23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. 24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it.
Genesis 37:23-24 NKJV
Never Without Hope
In last week’s sermon, we took a look at the saving kind of brother love – a love for all people. Sadly, the focus of our sermon today opens with Joseph’s blood brothers stripping him of his coat (tunic) and then throwing him into a pit. This act was an act of hatred, but we will get into my thoughts behind that in a moment. You see, it’s bad when a follow man won’t help you out or do right by you. However, it is absolutely terrible when a blood sibling won’t do right by you. Now you may not have this problem in your life. I myself have a great sister and a great brother. In fact, I had great parents (mom is still alive), my grandparents were great, all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins are all really good people – I am blessed. The reality, however, is that there are many people in the world who unfortunately are unable to depend on their blood for help.
Joseph found himself being hated by his own brothers. Scripture (Genesis 37:20) shows us how and why they conspired against Joseph – we’ll get into the “why” in a little bit. We are told that his brothers wanted to kill (slay) him and then throw him in a pit. They would then tell Israel (Jacob) that a wild beast had gotten to Joseph and killed him. There has to be a lot of hate in a person to kill another person, in my opinion. Could you imagine how much you would have to hate your own sibling to take his/her life from them? Reuben, the oldest of the siblings, decided that they shouldn’t kill their own brother (Genesis 37:21). This sounds great, but their resolution was to beat Joseph up and still throw him into a pit. I want you to notice that they still beat up Joseph, threw him in a pit, and then left Joseph in that pit where he still could have died.
These pits were not kind places to be inside of – they were large holes dug into the ground for the primary reason of catching wild animals or catching drinking water. Pits could also be used as a dungeon or a prison, which seems to be the case here for Joseph. This pit for Joseph was essentially like a prison. Notice that this pit was empty, but because the pit was probably used to store water or catch a wild animal, Joseph could not climb out of the pit or even jump his way out of the pit. If Joseph thirst for something to drink, he would simply go thirsty because there was nothing in the pit to drink; there was certainly nothing in the pit to eat.
I want you to put yourself into Joseph’s situation. Close your eyes and imagine being in this deep and probably dark pit. Because the pit is deep, it’s also probably cold in this pit and you have no tunic (coat) to keep you warm. How does this make you feel? When I put myself into Joseph’s situation, the only feeling I seem to have is this feeling of hopelessness. Have you ever felt like you were in that kind of place — a place of hopelessness? Have you ever felt like you were trapped in a pit (dungeon or prison)? For example: You may be someone who has been going through the same tiring, and maybe even boring, daily routines. You may be someone who has been working the same old tiring job that may not pay well but it’s hard to find another place of employment because their pay may not be much better or come with benefits. No matter what you have tried, you may be someone who’s living circumstances just don’t seem to be getting better. You may have children and look at your children and become sad because you’re unable to provide them what they deserve. You may not speak out on these things because there seems to be no hope of things getting “better” or improving.
Joseph was a man that had dreams – great dreams. It was Joseph’s dreams that really bothered his brothers. Joseph had the gift of being able to interpret his dreams and so he would go on about his great dreams to his brothers so much so that they began to hate and conspire against him because of these dreams that he would have. Life is still like this, in a way. What I mean here is that it seems many people will conspire against you because your dreams are higher than their dreams. You have to be careful of who you share your dreams with because someone may not like the sound of your dreams and aspirations. People will conspire against you when they see that you are trying to live your dreams and they become angry that their dreams aren’t leading them on the same path – live YOUR dreams and don’t let them hold you back.
I begin to wonder if the dreamer could still see those dreams and whether or not Joseph held on to those dreams in this situation. Often times we find ourselves in very dark places (pits) and it becomes hard for us to dream (to see) when we are in those dark places; everything seems dark, terrifying, and hopeless. “How will I get out of this situation?” we may ask ourselves. We may even ask ourselves, “is it possible for me to get out of this place?” Joseph found himself literally in a pit, but I tell you that this dreamer never let go of hope! You see, Joseph placed his hope in the Lord and held on to that faith of knowing that the Lord was still with him and would get him out of that situation – he believed in those dreams of his!
I believe this hope, this faith, was very key to who Joseph was as a person. I feel that our faith and our hope in God should also be key to us when we find ourselves in a pit (dungeon or prison) situation. No matter what you are going through, you should always know and remember that God is still with you and God is your hope – never let go of your hope! Though his situation was dire, I tell you that Joseph did not die in that pit. Though the situation you may be going through seems dire, I tell you that you’re not going to die in that pit if you hold your faith in the Lord! My God, David said (Psalm 40:1-2), will lift you out of the pit, the miry clay, and place your feet on a rock!
God will bring you out
I love Joseph’s story, he was one of my favorite people in the bible because he sets an example of how we can overcome whatever this world throws at us – even our own flesh and blood turning against us. We overcome, not solely by our will, but by the power of God! When you look at the full life of Joseph you will see how the Lord works, and how faith and hope in the Lord rewards. Joseph’s brothers abandoned him, essentially left him for dead, but I want you to see how God, faith, and hope combine together to do the impossible in a dire and hopeless situation.
After Joseph’s brothers abandoned him, scripture tells us (Genesis 37:28) that some Midianite traders came by the pit, pulled Joseph out, and then sold him. Joseph ended up being sold into Egypt and serving under the Pharaoh of Egypt. This, you may say, doesn’t sound “good” and you’re right – nothing sounds good or a “blessing” yet. However, scripture (Genesis 39:2) declares to us that “the Lord was with Joseph, and [Joseph] was a successful man.” We all agree, nothing sounds good about Joseph’s life, so far, but we are told that God was still with him and that he was a successful man.
I want to tell you, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how unsuccessful you feel, that the Lord doesn’t look at His children by the same standards that the world will look at you. The world see’s, “he/she isn’t wealthy so they’re nothing”, but God looks at you, is with and bearing with you, and knows you are a success! I want you to know that the Lord has success in store for you, but I also want you to know that God’s idea of success is not beholden to the same standards of the world. In fact, I will tell you that the Lord’s standards for success far succeed the world’s standards. Some people dream solely of having a lot of money, but I tell you that you ought to dream even higher than that! Dream to make an impact on someone’s life, on your community, and in this world!
Joseph, rising through the ranks (Genesis 39:4), ended up having Pharaoh’s wife try to tempt him (Genesis 39:7-20) – he never fell into temptation. Because of this, Joseph was then thrown into prison and you may be saying to yourself, “nothing sounds good about this”. However, I want you to see what is said in the following verse:
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Genesis 39:21 NKJV
I point out this verse because, even in this literal prison, God never left Joseph! Scripture tells us plainly, “the Lord was with Joseph”. Joseph found favor in the sight of the ward of the prison, but I want you to notice how highly favored Joseph was in the eyes of God. In a pit, that his brothers threw him in, Joseph was still highly favored in God’s eyes. Now, in a prison, Joseph is still highly favored in the Lord’s eyes. Don’t let somebody every convince you, because of the situation you are in, that you are not favored in the eyes of God!
Too often, we let our condition (current situation) define our position with God. However, we have no idea what kind of work that the Lord is currently doing on our behalf! We believe that, because we are “believers” that our life should be easy, but let me tell you something – the life of no believer has ever been easy! Take a look at the life of Moses – his life was not easy. Take a look at the life of King David – his life was not easy. Take a look at the life of the prophet Elijah – his life was not easy. Take a look at the life of the patriarchs of the faith (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) – their life was not easy. You can even take a look at the life of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, and see that there was nothing easy about His life. Never think that your life is going to be easy because there are going to be many stumbling blocks and pits that enter in your path. Faith and hope in the Lord are what will bring you through those stumbling blocks and pits.
One last scripture that I want to point to says this:
The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
Genesis 39:23 NKJV
Joseph, you could say, had a “rough” life. I still will tell you that this faithful man was highly favored in the eyes of God. “Whatever [Joseph] did, the Lord made it prosper”. Joseph, again, rose through the ranks of Egypt and only Pharaoh held a position over him. Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt, because of a great famine, and Joseph got to meet them, his dad, and younger brother again. Is this to say that is what awaits all believers?
We see this word “prosper” and we instantly begin to think of great wealth. I don’t believe the Lord is too much concerned with our dollar bills. The Lord’s wants us to be a blessing in this world. The Lord wants us to dream and to hope in Him. No matter your situation, no matter who you are, I believe that the Lord is working a work in you to prosper – to be a blessing! So, I say to you today, don’t let a pit hold you down, keep you from dreaming, or cause you to give up hope. I say to you, place your hope in the Lord because God is with you and promise you that the Lord will reach down into that pit and pull you out. I know He will do it because He has and still does it for me!