At the conclusion of last week’s lesson Joseph was at the bottom of the pit into which his jealous brothers had thrown him. Can you imagine the whirlwind of emotions that swirled in the mind of that 17 year old? Thoughts of his father, of his privileged childhood, of his many colored tunic; feelings of utter panic as he felt around the walls of the dark pit looking in vain for some protruding rock or brick that he might pull himself up. But there was none. His cries to his brothers were met with silence. Joseph looked death square in the face.
Did the thought even cross his mind in those moments that despite his brothers’ jealousy and hatred, he was in large part responsible for where he was? Did the realization begin to creep in on him that his status as favored son and his arrogance about his dreams played a part in what was happening on that fateful day? We don’t know for sure but there is no indication that he did.
It is not unusual for any of us to unexpectedly find ourselves in a painful or difficult situation. Our natural response is to accuse and to blame others – whoever they are – for causing us such distress. Rarely do we look to God in those moments and ask, ‘Is this the result of poor choices or ungodly behavior of mine in the past? What do You want me to learn from this, my God?’
There is a principle we learn from the scriptures which is clearly demonstrated in agriculture. The kind of seed you sow into the ground determines the fruit that will later come from that seed. You don’t get apples from an orange tree. Neither do clusters of grapes grow from tomato seeds.
Every action, every decision carries consequences and in many cases the consequences may not be visible for months or years. But sooner or later, the fruit will be seen. When that fruit is bitter, the only rightful response is to recognize our responsibility in the situation and repent. While there is no singular verse that says, ‘Joseph repented’, we can safely conclude that he did, albeit later in the unfolding story as we shall see in future lessons.
In the darkness of the pit, new sounds reach Joseph’s ears. Men talking, camels snorting. A heavy rope is suddenly thrown down and hope surfaces, but only for a moment. It is not the rope of deliverance that he assumed; it is a rope of bondage. As his head clears the top of the pit, he recognizes immediately what is happening. A rough looking group of Ishmaelites, descendants of his great-uncle, Ishmael, are standing by his brothers. Judah is negotiating with them and in short order money is exchanged. The brief glimmer of hope fades as Joseph realizes his fate. Against his will, he is tied like an animal to one of the camels and the caravan moves on, Joseph with it. Yesterday he was surrounded by the wealth of his father’s love and possessions. I picture him shuffling through the sand, head bowed, tears streaming down his face. Did he look back as the distance between him and his brothers increased? Who knows? But the pain he experienced leaves us breathless.
There is no greater compliment any person can receive than to be tapped by God for a special and unique task. However, it also brings with it a season of preparation so that the calling will not consume the person; but the person will be consumed with God. Our personal relationship with the Lord must always be a higher priority than the work which He has called us to do. God took over Joseph’s life and when He did, Joseph’s comfortable existence crumbled.
The first thing to notice about Joseph’s season of preparation was that God gave him no advance notice of the price to be paid for the fulfillment of the dreams He Himself had given to Joseph. When we think God has hidden His face from us, when our world crumbles and our hopes and dreams lie shattered on the ground, like Joseph’s were, it is then that FAITH will remind us of the words of Jeremiah. I especially like this translation of chapter 29, verse 11-13: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.’
The second thing to notice is that God put His finger on the very thing Joseph was most proud of: his dreams. His reaction to the gift God had given him demonstrated his immaturity and his arrogance. The very God who had bestowed the gift now initiated the process by which those dreams could ultimately come to pass. There was nothing wrong with the gifts but there was a lot wrong with Joseph. But God knew the kind of man He wanted Joseph to become and he needed to suffer what seemed to be the ‘death’ of his dreams before they could ever come to pass. That journey had just begun.
The third thing to notice is that when God put His finger on Joseph, there was no turning back. Any possibility of escaping his brothers and running home to Daddy was gone. God Himself became Joseph’s only hope. Though I doubt he understood what was happening as he trudged through the sand on the way to Egypt in the company of the Ishmaelites, somewhere along that road his distress must have been overwhelming. Yet, no doubt because of all he knew of his father’s experiences with the God of Israel, a spark of faith somewhere deep in his heart must have kept him from total despair. At least he was alive and thankful to be out of the pit. Who could have imagined that the spoiled teenager, the apple of his father’s eye, would find himself in such a situation?
We are sometimes too quick to celebrate the gift God has given us or the calling He has issued to us without having the wisdom to understand our need for preparation because of how God wants to use us in this world. God has an amazing way of delivering us from horrible circumstances (the pit) only to lead us into other circumstances we never expected (years in Egypt).
What was accomplished by Joseph’s deliverance from the pit: There was no way back. Yes, he had to say good-bye to his father, good-bye to the land of Israel, good-bye to his beautiful tunic of many colors, but he could also say good-bye to the pit, to a premature death!
In your course of following God’s will for your life, you may be in a pit, you may be on the road to somewhere you never wanted to go, utterly distressed and wondering where God has gone!
Today, let me tell you where He is. He’s looking forward to seeing you at the palace!