The Joseph narratives in Genesis are among my favorite stories in the Bible. His story reveals the redemptive power of God that turns victims into victors.
Joseph was the oldest of Jacob’s sons by his favored wife, Rachel. Jacob favored him over all of his other sons including those by his wife, Leah. He was the first born son of his favored wife, Rachel.
As favored son, Joseph was doted over by his father who made him a coat of royalty better known as the “coat of many colors” to symbolize that Joseph was like royalty to him.
Joseph didn’t have to do the hard work of shepherding their father’s livestock. No, he stayed around the house and probably performed some kind of housework. He benefitted from the work of the slaves that they did for the household too. His brothers were thrust out into the environment enduring storms, wild animals, and thieves.
Joseph’s hands were soft. His brothers callused and hard. Their lifestyle was marked in contrasts.
Moreover, God gave Joseph the gift of dreams and the interpretation of dreams. Just as Jacob made Joseph his favorite son, the Lord also favored Joseph which is God’s prerogative as God. The way of the Lord is that the last or the least shall be made first. Joseph, being the last born son was the least in the hierarchy of the ancient Near East.
The dream God gave Joseph showed him that one day, his brothers would bow down to him.
All of these favors bestowed on the lowly Joseph infuriated his brothers. They looked for an opportunity to be rid of him once and for all.
Instead of rejoicing with Joseph at his good favor, they were filled with jealousy and resentment thinking how unfairly they were treated by their father.
It’s kind of like being chosen teacher of the year, employee of the year, or most valuable player on a team. Maybe a brother or sister is successful in business while another barely gets by. Most join in honoring a person so honored. Maybe they secretly wish for the honor, but it’s rare that someone kills another for being honored when he/she is passed over for the honor.
Rejoicing with someone who is honored is a principal in Scripture. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3-4).
I have heard sermons and read commentaries that blasted Jacob for favoring Joseph over his other sons. They say, “All children should be treated equally without favorites.”
But that is not the way of the world or the way of life. There are favorites and the not favored have to deal with it either positively which is the Bible way or negatively with resentment and bitterness. Joseph’s brothers reacted with anger and animosity toward their favored brother. Bad decision!
Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers. That caused even more consternation for them.
When Joseph approached his brothers, they said to each other, "Here comes that dreamer!" Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cistern pits and tell father that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams" (Genesis 37:19-20.
They grabbed him, stripped him of his coat of many colors, and threw him into the pit to let him rot in the wilderness.
Joseph had to be shocked at this treatment. He may have felt the jealousy his brothers had toward him, but he could never have dreamed in a million years that they would treat him this way. This was family. This was his own brothers. Maybe he was naďve, but I don’t think he could fathom that they would ever attempt to get rid of him. But, they did!
I can imagine what Joseph felt in that pit. I’ve been where Joseph was and you have too. What did he feel? How did he react?
First, he was in shock and tried to find a way out by his own efforts. He tried to climb out but couldn’t.
Isn’t that what we usually do? That’s what we do when our back is against the wall. We try to find a way out. We try to work out way out.
But, the Pit is deep. We climb a little and fall back down. It’s like Mike Tyson giving us a knock-out punch. We try to get up and may get up, but he punches us again and down we go. We fall back down unable to stand up again. Trapped in the Pit.
Second, he may have tried to figure it out. Why me? What did I do to cause them to throw me into this pit?
Joseph probably felt panic and confusion and became desperate to climb out. Depression is part of the pit too. And depression is a form of anger. So, he was angry - really angry at his brothers for their injustice against him. And along with anger comes the desire for revenge. “I’ll show them!” he surely must have thought.
And then, there is always this reaction when we are in the Pit. “Where is God? Why did he allow this to happen to me? He must hate me!”
Then there is another reaction. Joseph most likely felt worthless and unloved by God and his family siblings. He sat alone in the Pit. A wall in front of him, behind him, and to his left and right. He sat hopeless. I can see him slumped down finally accepting that there was no way out.
But then, he looked up. He looked up through the small opening toward the sky, toward God, the ruler of heaven and earth. Through his tears, he prayed and cried to God. He was powerless. Almighty God is all powerful and the only One who could hear his cries and intervene to help him out of the Pit.
You know, it’s in the Pit when we pray hardest. When our back’s against the wall. When there’s no way out, all we can do is look up.
I believe Joseph turned that Pit into a sanctuary of prayer. And like Paul testified in Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
God uses every Pit to bring us into a deeper, dependent love relationship with Christ.
Time in the Pit is never wasted when we look up into heaven all forsaken and alone and PRAY! “Help me! Save me! Rescue me!”
And, our Lord, full of grace, mercy, and love hears from above and intervenes to rescue us from the Pit. Always!
He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. He satisfies your desires with good things so that your life is renewed The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:4-6).
Joseph is the poster child for God’s redeeming power - power based on His love for the forgotten, rejected, oppressed, and abused.
Jesus is Lord of the Pit!
Not only did Joseph’s brothers throw him into the Pit to die, they also stripped him of his self-hood. Joseph’s identity was wrapped in his coat of many colors. In that robe, he felt the warm love and favored position from his father from whom he depended upon for his status.
Joseph was made to stand stripped and humiliated before his brothers. They laughed at him and ridiculed him.
“Tell us a dream now! Tell us again how we will bow before you. You’re never going to amount to anything, you worthless hill of beans!”
Joseph stood shamed and humiliated in front of his mean-spirited brothers. That’s what abusers do whether it’s verbal or physical abuse. They make us into a non-person cursing, beating, and using us. Their cruelty arises from the depths of their human depravity.
On December 9, 2012, a beautiful, 16 year old, soccer playing girl in Hudson, Florida, hanged herself in her home. Like Joseph, she had been stripped of her self-hood and couldn’t take it any more.
Jessica Laney poured out her misery on her Facebook page. “My brother and I don't talk anymore,” she wrote. “My dad, yeah he ignores me like I don't even exist. I have almost no friends who I actually trust. My mom criticizes and humiliates me for the littlest things. I am basically all alone.”
Fellow students posted on her page insulting comments like, ““Why are you so ugly?” and “Just kill yourself. You’re worthless.”
Oh, how we need a Savior when stripped of our self-worth by the vicious hate directed against us! Oh, how we need to feel the love and esteem of the redeeming Christ who alone gives me and you God-esteem proving once and for all how we are loved because of his atoning blood shed on the cross!
I have to think that somehow Joseph wrapped himself in the covenant promise and love of God that he knew from the stories his father told about their ancestor, Abraham. I believe that Joseph mentally and emotionally survived in that Pit from knowing God loved him.
We have One who lifts, loves, and saves the downtrodden and weak. Jesus’ words give this sure hope. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).
After some time in the pit, Joseph faintly heard voices approaching his Pit. Was it his brothers? Both fear and hope leaped into his heart.
God’s thunder was rumbling in the distance. Deliverance was approaching. Faith testifies that God’s unseen hand is always working, working, working behind the scenes in ways we cannot see or comprehend.
Believe. Hope. Trust. Don’t let go! Help is on the way.
Was it a coincidence that the Ishmaelites arrived at just the right time? Or, had Almighty God been working behind the scenes to send them to rescue Joseph? Is the Lord in charge? Is He the ruler of heaven and earth? Faith says that God rescued him. He’s on his throne and hasn’t relegated his power to anyone - especially to his brothers!
Joseph’s prayers were about to be answered. The puzzle of the injustice done to him was about to be solved.
And consider who God used to rescue him from the Pit. The most unlikely of people bought him from his brothers and took him to Egypt with them.
The Ishmaelites were descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham whom he had kicked out of his family. But God appeared to Hagar, Ishmael's mother, and assured her that He would provide for her and her rejected son! And, Ishmael fathered a people.
Such a story couldn’t have been made up. All I can say is WOW!
Joseph was called and chosen by God, and you are too if you belong to the Lord Jesus. I am His, and He is mine! He never leaves us or forsakes us even in the Pit. WOW!
I am redeemed and rescued by the blood of the Lamb. He intervened and gives me divine self-hood that no one can take away. No one can take that away. No one! No matter what they say or how they castigate me. The same goes for you too.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God and the feeling of worth He gives. No one. The Lord’s esteem for us flowing from his love for us makes us somebody, makes us special, makes us favored. No weapon formed against me shall prosper.
“So no weapon that is used against you will defeat you. You will show that those who speak against you are wrong. These are the good things my servants receive. Their victory comes from me," says the Lord (Isaiah 54:17).
He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!
He placed me upon the strong Rock by His side,
My steps were established and here I’ll abide;
No danger of falling while here I remain,
But stand by His grace until the crown I gain.†
-Henry J. Zelley (1859-1942)
Rev. Dan White is a free-lance writer who has been published in both secular and Christian magazines and newspapers. He is the founder and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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