Those who heed today’s message will be able to overcome any tribulation, distress, or trial they may face. Life is full of sorrow and frustration, and whether sleeping or awake, our pain is ever-present. Pits appear many times in the Bible. Since ancient times, rain was scarce in the Palestinian region, so pits were dug to collect rainwater and store wine. Each person would dig several pits so that livestock could also be fed. These pits dotted the landscape as nomads moved every several months to other pastures. The deaths of many Israelites and beasts were caused by falling into pits that measured three to four times the human height. If another person’s animal fell into my pit and died, the law of God required that I pay restitution to the animal’s owner (Exod 21:34).
Jesus said, “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matt 15:14). In the book of Revelation, “abyss” or “the bottomless pit” is recorded nine times. “Abyss” is symbolic of Satan’s name. The author of Proverbs called the mouth of an adulteress “a deep pit” (Prov 22:14). Those who fall into the harlot’s deep pit have no way out (Prov 23:27). Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the psalmist expressed the condition of utmost despair as a pit; in tears, he prayed, “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay” (Ps 40:2).
What is your pit? What is your “hitting rock bottom”? Living hand-to-mouth; being misunderstood; living your life on the run after being scammed, tricked and cheated; having others steal all that you’re worth and then disappearing—wouldn’t all these circumstances feel like falling deep into a pit? “You have put me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the depths,” stated in Psalm 88:6 is a desperate cry for God’s intervening deliverance out of despair. Today, I’d like to share the grace of God through three biblical figures who were cast into a deep pit.
Joseph in the Pit
Joseph, most beloved by his father and clothed in a multicolored coat, was thrown into a pit out of his brothers’ envy. God saved his life, and Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. It is more than likely that the Ishmaelites sold him at a profit in Egypt. Joseph came to serve in the house of Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the bodyguard. The Lord blessed Potiphar’s house with prosperity on account of Joseph; this was God’s provision of tomorrow’s hope in the pit. Awaiting Joseph this time, however, was the “snare of harlotry,” which came as the persistent enticements by Potiphar’s wife. But Joseph did not fall to temptation and kept the word of God. And again, God saved him.
Falsely incriminated by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was imprisoned. This was Joseph’s third pit. Some time later, Pharaoh’s chief baker and chief cupbearer were put in jail, and during their confinement, they both had a dream the same night. They were dejected because they did not know what to make of their dreams, but Joseph interpreted it for them. The chief baker’s dream, in which the birds were eating out of the three baskets of bread, signified that the baker would die three days later. The chief cupbearer dreamt that he put into Pharaoh’s hand a cup of wine that he made from the grapes from the three branches of the vine, which meant that the cupbearer would be reinstated after three days. Everything happened according to Joseph’s interpretations, but the chief cupbearer forgot about Joseph’s wrongful imprisonment. More time passed and now Pharaoh himself dreamt a strange dream of seven sleek and fat cows that were eaten up by seven ugly and gaunt cows who came up after them. Then the next day he dreamt that seven plump and good ears of grain were swallowed up by the seven thin and scorched ears of grain that sprouted up after them. When none of the magicians or wise men were able to interpret his dreams, the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph, and Joseph came to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Astonished, Pharaoh gave the daughter of an Egyptian priest to Joseph as his wife and made him second-in-command, the prime minister of Egypt.
Without considering God’s providence, Joseph’s life is just one injustice after another. But if it weren’t for this specific life that Joseph lived, two million Israelites would not have been saved. Joseph was refined in the pit, and after all his sufferings, the Israelites were blessed through him (Gen 45; 50). In accordance with Pharaoh’s dreams, the seven years of famine came upon all the lands. Joseph’s brothers came and stood before him to purchase food. Unable to eat properly, they had such an unhealthy and beggarly appearance that Joseph gave them clothes for their return home. After the brothers discovered that the prime minister of Egypt was Joseph, whom they had thrown into the pit, they trembled in fear. But Joseph said to them, “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5-7). Just like Joseph, we must live with the hope of tomorrow even while we are trapped in the snare of death, the pit.
When we’ve been conned out of all our savings and are riddled with debt, when we’re one step away from homelessness or living off our friend’s loans that we can’t ever repay, we might feel like we’ve fallen into a deep hole and hit rock bottom. Even so, do not despair! Continue to pray before God: “Lord! Just as how Joseph was cast into the pit, my poor soul is lost. I have family to support, but I don’t know how. My creditors are demanding their money. Lord, what am I to do? Please just give me a chance, like You did for Joseph!” Miracles will surely follow such a sincere prayer. I’m not preaching this just because I have to as a pastor. All things are possible to the one who believes. How wonderful is this!
My suffering can bring my family happiness! My church can find peace if I bear the blame! Have such faith! Today’s pit is tomorrow’s blessing. God’s purpose is concealed deep within the pits of the present, and His work will surely be brought forth when we pray to Him, endure for Him, seek Him, and knock at His door, until the very end. Remember what God said through the prophet Isaiah and the author of Hebrews.
Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”
Hebrews 13:6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
Believe in God’s promise that even though a mother may forget her child, God will never forget us. Pray, “Lord! You promised to not forget me!” And trust that the miraculous outpouring of spring waters and provision will surely come about. Isn’t this so very wonderful? The promises of God are recorded in the Bible 8,810 times: 1,104 times in the New Testament; 7,706 times in the Old Testament. No matter how foolish or unbelieving we may be, shouldn’t we believe God if He promised us 8,810 times? His promise completely surrounds us, so no matter which way we turn, we cannot miss out on it. God made such amazing promises for us, but haven’t we been living in ignorance all this time? Why did He give us the Bible? Because the Bible is His promise! Jesus is the promise of God. He promised in the Bible, “I will send a Savior.”
Joseph overcame the pit of betrayal, the pit of jealousy, the pit of hatred, the pit of torment, the pit of death and despair! All of God’s promises are in those pits. So please, don’t doubt or be anxious. Isn’t God worthy of our trust? He’s promised 8,810 times! His promises are everywhere around us. “Honey, what are we going to do? We don’t have enough for tomorrow morning.” Regardless of such circumstances, I believe that if we pray believing in His promises, then He will surely answer you. This is God’s promise!
Daniel in the Pit
Daniel was a mere foreigner who was taken captive to Babylon, yet he still became one of the three commissioners over Babylon. His knowledge, wisdom, and discernment were unrivaled. The others seethed in envy, thinking, “The king only seeks out Daniel. If only Daniel were gone, then we’d have the king’s favor.” He was exceptionally sagacious and shrewd and thereby highly favored by the king. No fault could be found in Daniel as he observed the laws to the letter. So the two other commissioners convinced the king to issue a decree that anyone who kneeled to any other god besides the king would be thrown into the lions’ den. Unaware of their scheme to kill Daniel, the king signed the decree, making it irrevocable even for him. Fully aware of this, Daniel continued to pray toward Jerusalem three times a day, to God, in full view and hearing to all, with his windows and doors wide open. The two commissioners jumped at the opportunity to report Daniel, and the king had no other choice but to have Daniel cast into the lions’ den. Sleep escaped the king all night and, at the break of dawn, he went in haste to the lions’ den. He asked, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel replied, “My God has protected and saved me.” God had sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths. Even the lions found themselves bowing to Daniel. The king had Daniel lifted out then immediately had those who had set up Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den. Before they had even reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
This seems unbelievable to anyone with an ounce of common sense. How can anyone survive in a den of hungry lions? One with the faith that believes in the Lord God of hosts! This very faith, utterly free of doubt, that unswervingly trusted in His promises, is why God shut the mouths of the lion. The pits we fall into are pits of adversity, weariness, pain, and frustration. They are the pits of anxiety because of our loved ones, and the listless life of faith that is dulled by the worries of looming debts. Do not put your hopes in the riches of the world; place your hope in God alone. Our time living in this world is limited. Fervently trusting and loving God, let us pray, “How can I share Your gospel? How can I support Your church? How can we expand in numbers of Your believers?” When we pray like this, I believe that we will receive the tremendous miracle like that of Daniel in our lives.
It was the same case with Daniel’s three friends. When they refused to forsake God, they were cast into the furnace of a blazing fire that was heated seven times more than usual. But the Lord came and protected the three friends. This isn’t some fictional story; it is a historical fact. May we truly believe that those who have faith in the power of the word of God will be protected even in the fires, waters and skies.
Daniel’s pit was one of grave determination: to keep the first commandment of bowing down in worship to none other than God, no matter the risk to himself (Exod 20:3; 2 Kgs 17:35; Jer 25:6; 35:15). As long as we have resolute faith in God, He will deliver us from the pit. Had Daniel elected to retain his position, he would have enjoyed spectacular wealth. But Daniel set all those considerations aside and kept the faith—the faith that though he dies 100 times, he will live 101 times! A determined faith that believed that death would be followed by life in the Lord! Whether it’s money or people, we have too many gods; many of us serve countless gods in our hearts. But please listen carefully. Having a determined faith in God means cutting off our idols, one by one. If we honor our parents above God, then they, too, are idols. Daniel’s faith is pure, unlike those who calculate and wait to see which way the winds blow. It’s a faith that is satisfied in God alone, making His words my hope and life. We must prioritize Jesus Christ above all in our lives. How is it right to first do everything that pleases us and put Jesus last? Even when we are shopping, we should have the faith that first thinks of Jesus, asking ourselves, “Is it appropriate for me to wear this?” The life of Jesus dwells in us. Let us remove all the idols from our daily lives with a ready and mature faith that resolves like Daniel, “If I die, then so be it.”
Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah the priest who lived in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. He was, in today’s terms, a pastor’s son. He ministered from 627 BC when he was in his twenties to 538 BC, throughout the reigns of five kings. He was called to be a prophet while he was in his mother’s womb (Jer 1:5), and he never married according to God’s command (Jer 16:2). If we told our young adults, “Don’t marry and just work at the church instead,” they would speechlessly leave the church. God wanted Hosea to see His heart when He saw the Israelites forsake their faith and live as they will; so God ordered Hosea to marry a harlot. Are there any among us at church who could be like Hosea and obey God’s command to marry a harlot?
God instructed Jeremiah, saying,” If you love Me and the king, go to King Zedekiah and tell him he must surrender to Babylon in order for this nation to survive.” How impossible does this seem? How would you feel if I told you, “South Korea must surrender to North Korea in order for the nation to survive”? But Jeremiah did according to the word of God, and as a result, he was cast into the pit. If King Zedekiah had listened to Jeremiah, they would have served Babylon for about seven more years, but then rise as a nation again. However, he did not believe the man of God. In the end, his two sons were slaughtered before his very eyes before they were gouged out at Riblah, and he was dragged away in fetters to Babylon. It was only then he realized, “I should have listened to the words of the prophet Jeremiah.” “Should have” is the most frequently heard phrase in hell: “I should have believed when they evangelized,” “I should have welcomed them,” “I should have given more offering,” “I should have attended church diligently.”
Jeremiah was released and became a free man, but those who did not heed God’s words all died, had their houses burned to the ground, had their wives and daughters taken away, and their sons taken into Babylonian exile. When God speaks, we must listen. Jeremiah spoke to them four times, disclosing the reasons why (Jer 21:9; 37:21, 13-14; 38:19; 52:15), but to no avail. Jeremiah was able to prophesy at God’s command out of his genuine love for his nation and people. Beloved saints, believe that all fear will flee in the face of our love for our country and family. Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Refrain from saying you hate your spouse or child. Love your fellow church members. The love between church members is better than the love between siblings.
Beloved saints, betrayal, jealousy, hatred, pain, and sufferings were all passing through the pit that Joseph was thrown into. But tomorrow’s purpose was hidden in Joseph’s heart. He was trapped in a pit that no one knew of or understood. Nobody could have guessed that Joseph would become prime minister. Humankind survived because of Joseph, who was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Messiah, through whom all humankind was saved. What a blessed pit indeed!
Daniel’s pit symbolizes the integrity of faith; it signifies the removal of all idols. The idols of the heart, the idols of the flesh—anything loved more than God—must all be severed. Job confessed, “My heart did not become secretly enticed when I saw the sun shone or the moon going in splendor” (Job 31:26-27). This shows that Job’s love for God exceeded his love for the sun and moon. To love anything more than God would be a betrayal (Job 31:28). Our love for money must be within the bounds of believing faith in Jesus. Abandoning Jesus for wealth is a sin and leads to terrifying judgment. In the pit, Daniel came to understand the word, that he had to rid himself of all his idols one by one until his dying day. What a blessing it would be, to have the faith that says, “Jesus, You are the only One for me! Please seal my heart with Your right hand so that this determination will never change!” I pray upon you in the name of the Lord that the saints will rid themselves of all idols, whose very existence is displeasing to God.
Job 33:28-30 “‘He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, and my life shall see the light.’ “Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.”
No matter what dark and deep pit the future may hold, it is the pit that holds tomorrow’s hope. Believing that the pit was given to bless and awaken us, let us give thanksgiving to God. Do not fret or grumble in prayer, saying, “I’m doing my best to believe in You. I’m even attending dawn services. God, You’re being too much. Why do You let me suffer?” It is this moment that God loves most and draws nearest to you. Believe that when you overcome this, God will be overjoyed, saying, “That’s my child of faith right there!” He delivers you and is with you. May we realize that when we are groaning in pain, Jesus is the One who comes and suffers in our place.
Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
Today’s hardships are a pit of suffering. It is a place of testing. But it is there to empower us to cast off all the afflictions and heartaches which we could not previously seem to cut off, despite our prayers and best efforts to do so. I pray upon you in the name of the Lord that you believe this in faith and with thanksgiving.
Rev. Abraham Park, February 26, 2006
(Lord’s day, 3rd service)
*This post can also be read in 'Champyungan'. (http://champyungan.com/en/)