October 12, 2014: Real Life – From Pit to Prison to Palace

Posted on : Oct 9th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

We’ve all had those moments in life when we think, “It can’t get any worse!” and then it does. That’s life. That’s also Joseph’s experience in this Sunday’s story.

Last week we heard the story of how Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit in the desert. Nine brothers had the intent of letting him die in that God-forsaken, desolate place in the desert. One brother had another idea. All ten were wrong. A group of mercenary travelers found Joseph and sold him as a slave in Egypt.

Today we have a phrase that describes this experience in our lives. I think the phrase started in twelve step programs.   The biblical rendition of that phrase is: “Pit Happens.”

“The Pit” in the bible is both a literal and figurative place. In the later writings of the Old Testament especially in the “Wisdom” or philosophical writings (the Book of Job, the Psalms, the Book of Proverbs, the book of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the book of Lamentations, etc.) “the Pit” is a metaphor for the times and places in our lives were we feel the absence of God, where we experience deep spiritual turmoil, where there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. It is a hard, uncomfortable place to be; but in reality, most everyone has some of those experiences in their lives. Every time I’m with parents as they experience the death of a child, their child, I know exactly what “the Pit” feels like. Every time I see deep loving relationships ended, either by death or an affair, I know exactly what “the Pit” feels like. Every time life comes crashing in on us in ways that seem unfair, unjust and destructive, I know what “the Pit” feels like.

But wait! It can get worse! Poor Joseph goes from the Pit to Prison. And like so many today, Joseph is set up and falsely incarcerated.

Joseph was actually sold as a slave to Potiphar [Pot-ih-far], the captain of the Guard for Pharaoh (as in the Pharaoh of Egypt). Joseph gained Potiphar’s highest respect and treated Joseph extremely well. However, as the Bible says, “Now Joseph was a handsome youth, and well-built, (…that’s an exact quote) and in time Potiphar’s wife notice him, and said, “Come to bed with me.”

Joseph refused, saying, “Look, Potiphar doesn’t need to worry about anything to do with the household with me here. I am entrusted with everything you and he possess. He has made me his equal, and nothing has been withheld from me except you, and you are his wife. How could I do such a monstrous thing? I would be sinning against God to do so!” And though she pursued Joseph day after day, Joseph refused to have sex with her, or even listen to her.”

One day when Joseph came into the house to carry out his duties, he noticed there were no workers in the household. Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s loincloth, saying, “Come to bed with me!” But he left the loincloth in her hands and ran from the house.

When she saw that he had left his loincloth and fled, she called for the household workers and said, “Would you look at this! This Hebrew has come into our house to insult us! He came in to rape me, but I screamed, and he panicked and ran out of the house, leaving his loincloth behind.” (Genesis 39:7-15.)

And that is how Joseph’s life went from bad to worse. Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison.

Even in the midst of this hellish experience, Joseph knows that God is with him. Eventually, Joseph is freed from prison and becomes the #2 person in Pharaoh’s kingdom.
I know it is hard to trust in God when we are going through deeply painful experiences, which is why I’m thankful our story of faith has a number of folks who have come through them and come out stronger for their journey. As we’ll see on Sunday, the story of Joseph is a story that reminds us that we can go from the pit to prison to the palace. And in all those experiences, God is with us – even when we don’t know it.




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 41: 1- 40

Two full years later it happened that Pharaoh had a dream: while the ruler was standing at the edge of the Nile River, seven handsome, fat cows came up out of the Nile and grazed in the reed grass. Shortly after this, seven gaunt and ugly cows came up out of the Nile and stood beside the first seven who were grazing in the reed grass. Then the gaunt and ugly cows ate the handsome fat cows. Pharaoh was startled! He fell asleep again and had a second dream: seven ears of plump and ripe corn were growing on a single stalk. Then seven thin and blighted ears of corn, scorched by the east wind, sprouted. And the thin ears of corn swallowed up the plump ears of corn. Then Pharaoh woke up and remembered the dreams.

In the morning Pharaoh’s spirit was so agitated he sent for all the magicians and sages in Egypt. He described his dream to them, but no one could interpret it for the ruler. Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh: “Today I am reminded of my faults. At one time Pharaoh was so angry with some of his staff that he imprisoned the chief baker and me in the house of the captain of the guard. Both of us had a dream on the same night, and each dream had its own meaning. There was a young Hebrew imprisoned with us, an attendant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and the Hebrew interpreted them for us. He gave each dream its own interpretation. His interpretation turned out exactly as the Hebrew foretold: I was restored as cupbearer, and the baker was hanged.”

So, Pharaoh called for Joseph, who was quickly released from the dungeon. When he had shaved and dressed himself in clean clothes, Joseph came in before the Pharaoh. The ruler said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and no one could interpret it for me. I have been told that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

Joseph replied, “I cannot interpret your dreams. It is God who will bring peace back to Pharaoh’s mind.”

Then Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams.

[Note: At the time in history in which this is written, one did not speak personally to God or to a Sovereign Ruler. Thus, instead of addressing Pharaoh as we would today, Pharaoh is addressed in the “third person.” For example, in the sentence below, today we would say, “Both of your dreams have the same message.” Whereas in this style Joseph says to Pharaoh, “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams have the same message. This same idiom is used in much of the Old Testament when addressing God.]

Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams have the same message. God has revealed to Pharaoh what is about to happen. The seven good cows represent seven years, and the seven good ears represent seven years. The two dreams are one dream. The seven gaunt and ugly cows that came up after them represent seven years. It is the same with the seven thin and blighted ears of corn scorched by the east wind. They represent seven years of famine.

It is as I told Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what is about to happen. Seven years of great abundance will come to all the land of Egypt. After that, a seven-year famine will ravage the land, and all prosperity will be forgotten because of the severity of the famine.

“Therefore, Pharaoh must select a discerning and wise person to be put in charge of the land of Egypt. Pharaoh must appoint overseers for the land, and set aside one-fifth of the harvest during each of the seven years of plenty. They will collect this food during the good years and store the grain under the authority of Pharaoh to feed the cities – this food will be held in reserve for the land of Egypt, and it is to be used during the seven years of amine. This will save Egypt in the famine years.”

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Because God has revealed all this to you, there is no one else as discerning and wise as you. You will be my chancellor, and all my people will obey your orders. Only in matters of the throne will I be above you.”

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