Turn in your Bibles to 2 Kings 3:1-20. This morning we are in the second week of a four-part series looking at the prophet Elisha. If you missed last week, we talked about burning plows, leaving behind anything that would keep us from following God and moving ahead. So last week we burnt some plows and this week we’re going to talk about Real Faith. I am asking God to build the faith of our church to be greater than it has ever been, because we know without faith, it is impossible to please God. So grab your shovels and get ready to grow with Real Faith.
Let's read our text and let it bring to light this very powerful truth; we'll start in 2nd Kings, chapter 3, and we'll read verses 1-20.
2 Kings 3:1-20
Joram son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned twelve years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father and mother had done. He got rid of the sacred stone of Baal that his father had made. 3 Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them.
4 Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with a hundred thousand lambs and with the wool of a hundred thousand rams. 5 But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 So at that time King Joram set out from Samaria and mobilized all Israel. 7 He also sent this message to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: "The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?"
"I will go with you," he replied. "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses."
8 "By what route shall we attack?" he asked.
"Through the Desert of Edom," he answered.
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.
10 "What!" exclaimed the king of Israel. "Has the Lord called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?"
11 But Jehoshaphat asked, "Is there no prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord through him?"
An officer of the king of Israel answered, "Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."
12 Jehoshaphat said, "The word of the Lord is with him." So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
13 Elisha said to the king of Israel, "What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother."
"No," the king of Israel answered, "because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to hand us over to Moab."
14 Elisha said, "As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. 15 But now bring me a harpist."
While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha 16 and he said, "This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. 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, your cattle and your other animals will drink. 18 This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you. 19 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."
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. NIV
So here in this passage, we find three kings who have joined forces to battle against the Moabites and it looks like an easy victory. Right? Three against one they thought, this should be an easy battle. But often in life, things do not go as we planned. Amen? So instead of winning easily, they find their troops marching for seven days, wandering in the desert, until suddenly they realize that they’re completely out of water. They’re about to die of thirst, their animals are going to die of thirst, and they had a very significant need.
This story contains a very important principle. One which will be good news to many of you. And that is that when you find yourself in that place of great need, it becomes a blessing, because it drives you to depend on God. It is my prayer that through that principle, that God would minister to you in a special way. And so as you listen to this message I encourage you to listen with your greatest, most significant need in mind, because I believe that God is going to do a great work in you through his word today.
You see these three kings, these three armies, had a problem, a significant need, because they had run out of water. They had found themselves to be in great danger. Things were not looking good at all and all of a sudden they’re in real trouble. And it’s kind of funny, but it’s not, because what they do is the same thing that we always do. You see, these three kings they don’t love God, they don’t serve God, or worship him. These three kings are not in the practice of seeking God, but all of a sudden, when they’re in trouble, they do what we all do, they seek God. You know, it’s that prayer that we’ve all said in that moment of great need… “God help me!”
And so what they do, is they ask around and consider who might be their connection to God, who might be their priest, who might be the one to intercede for them. And an officer of the king of Israel mentioned Elisha and King Jehoshaphat said, “Yes, the word of the Lord is with him.” So the three kings went to Elisha, the prophet, thinking that maybe he would help them out, maybe do a little rain dance, or pull some spiritual strings; because they had heard about the miracles that Elisha had been doing.
And so they went down to him, but Elisha was on to them, he knew their motives were self-serving, that they didn’t know God, they didn’t worship God, and so he’s like, “Why do you want to involve me? What do we have to do with each other?” And if it hadn’t been for Jehoshaphat he would have ignored them, but the presence of a descendant of King David was the key that opened the door. And Elisha made it clear that he wasn't helping Joram, son of Ahab, but Jehoshaphat, the son of David (2 Kings 3:14). You see, it was God's covenant with David that ushers in the grace of God and brings about the miracle. And so Elisha says, "I know Jehoshaphat's not worshiping God, but he did at one time fear God, so because he's here, I’m gonna help you out.” And in verse 15, he tells them, “Bring me a harpist." You see unlike those three kings, Real Faith Worships and Elisha had real faith, a radical faith, a ridiculous faith.
So he says, “Bring me a harpist. If you want me to prophesy, I’m going to need some mood music to set the tone.” Now have you ever noticed, the effect of praise music on your home or work atmosphere? Have you ever turned on some praise music before you prayed? You see, I do that often before prayer, not just when I'm praying for something really big, but any time I want to connect with God. I put worship music on before I begin my message preparation, because it helps me connect to God. You see, there is something about when you worship God through music, because he inhabits praise of his people. And for those of you who’ve done this, you know, that there's something special that happens when your heart is drawn toward God in praise and worship. And so Elisha knew that worship was key to hearing from the Lord. And that the music of the harp would bring peace to his mind and heart, helping him to focus, to have clarity, and to enter into intimate communion with the Lord.
But here’s what I find amazing. He didn’t say, “Go find a guitar.” He didn’t ask for just any form of stringed instrument. He said, “Bring me a harpist.” He was specific. You know, it’s like, “Go get me a Grand Piano and a worship leader who can play me some music so I can prophesy for you.” And maybe he was just being difficult, maybe he was being demanding, but the reality is that when we want to meet with God, when we want to hear from God, we worship him. You see Real Faith Worships and this was not an uncommon practice for prophets to do.
I am reminded, of the words of the prophet Samuel to Saul, when he tells him, “As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person” (1 Samuel 10: 5-6).
And so Elisha is preparing an atmosphere of worship, and the three kings are getting excited, their full of anticipation, their like, "Okay, Elisha's going to give us a word of encouragement. He's going to tell us that God is going to send rain. I can feel the music playing. I can almost smell the rain. This is going to be good."
But what does Elisha do? Verses 15 and 16, he reveals to them God’s plan... Now the kings thought that God would make it rain and they were just gonna go out and run through the puddles right? But that wasn’t God’s plan, because Real Faith Works.
“…While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he said, "This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches.”
Even though the troops are about to die of thirst… Even though there is not a sign of rain anywhere… Even though they were in a severe drought… God sends them out. God was preparing them. God was taking them to the lowest point, where they had nothing more to offer, nothing more to give, and all they had was God. You see, your greatest need can become your greatest blessing if it drives you to depend on God.
So this is the context, even though the troops are about to die of thirst, God sends them out to dig ditches in the hot desert sun, because a Real Faith Works. You see, an effective faith, a faith that moves the heart of God, a faith that invokes a response from God, is a faith that is active. It’s a faith that does something. It is a faith that believes so strongly that God is going to act, that we act, and that we take a step toward God. You see Real Faith depends on God, because only God can send your miracle, but sometimes, and this is so important, sometimes he wants you to dig the ditch.
The Bible tells us this in James 2:26: “Faith without deeds is dead.” You see, God can send the water, because he can do anything. He can speak streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans everywhere. God could do that. He didn’t need them. He didn’t need them to dig ditches. But what he was saying is, “You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.” You see, sometimes God wants to see your faith; he wants you to dig a ditch, because he loves to see your faith.
In Mark’s gospel it tells us, "When Jesus saw their faith" (Mark 2:5). How do you see faith? You know if I'm praying, you don’t see faith, because faith is an action. Faith is a verb. Faith is four guys digging a hole in somebody’s roof so that they can lower their friend down to Jesus to be healed. Amen?
When Peter was in the boat and said, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus said, "Come” (Matthew 14:28-29). And so what did Peter do? He got out of the boat right? That’s when you see faith. The other 11 disciples, you don’t see any faith, because they didn’t get out of the boat. And I think there are many times when God doesn’t act simply because we are not willing to participate in the miracle.
We see it again and again in the Bible. There is a guy with a withered hand in the synagogue and Jesus says to him, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). Jesus could’ve said to him, “Be healed in my name.” He could have done that, but instead he invited the man to participate in the miracle.
Another time, there was a guy who couldn't walk. Jesus looks at him and says, "Get up, pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8-9). He was going to heal him but first he wanted to see if he had the faith to believe. First he said, “Get up... Let me see your faith!”
There was a guy who was blind from birth and Jesus walks up to him, picks up some dirt in his hand, spits on it, making mud, and puts it on the guy's eyes. Then Jesus tells him, "Go wash your eyes” (John 9:6-7). In other words, "I'm going to do my part, but I want you to participate in the miracle. Show me your faith!” So the man went, washed his eyes, and came home seeing.
The Bible tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And I believe, that there are too many people asking, too many people waiting on God, waiting for their miracle, but they’re not showing God any faith. You see God can send the water, the miracles in his hand, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
You see, Real Faith Believes, but it requires you to take a step of faith. Today if you want to quit smoking, maybe you should just throw your cigarettes in the trashcan on the way out? Just walk out the door, throw ‘em in the can, and say, "Jesus there's some faith for you." That’s digging a ditch right?
A lot of people want their kids to serve Jesus and be strong Christians, but they don't bring their kids to Kids Connect, they don’t bring their teens to Unashamed Youth, they never come to Bible Study, they never open the Bible in their own home, sharing God's word or praying with their kids. And so God's like, "You want some water? Dig a ditch. Be a godly parent. Do something."
Here’s another one Christians say all the time, "I need more money; times are tough” and yet they don’t tithe. You see, God gives us a ridiculous principal; it is absolutely, completely, totally absurd. And that is, that if we give him our first and our best, he will bless the rest. And those of you who are tithers, you know that 90 percent with God’s blessings goes a whole lot further than a 100 percent without. It’s crazy, it’s radical, but it’s true. Real Faith Believes that God will send the water, but he wants you to dig a ditch.
You see, too many people who call themselves Christians are not thinking big enough. We serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we allow ourselves to believe. Ephesians 3:20, tells us, “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” It's time for the church to start thinking big. It’s time to start digging ditches. The Lord said, “Make this valley full of ditches.”
This morning let me ask you… would you would be willing to start? You don’t need a backhoe, you don’t need any heavy equipment, all you need is a shovel. That’s how you dig a ditch. One load of dirt at a time. You start small.
The prophet Zechariah said, "Do not despise these small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." (Zechariah 4:10: NLT).
Sometimes, you’ve just got to start small. You're going to start with what is in front of you. You're going to be faithful with what God has given you. You're going to start small. And I want to encourage you to say, "God, I believe you can." And then start where you are. You see God loves it when we participate in his miracle. He loves it when he can see our faith, because faith without works is dead. And some of you, right now, you’ve got a significant need in your life, and you think, “If only God would meet that need. If only God would answer that prayer.”
Well verse 20 says, that after they had dug the ditches, "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” (2 Kings 3:20).
Can you say that with me -- "And the land was filled with water."
Don’t forget that God can bring about your miracle, but sometimes before he sends the water you need to dig a ditch. I pray for a church full of people who will think big but start small, believing by faith, long before there's a cloud in the sky or any sign of water, that if we'll dig the ditch, that God is faithful enough to send the water. Amen!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
February 15, 2015