Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DON'T FEAR THE PIT

I heard a teaching one time that was entitled "God Still Uses Cracked Pots".  The message referred to all the different lives in Scripture that had been challenged, weathered, and broken but still usable to the glory of God.  Lives with spotty track records, but a humble and trusting heart, which God redeemed for His glory and the redemption of other souls in the same or similar situation.

Lives like David, Peter, and Paul are examples of these "Cracked Pots".  David killed the husband of Bathsheba to marry her, but ended up being called a man after God's own heart. Peter a rough, prideful fisherman said he would never leave Jesus, but disowned Christ three times, yet the Holy Spirit was instrumental in his life in miracles, teachings, and the winning of souls. Paul, once known as Saul, hunted Christians to kill them, but later had an encounter with Christ so powerful it called for a name change.  These are just a few, but I never would have thought of Joseph's life, the son of Jacob, like this until I heard Pastor Richard Dial present it to the congregation in that light.

The account of Joseph's life can be found in Genesis 37-50.  However, for the "cracked pot" part of his story, as for many of us, just look at the beginning.

  1. He was a teenager (37:2). 
  2. Joseph was a tattletale  (37:2) 
  3. He is favored by Jacob. (37:3-4)
  4. He is cocky. (37:6-7)  
  5. Possibly dense in the head and took advantage of his father's favor (protection) or both. (37:9-11)
  6. Father's little spy? (37:14) 
Being a teenager in many cases gets you points deducted for lack of smart decision-making.  For Joseph it was no different.  He did not help matters by squealing on his brothers - was tending the flocks with his brothers, ...and he brought their father a bad report about them.  But his dad did not help out either. Even though we are not suppose to have or play favorites as parents, Jacob held Joseph as his favorite son. What is worse is that Jacob physically demonstrated this favoritism by making Joseph a coat of many colors. This just added to that hatred of Joseph within his brotherhood.  Add to this Joseph's swollen-headed attitude and possibly a family spy and you get a recipe for disaster.  Or is it?

Joseph's arrogance directs him to share a dream he might have wanted to keep to himself. "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it."  I say he might have wanted to keep this to himself because of the brother's reaction and what Joseph does afterward - And they [the brothers] hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.  But what does Joseph do?  He has another dream and tells everybody about it once again.  This time the dream is more grand and involves not only his brothers bowing down to him but his parents as well. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. 

The next time we see Joseph and his brothers it looks as if the brothers are finally going to get a break from that little arrogant-blabbermouth-daddy's-boy (37:12). Ah!  We think to soon. Jacob sends Joseph to go check on them. "Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me." (37:14) Now he will probably be labeled as Father's Spy by his brothers. The brothers finally had enough of Joseph, as he approached their location, and decided to kill him. If it were not for God's Spirit on brothers Reuben and Judah to suggest an alternate plan, Joseph would be a dead-man.  Little did Joseph know that as he was walking down the path toward his brothers he was also walking down the path to his self-made pit.

Joseph was not left in the pit, but it was in the pit that personal transformation occurred.  The Pit was the pivotal point in Joseph's life. Down in that pit whatever adjustments God helped Joseph make (probably attitude) you can see this maturity right away in the next environment he is placed and situation that faces him. Immediately we see God's favor resting on Joseph as he serves in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard for Pharaoh.
  • So he [Potiphar] left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. (39:6-10)
Sometime later Joseph would find himself wrongfully in prison because of false claims of seduction against Joseph by Potiphar's wife. But still the favor of the Lord rested on him, even to the point where the warden no longer concerned himself with the prison. In addition, while imprisoned he interpreted the dreams of others. Although Joseph had to spend an extra two years in the prison, but in an elevated position, that gift of interpretation of dreams helped him gain an audience before Pharaoh and eventually secure a place in the palace.

From the Pit to the Palace, God knows all the details. Joseph, like the rest of us, just had to walk it out. Early on in many of our lives is where the rough edges occur. However, this does not mean God is not there. Joseph's dreams as a teenager were highly symbolic for a 17 year-old.  But he saw them fulfilled. He even saw the dreams of others that God interpreted through him come to past. The two dreams early on in Joseph's life were dreams planted by God and fulfilled by God with Scripture making it clear that God's favor rested on Joseph (39:2; 39:20-23; 41:38-40).  And why did God's favor rest on Joseph? Because he allowed the experience of The Pit to change him.

Before the pit Joseph MAY have taken advantage of the favor given him and ended up with even more issues to deal with than the hatred of his brothers.  Post Pit - Joseph matured and found some integrity somewhere in the dark recesses of a desert cistern and the slave caravan of the Ishmaelites that he was sold into by his family. He had ample chances to display bitter behavior going from the pit to the slave caravan to house servant to prison.  However, after The Pit, instead of being high and mighty, full of himself, and self-driven Joseph is humble, pliable, and favored.

So, don't fear The Pit in your life. In The Pit, believers in Christ, if they allow it, are transformed more into God's image. Christians are adjusted for more effective service in His kingdom. This equates to believers being improved as useful extensions of God's provision and love. Joseph allowed the change and witnessed God's favor and fulfillment of God's plan for his life as a result.