He hated to pay this heavy annual tax of 100,000 live lambs and the wool from 100,000 rams. The death of Ahab became the ideal time to be independent.

When Mesha got wind of Ahab's death he rounded up his strong men and... In the Bible it doesn't really say this, it just says they had a bad problem. He revolted and they rebelled. But according to the Moabite stone that the archaeologists dug up, these Moabites went out and killed over 7000 men, women, and children were killed. He murdered them. And so they had to do something.

Jehoram, Ahab's son, no sooner got the scepter in his hand than he had to take the sword and go out to battle. He rounded up all able bodied men. II Kings 3:6 "King Joram set out from Samaria and mobilized all Israel."

He convinced the King of Judah to join him. Their local CIA spies informed them that the Moabites were expecting a direct attack from the north across the Jordan river. So they decided to march 7 days through the desert and around the dead sea and strike from the Southern Wilderness. Since this passed through Edom, the Edomites joined them. So we have three kings on their camels heading East. Only they were not following a star. They were embarking on a dangerous journey without so much as asking almighty God to even help them.

Christians take note! How often do we go out to do battle with the issues of life without even consulting heaven? You're going to certain disaster if you do that! Always pray before buying a car, before making a business decision, before accepting a date --- or before choosing a major in school getting a job --- choosing a doctor. You pray about that and your life will be a lot better off.

They went off without God. They went ahead of God.

Notice what happened in II Kings 3:9- "So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout march of seven days the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them." They ran out of Water. None for their animals or themselves. They didn't have jeeps to carry their supplies. They didn't have helicopters and personnel carriers. They had to have animals, and each animal could drink fifteen to twenty gallons a day out there. You don't run out of water in a hot desert. Their route was difficult and dangerous. When you have thousands of soldiers in the awful hot barren desert sun, you don't want to run out of water.

Notice the very first thing they did in verse ten: "What!" exclaimed the king of Israel. "Has the Lord called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?" Jehoram blamed God. and blaming everybody including God. How often we blame God when WE did not even bother to consult Him in the first place. They blamed God for a decision they had made without God. Now that's a very strange thing. I'm glad we're not like that today, aren't you? We don't blame God for some things, or do we? They were hot and parched. Their tongues were dry and thick. They were dusty and agitated. They were quarreling over what they were going to do now. They were blaming everybody, including God Himself.

Now, would someone please tell me what water is a symbol of? Water is a symbol of Jesus Christ!!! John 4:10--Jesus is the Living Water. They were out of Jesus! That's their problem: they were out of the Saviour, Christ the living water. If you tap into Jesus you connect yourself with the fountain of life. Without Christ we will fail. Without Jesus we will die of spiritual thirst and hunger. If Jesus is not in your home your house will be a hot desert, full of arguments and harsh words. It will be a place where the heavenly angels will NOT wish to dwell.

In II Kings 3:11-12- "But Jehoshaphat asked, "Is there no prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord through him?" And so they found, finally, the desire to contact God. How nice it would have been if they had consulted with God in the first place, but they did not. Sot they wanted to consult God's prophet. Now, where would Elisha logically be? Would he be seven days out into the desert, way south in the desert country? And yet, you know, he happened to be there! How interesting that Elisha just happened to be nearby! God anticipates the needs of His people. Would you agree? What in the world would a prophet of God be doing out there in the middle of the hot dry dessert? The truth is that God is never far from his needy children. Maybe he was brought there miraculously, maybe he lived there. That would almost be inconceivable that he would want to live there. God hovers over His people. God is with you. The times that you think He is not with you: there is only one set of footprints in the sand, is the time He's carrying you.

Look at II Kings 3:13-14 "Elisha said to the king of Israel, 'What have we to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.'" That's like saying, "I don't know if I want to help you. Why don't you just go consult with baal and your other idols that you serve? I don't want to have anything to do with you." Elisha almost refused to help. And he would not have if it had not been for the presence of good king Jehoshaphat. Thus it was that day that the wicked enjoyed the blessing of God because of the presence of one righteous person among them. How often an unconverted husband participates in God's rich blessings simply because he lives with a godly wife. Often you receive the blessing because of the faithfulness of your mother or your father who is praying for you. What are you going to do when they die? What are you going to do when Jehoshaphat isn't there any more?

Verse 15- Notice what happened next. Elisha said, "Bring me a harpist." He sent for a MUSICIAN. Now if you were in the desert and you had a crisis on your hands, here was the enemy just a few miles down the road, what's the first thing you would do? Would you say, "I need an organist? I need Shea Yeager and Marge Seifert. Without that we aren't going anywhere." They're in a life and death crisis and he needs a musician! Music in the desert! With the powerful enemy just a few miles away he needs music! While the troops are dying of thirst and a powerful enemy is almost there he wants music. WHY? Well, we under estimate the power of music, either for good or evil. Elisha ordered good music and with it came word from God. He got the word. He got the Lord through the music. Good music can restore a spiritual atmosphere. You don't get answers to your prayers until you have your mind on heavenly things. Wicked devil-inspired music obstructs the flow of the water of life. The way they got the water was to turn on the good music. Satanic music brings a flow of death and evil into your home. If you are wanting the water of life you will have to listen to different CD's. Change stations. Modern music: I don't understand it. It seems that the music that makes the most money makes the least sense. This heavy music does have one advantage: at least no one can whistle it! There's no tune there: it's just a bunch of... Well, I don't even understand it. Elisha's music brought sound advise from God... And that's the type of music we want to be listening to.

And what was the advice of God? Go DIG DITCHES! Now that's the last thing you want to hear. How many of you enjoy digging ditches? You don't want to go digging ditches when your tongue is like a dried up piece of leather, out there in the hot desert sun! Maybe you would rather do some high calling or anything else but God wants you down there in the valley digging a deep ditch. God sometimes wants you down in the bottom of the barrel digging a ditch. In II Kings 3:16- "Make this valley full of ditches!"

Now they were in a low place in life. When you are dehydrated, when you gasping your last ounce of strength in the hot sun the last thing you want to do is exhaust yourself working in the hot crusty desert digging a ditch. That's what God says.

VALLEY-- They were in a low place, a low spot in life. Often when we are in the valley of the shadow of death we find wonderful answers. I think you might find more answers in the bottom of the barrel rather than on the mountain top sometimes. You've got to have the answer. You're desperate for an answer. They were dying. If you in your personal life today are in a bad place and your life: you're really discouraged, you need to listen to this story because here is what you need to do.

Their situation was hopeless. The enemy had spotted them. The enemy knew they were there. Their surprise attack had failed. They were out of water. They were dying. They were helpless. They were totally dependent on God. And that's exactly the place they needed to be. When you are totally dependent on God, when you totally surrender everything you have and say, "Lord I give up. I can't quite smoking this cigarette. I can't quit drugs." When you totally through it into God's hands then and only then can you expect a miracle. And that's a wonderful place to be: in the hands of God.

Can you imagine a sweaty thirsty soldier being told to et out there and dig a ditch? What's he going to dig with? Did they bring shovels with them? Do you think they had back-hoes and bull-dozers? They didn't have anything to dig a ditch with! So they took their spear or their helmets or something. Put the dirt in a shield, maybe. I don't know what they carried. They dug the ditches! I can imagine some tired soldier sitting there in the hot sand taking his spear-point and dragging it around him in a circle and saying, "There, that's my ditch! I dug it."

Verse 17- "For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, and your cattle and your other animals will drink." That's not a conditional prophecy. Well, it is in a way, isn't it? It's conditional on the digging the ditches. Now you could see here that they could dig their ditch as DEEP, WIDE, LONG as they wanted! In other words, you can get as much of Jesus as you want! But you're going to have to dig for it. The Christian experience does not come by accident, it does not come by heredity, it comes by digging deep into the Word of God. How often we pray for blessings that we have made no provision to receive. You see, if God is going to pour out a blessing you've got to make provision to receive that blessing! If you want the windows of heaven open you've got to dig a ditch for that blessing to flow into. And that's what God want us to do. To get unusual blessings, God often asks us to take unusual actions.

Jehoshaphat's faith was remarkable. He believed water would come. He did not ask for a sign from heaven before digging. No fleece was thrown out. The water came! Miraculous Heaven-sent water. Not from rain or storm. I wonder just how that water came? The Bible says you're not going to see any rain, you're not going to see any wind, and yet the valley will be filled with water. How did that happen?

Well, during a long dry spell in Africa several children were playing in the gravel and sand of a dry riverbed. Suddenly the father heard a roaring sound coming from the direction of the mountains. They hadn't seem a cloud in the sky. But they heard this roaring sound. Quickly they climbed the river banks just before a wall of water descended where they had been in that old dry river bed. Within an hour the water had totally disappeared except in a few low places where there were puddles. That's why God wanted them to dig those ditches.

I don't know just how God sent the water in our story, but I do know that every ditch was filled with water! If the trench was deep and wide and long it held maybe hundreds of gallons of water. If we half-heartedly prepare for God to open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing we will receive very little of heaven's blessings. The rest will drift on down the stream of life into the ocean of eternal loss. You're not going to receive near what you could have had if you were prepared to receive it.

The Wadi-el Haday drains a good share of the land of Moab. Al it would take is a Nocturnal storm in the far off mountains just before sunrise would provide the precious water. Red clay underfoot, combined with a red sunrise and clear skies would lead the Moabites to conclude that an ugly overnight quarrel had resulted in the slaughter of most of their enemies. "These people have killed themselves off and all we have to do is go down there and collect the goods.

That day the tide turned and victory was given to God's children. Notice that God didn't do everything. As they followed His word they prospered. They got victory. Each ditch was full. Victory followed.

We do have a part to play in our salvation. We have to make our heart ready. We have to be willing and surrender totally to Jesus Christ. Every day we need to invite Him into our life. We must prepare the soil of our heart to be filled with Jesus, the water of life. How? Every day we invite Jesus into our life. Every day we clean the vessel of our heart from its worldly trash. We must open up the channel for God to fill, and be willing to give up the world.

You know, I believe we're living in the last days. I believe that soon the latter rain of the Holy Spirit will fall upon this old world. And when that rain falls upon us, will we be able to collect some of it? Will we be able to keep some of it? Only if we have done our ditch work. Only if we've opened up the channels. Empty your heart of all worldly things. Shed the vestments of worldliness. God will help you. The tinsel and jewels of this world are clogging the arteries of God's church. God's people must separate themselves from the sins that prevent us from receiving the fullness of God.

II Kings 3:20- "The next morning about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was--water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water!" When did the water come? About the time of the morning worship. When do you get Jesus? Jesus comes when we begin our day worshiping Him. Are you having morning worship in your home? That's what this is saying. Jesus come when we begin our day worshipping Him. We need to begin each day by quenching your thirst for Jesus. And that water that came saved those people that day and also gave them victory. Imagine the thirsty soldiers running to their ditches and plunging their faces into the refreshing water. When that water came it saved them from death by dehydration. The water also became the means of their victory over their enemies.

In these last days it is time to dig deep into the soil of Jesus Christ and God's word. I think some day Jesus Himself will come. Soon eternal water in the presence of Jesus Himself will come and bring to us eternal life! Be patient. Jesus, the water, is coming. Psalm 30:5 "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." The rivers of living water will soon come.

                  Jesus keep me near the cross,
                   There a precious fountain,
                   Free to all, a healing stream
                   Flows from Calvary's mountain.
                                          Fannie J Crosby 

Opening Hymn 326
Scripture:  Psalm  67
Closing Hymn  312 -- Near the Cross  

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