‘Twas called upon once more to preach the sermon; I titled it The God of the Pit and drew from Genesis 37:5-24.
The text, in my estimation, is a familiar one to those well-acquainted with Christendom. It’s the passage where Joseph has two prophetic dreams; the first (with the sheaves) implies his brothers will be under Joseph’s subjection in the future and the second (with the sun, moon, and eleven stars) takes it a bit further and involves his parents. While the Bible states that Joseph’s father observed this saying (dream; v. 11), his brothers didn’t – rather, they envied him (also v. 11) and even conspired to kill him (v. 18-20)!
Sounds a lot like Cain and Abel. Yes, this isn’t the first time the Bible records a brother slaying another due to envy.
Eventually Joseph’s eleven brethren strip him of his robe of many colors and toss him into the pit, which the Bible states was empty, with no water in it (v. 24). Sounds like a complete contrast to Joseph’s dreams, doesn’t it?
Before I elaborate on that, I’d like to talk about this pit. Its description as “empty with no water in it” sounds superfluous; emptiness implies lack of other resources. Here I point out that water is symbolic of many things in Scripture, from life to baptism to the Holy Spirit, depending on the context. In a physical context, lest one rescued Joseph from this pit, there was nothing to sustain him so he could’ve died. Notwithstanding, he was eventually sold to the Ishmaelites and thus spared from death in the pit.
To retell this story in layman, contemporary terms: when God makes a promise to you, expect opposition. Expect it even from unlikely places; in the text it was Joseph’s own brethren who conspired against him! Some believers tend to think that all opposition comes from Satan and the kingdom of darkness; I say we give the devil too much credit in this regard.
Ever received a promotion and/or praise on the job, in school, church, or amidst your peers and family and became subject to envy or rejection? This is exactly what Joseph went through – indeed, I believe many of us (whether believers or not) go through this at some point. When such opposition comes, it’s hard to think God can come through at times.
Enter the God of the Pit.
In Genesis 39, we see Joseph sold into indentured servitude (yet God was blessing him); he began prospering greatly. Just when Joseph received a promotion in his master (Potiphar)’s house, there came another round of opposition. Potiphar’s wife began tempting Joseph to sleep with her; when he resisted, she framed him for attempted rape (v. 14-20). After this, Potiphar had Joseph imprisoned.
Another promotion, another pit – and note that the prophetic dreams Joseph had about his brothers and his parents did not come to pass yet. It’s the same with us; God may have promised us some things, but on our way to receiving the promise trial after trial and obstacle after obstacle comes our way. One can easily become discouraged in the face of such adversity. Concerning Joseph, however, note his promotion during the trials; I dare say God will promote you en route to the promises!
But there will be trials, tests, and perhaps some pits waiting for you to fall in ‘em. How should one handle these, then? I gave three points during the sermon:
- Submit (that is, to God and His will; may also involve obeisance to certain authority figures even if you don’t like them!)
- Believe (must believe that God can get you out and believe that you will get out!)
- Move (can’t emerge from a pit unless you take the first step!)
Note Joseph’s obeisance to Potiphar even as his wife tempted him (v. 8-10); also note that Joseph received Godly favor even in jail (v. 21-23)!
Yes, God can make your sun shine while you’re goin’ through the storm!
Amazingly, Joseph’s problems didn’t end in the prison. In Genesis 40 Potiphar imprisons his own chef and butler; they have dreams and Joseph helps them interpret. While Joseph requested the butler to intercede on his behalf on his wrongful imprisonment, the butler – presumably because of his own freedom (v. 21) – forgot about him; hence Joseph spent even more time in jail.
Indeed, some cats might claim to have our back but end up forgetting us – this is true even if we’ve made significant investments in these people!
Loneliness can also be a pit – as can many other things, for that matter (e.g. poverty, sickness, stagnation in life). Pertinent to the text and my sermon is being rejected and forgotten. While these can also foster discouragement, note that in these cases God didn’t leave Joseph’s side; hence, if you stick with Him even as others fall away, He’ll see you through to the end!
There is also a parallel between these events and Jesus Christ; the Synoptic Gospels record a parable where Christ describes wicked tenants. The scriptures I highlight here are those where Christ references Psalm 118: 22-23; I’ll quote the text from Matthew 21:42-44 (English Standard Version):
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”(Emphasis mine.)
Where others may reject you, forget you, or perceive you as “useless,” God does not. Rather, if you cleave to Him, He will exalt you above your detractors! Reading the next several chapters of Genesis, we see that Joseph’s elevation continues and eventually, the vision in his dreams comes to pass (that is, his brothers under his subjection).
To sum this all up, know that God won’t abandon you in your weak or low moments! Such times are trying and I’d be lying if I said trusting Him is easy in those circumstances…but I’ve experienced such for myself – I know He’s able! Trust God while you’re going through and He will lift you up – but note that you may encounter multiple bouts of opposition before receiving God’s promises! Also, don’t make excuses for your pits! That is, don’t give yourself reasons to stay down when you’ve the ability to GET UP!!!
May these words encourage you and lift you up when you find yourself down! Hold fast to God; may He richly bless you all!
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