Redeemed from the Pit (Camp Meeting, 7/14/19)

Posted by on Jul 15, 2019 in Pitman Camp Meeting, Sermons | 0 comments

Our Recent Vacation Bible School taught us that God is good- even when life is unfair, is scary, is sad or changes.  And God is still good even when life is good!

Our Camp Meeting Schedule got rocked by change when Rev. Jim Hughes, the scheduled speaker, had to cancel at the last minute because of an illness.  PUMC Lay Leader, Larry Bakely, gave the message instead of Jim.  But instead of the music and insightful drama which Jim Hughes always brings, we heard a different messenger, and a different message.

The message addressed the age old question:  “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

It lifted up three Old Testament men who were “in a pit”:  Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel.  It then used their examples to see what we should do when we’re in our own “pits.”

Click or tap the “Play” button below to listen to a recording of the message.  Scroll down (opening the drop down boxes) to follow along…


Rev. Jim Hughes’ appearance at the 2019 Camp Meeting has been rescheduled for Sunday August 11.







The scripture is Genesis chapter 37 (verses 3-4 and 12-28)…

Verses 3-4

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.  When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.


Verses 12-28

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem,  and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”  “Very well,” he replied.

14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem,  a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.'”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan.  But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.  “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said.  “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe — the richly ornamented robe he was wearing —  and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.


Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

One of the challenging questions we all have to deal with from time to time is the question, “Why does a loving God let bad things to happen to good people?”  Certainly, in this passage, some bad things were happening to Joesph.  And from what we can tell from this text, he was probably basically a “good” person.

But as you look at the history of humankind and see how we treat eachother and, cheat, lie,  how we keep taking the easy way out and look for our own wellbeing instead of seeking the will of our creator, you have to ask yourself a different question: “How can a just God allow good things to happen to bad people?”

In this morning’s passage, we see someone who was thrown into a pit, literally and figuratively.  His life was riding high.  He was his father’s favorite son; dad was rich and Joseph had a big inheritance headed his way.  But in an instant that all changed.  His brothers turned on him, threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery.  The Bible includes many accounts about people who go through these times in the pit; challenging, life changing circumstances that can become life defining. 

This evening, I want to lift up three of these people from the Old Testament:  Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel.


First, let’s take a closer look at Joseph.  It’s a pretty familiar story, but let’s go back and try to put it into some context.

Why did his brothers sell him to slave traders?  How did it get to that point?

Well, Joseph’s father, Jacob, definitely favored him above the others.  One of the first things about this that hits me is that Joseph is 17 years old, certainly able to be out in the fields working with his brothers.  Why is he at home with his father?  It seems kind of odd that this able bodied young man isn’t helping the family with their livelihood.

And then there’s the “Multi Colored Coat.”  Actually, the Hebrew translation isn’t that clear.  The Hebrew words could also have simply meant that this coat had long sleeves.  Clothing that a man of that time would have worn would have been a sheet of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head, and a belt wrapped around it to keep it together.  It wouldn’t have sleeves.  This special coat of Joseph’s may have been sewn to have actual sleeves.  Or it may have been made with different colored cloth, but in any case, it was special and better than the clothing supplied to Joseph’s brothers.

Jacob favored Joseph above his brothers.  And part of it had to do with Rachel, Joseph’s mother.  If you go back several chapters in the book of Genesis there is this long account of how Jacob went to his grandfather’s homeland to find a wife.  He stopped at a well and miraculously this young woman appeared and it was love at first sight.  And as it turned out, she would be the perfect wife for Jacob since she was his cousin, the daughter of his Uncle Laban.

The story continues to tell how Laban made Jacob work for him for 7 years before he would give Rachel to him.  But at the end of the 7 years, Jacob wakes up and Rachel’s older sister Leah is next to him.  Laban insisted that Leah had to be married off first because she was the older daughter.  But, Jacob could have Rachel if he worked for Laban for another 7 years.   And Jacob commits to these additional 7 years, Laban lets him marry Rachel. 

But things don’t work out that well.  Leah is fruitful.  She gives birth to 4 sons.  But Rachel is baron, and she becomes angry and jealous with her sister.  So, she offers her husband her maidservant, and sure enough, her maidservant takes over and produces 2 more sons.  Meanwhile, things have kind of dried up with Leah, so she goes the same route and gives her maidservant to Jacob.  After 4 more sons, the focus shifts back to Rachel, and miraculously, she finally conceives and gives birth to Jacob’s 11th son, Joseph.  Finally, Jacob has a son with his only true love.  A few years later, Rachel conceives again.  But complications set in and she dies while giving birth to Jacob’s last child, Benjamin.

So when we get to today’s passage, we can see the makings of a dysfunctional family, can’t we?   Jacob is now living alone with his 12 grown sons, and it looks pretty clear that his inheritance will bypass his oldest son Reuben, and instead go to one of his youngest sons, Joseph.  To make matters worse, Joseph has a series of dreams.  In these dreams, God is revealing to Joseph what’s going to happen in the future.  Joseph will be put into a position of power and his brothers and even his father will become subservient to him. 

I don’t know what to make of Joseph here.  Either he is full of pride and wants to stick it to his brothers, or maybe he’s just naive, but Joesph has no problem in talking about these dreams to his brothers and in showing off his special coat.  He also has become a bit of a tattletale, reporting back to his father when his brothers aren’t living up to their responsibilities out in the fields. 

So when we get to today’s passage, his brothers have had enough.  Joseph is dropped into a pit and sold to slavetraders, who take him to Egypt.  And if you remember the story, things get worse for him in Egypt when he ends up in prison for something he didn’t do.  Joseph’s life took a nosedive.  His faith must have been challenged.  He was in the pit.



Let’s fastforward about a thousand years.  Jacob’s family has grown into a nation in Egypt, they have returned to their homeland and conquered it, David and Solomon have come and gone, and the kingdom has been split into two.  The people are different, but God is still working with his chosen people.

Assyria is a kingdom to the northeast of Israel, and God is going to use this kingdom in the future.  But at this point, Assyria is far from God.  So God raises up a prophet by the name of Jonah, and tells him to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and prophesy against them so that the will repent and begin to follow God.

The people in Nineveh worship a god named Dagon.  It’s kind of interesting that this god Dagon is pictured as a cross between a fish and a man- kind of like a male mermaid.  Considering Jonah’s experience before coming to Nineveh you’d have to think that maybe these people paid some special attention to him. 

So Jonah doesn’t think very much of Assyria- they’re pretty cruel people.  They were known for crucifying and impaling people.   And they’ve been threatening Israel and ignoring God and worshiping idles.  Jonah doesn’t want anything to do with helping these people- he wants God to destroy them! 

So he tries to run.  He gets on a ship and sails in the opposite direction from Nineveh.  But God is not just the god of Israel; you can’t run away from him by leaving Israel.  And so God sends a storm, Jonah knows that it’s a judgment against him, and he tells the others on the ship to throw him overboard.  When they do, the storm instantly stops.

But God isn’t done with Jonah yet.  He sends a “big fish” to swallow him up, and somehow miraculously preserves his life for 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of this fish.  While in this fish, Jonah prays.  In Jonah chapter 2 he prays from the belly of the fish…

“In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to GOD.  You threw me into ocean’s depths,  into a watery grave,

With ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me.  I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight.

I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’

Ocean gripped me by the throat. The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight.

My head was all tangled in seaweed at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root.

I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever —

That’s from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” paraphrase of the bible.  It paints a pretty desperate picture, doesn’t it?   Things are going pretty bad for this prophet.  Jonah is in the pit. 


Now let’s move ahead about 170 years.  Assyria eventually did repent, and God used them to capture the northern kingdom of Israel.  The Babylonians have captured the southern kingdom of Judah, the Persians are about to conquer the Babylonians, and one of the Jews living in the middle of all this is a young man by the name of Daniel.

Daniel is a Godly man.   As a young boy he and some friends were taken in by the king.  They were offered the best food of the land,  but Daniel and his friends refused the royal food  because they felt that it would defile them  and dis-honor God.

Years later, the king had a dream.  None of the king’s wise men could figure out the dream, so he called in Daniel to interpret it.   Daniel explained the dream, and the king was so impressed that he placed Daniel in position of power. 

That stirred up some jealousy in some of the king’s other officials, and they worked out this plan to trick the king  into issuing a decree preventing anyone from praying to God.   If anyone was caught praying,  he would be thrown into a lion’s den. 

Just as Daniel refused the Royal Food, he refused to worship this statue.  Daniel continued to pray, openly, in violation of this decree. 

Of course his enemies expected this,  and they were ready to arrest him at the first chance.   The king was tricked.   He trusted Daniel  and he was even beginning to believe in Daniel’s God.   But, he had no choice,  and he had to order that Daniel be thrown into the lion’s den.

So Daniel was a Godly man of principle.  He was devoted to God and continued to pray, even though his life would be in danger.  But, he was thrown into the lion’s den.  Daniel was in the pit. 


How’d They Get There?

All three landed into a desperate situation,  but they took different routes to the Pit. 

Joseph….   For Joseph, it looked like a combination of God’s providence  and Joseph’s pride. 

Jonah…     Jonah was in his Pit because he tried to go against God. He was occupied with hate for the Assyrians instead of obedience to God. 

Daniel…    As for Daniel, it didn’t look like he did anything wrong.  But he was surrounded by jealous, power hungry people, and was a victim of the sinful world.

 But there are some similarities in their situations too. 


First of all, jealousy played a role.  Joseph’s brothers were jealous of his relationship with their father. Jonah was jealous of the grace that God wanted to give to his enemies. Daniel’s enemies were jealous of his position. They wanted that power for themselves.

Prayer & Dreams…

It’s also interesting how both prayer and dreams played a role in their situations.

Joseph’s dreams helped get him both in and out of his pit.  Jonah’s prayer of repentance helped him through his pit.  And Daniel’s faithful prayer and ability to interpret dreams led him into a relationship with the king.



The Rest of the Story

But the good news, of course, is that there’s more to the story.  Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel didn’t stay in the Pit.  God saved them and used them to His glory.  Jesus said that God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and that He cares even more about us.   God didn’t give up on these men.  He didn’t leave them to die in the Pit. 

Joseph… Joseph went on to interpret Pharoah’s dream and was then released from prison and put into a position of power.  God used Joseph to enable His chosen seed of Jacob to escape the famine and to grow into a nation while living in Egypt. 

Jonah… Jonah ended up on dry land, and he obeyed God and went to Nineveh and they actually repented.  He fulfilled God’s purpose.

Daniel… God closed the mouth of the lions and saved Daniel.  Daniel’s faith and God’s power made a huge impression on the king, and this probably eventually played a roll in the king’s decision to allow the Jews to return to Israel to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem.


What About Us???

So what about us?  What pits might we find ourselves in today? 

We all go through really hard times in our lives.  You can’t avoid them.  It may be our health, or the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job or other financial problems.  Bad things happen and it can be really hard to get our minds and spirits out of the problem.  But God is calling us to move on and He’s giving us the power to climb out of the pit and move towards Him.

What can we learn form the experiences of Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel?  What should we do when we’re in a Pit?

Move On

First of all, we need to move on. 

None of these men focused on the things that brought them into the pit.   There’s no “Woe is Me,” or regret,  or thoughts of what could have been done differently. 

There’s no mention of Joseph plotting revenge on his brothers.   In fact, when it’s all said and done, he ended up forgiving them. 

One of the greatest passages in the bible is in Genesis 45:5-8  where Joseph forgives his brothers and says:

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…   God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.a   “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.

Jonah chose to look beyond the whale.  He was confused about God’s plan to forgive the Ninevites, but Jonah isn’t angry with God about his pit situation. Even while in the whale he praises God and trusts in Him.  Daniel’s trust never waivers while in the Lion’s den. 


We need to move on, and secondly, we need to Pray.

Prayer plays a big role in their deliverance.  Jonah prayed.  Daniel prayed.  There’s no specific mention about Joseph praying,  but I think it’s obvious that prayer must have had a big role in Joseph’s understanding of how his situation was part of God’s plans to save the Israelites.


We need to Move On,  We need to Pray, and finally, we need to Obey.

All three men resolved to obey God even while they were in their pit. 

Joseph… Joseph trusted the dreams as God’s revelation.  He understood God’s will in bringing his family to Egypt and he obeyed. 

Jonah… Even from inside the whale, Jonah prayed and promised that he would fulfill all his vows and offer sacrifices to God with songs of praise.  As soon as the whale spit him up onto the beach, Jonah went to Nineveh. 

Daniel… And Daniel remained faithful to God, and his faith probably helped pave the way for Israel’s return to the promised land. 

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him.  The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.

Daniel 2:46-49



And so, when we’re in a Pit of some sort, we need to trust in God’s providence; not worry about what got us into the pit, but to seek God and trust in His will even while we’re in these desperate situations. 

 We can’t get stuck in the past and replay our mistakes. We need to look to the future and look for God’s hand. 

 We need to pray. 

Then, we need to obey.  If God is in control and if there is a purpose in everything He does, then it follows that He must be calling us to take a role in building His Kingdom. 

The Pit is not the end of it all. In fact, the Pit might just be the beginning of something greater that God is calling you to.

Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel.  But there is one more person in the Bible who had a Pit experience: Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself made an analogy to Jonah and the Pit when He said,

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.“

But Christ was raised from the dead.   And if we are In Christ, we share in His resurrection.  We share in His Life.  We share in His perfect relationship with God the Father.

It can be hard to understand why bad things happen to good people. But like Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel, let us Move On, Pray, and Obey.

Let us be captured by the awe and wonder that God’s grace allows good things to happen, even to sinful people like us. 



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