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Just dropping by ... Lessons from the pit

Yevet Tenney For Progressive Dairyman Published on 10 June 2016

I grow increasingly weary as this election process drags on. I wonder what country I am living in. It is not the American way to snarl and bicker back and forth like dogs in a fight. It is not the American way to storm and throw temper tantrums when the game doesn’t go our way.

It is not the American way to demand the rules be changed mid-stream, and it certainly isn’t the American way to protest with violence and threats.

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We don’t stomp on cars, break windows and hurt other people just because we disagree with someone’s politics. We don’t create snares and throw each other off the cliff or into a pit. We are supposed to be the most civilized society on earth – at least that is the America I grew up in.

I guess it is time for me to come to center and quit focusing on the battle and start trying to figure out what God is trying to tell me. I know I am uncomfortable with all the conflict. It is not Christian, and it is not the path the Savior would take.

God has a plan for this nation, and He is in charge. I just have to do my part. I must study the issues, pray and vote. I can’t predict the outcome, but I know God can use whatever happens to strengthen and humble His people.

He has done it since time began. He has saved those who have been thrown into the pit, and He has chastened and humbled those who throw others into the pit.

I have always loved the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. His story has been an example of the old adage, “When you get lemons, make lemonade,” or “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Joseph always ended up being the hero even though his life was constantly fettered with indescribable peaks and valleys.

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He was the favored son wearing a coat of many colors, yet he was thrown in the pit by his brothers. He was sold as a slave, yet he rose to the highest station in Potiphar’s house. Potiphar’s wanton wife sent him to prison, and he became the prison guard’s right-hand man. In prison, he interpreted dreams for two inmates.

One inmate, Pharaoh’s butler, promised to speak for him when he was in the presence of Pharaoh but immediately forgot his promise.

In God’s time, the butler remembered Joseph’s magnificent power to interpret dreams. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and took his place next to Pharaoh in power and authority, ruling all of Egypt and eventually the whole known world.

Joseph forgave his brothers, reunited his family and saved many thousands from starvation. Joseph attributed his peaks and valleys to God’s mercy. He never lost faith in his divine benefactor.

Though Joseph was not always the hero he later became, the peaks, valleys and proverbial pits shaped his life. Every peak gave him confidence in God’s mercy, and every valley humbled him to the very center.

He relied on God to guide him through his trials. He emerged from the pit a well-honed weapon in the hands of God. He was a useful servant and certainly fulfilled his mission and destiny.

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I often think of the role Joseph’s brothers played in his life. These 10 young sons of Jacob were not of stellar character. Trouble followed them like a shadow.

At one point, Jacob lamented the behavior of his sons would cause his name to “stink” throughout the nations. It seems these boys were known for throwing people into proverbial pits.

I don’t know how God will judge the sons of Jacob, but they have been through the refiner’s fire. Life taught them some hard lessons. Their progress through life wasn’t the peaks and valleys of Joseph’s life, where the valleys always ended in peaks of success.

Their lives were one molehill of misery after another. They had to face and re-face the grief of their father, who was never the same after Joseph’s presumed death. Year after year, they had to re-convince themselves they had done the right thing – and finally come to the conclusion that they had not and would never be able to make it right.

Not much is written about the other brothers, but Reuben and Judah serve as the example of what the boys must have suffered.

Reuben, though he tried to save his little brother, never told the truth about what happened to Joseph. As a consequence, his life was tangled with grief and guilt. He could not blame his brothers because he told them to put Joseph in the pit.

The loss must have been unbearable. Maybe he spoke of his sorrow to his brothers, maybe he kept it to himself – but we know all the brothers were guilt-ridden. The Bible records:

And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
—Genesis 42:21-22

Judah seemed to be the chief of throwing people into pits. He was the one who suggested that instead of leaving Joseph in the pit, they should sell him to a “company of Ishmaelites” (Genesis 37:25) on their way to Egypt. Judah’s life from then on was one disaster after another. He married a Canaanite woman and had three sons.

Two of them were taken by the Lord because of their wickedness. His daughter-in-law played the harlot and tricked him. When he found out that she had played the harlot and was with child, he called for her to be burned, but he was humbled to the earth when he found out the child was his.

Finally, the humbled Judah was willing to give his life into slavery or death to spare Benjamin from the hands of Pharaoh’s right-hand man, Joseph. He had grown compassionate and thoughtful.

The young man who had willingly sold his brother was now willing to sacrifice his own life so as not to bring more sorrow upon his already grieving father.

I surmise there are two kinds of people in this life; ones who throw people into the pit and those who emerge from the pit to be successful and heroic. The Lord allows each of His children to chart their own courses. He will kindly direct those who seek Him faithfully, like Joseph. He will be there in every peak and valley of their lives.

On the other hand, He will allow the consequences to follow unwise choices. For those who throw others into the pit, the Lord will be there, ready to lift them up, if they choose to change and follow Him. If not, circumstances keep getting worse and worse until humility and change is the only option.

That is the way it is with a nation of people who desire to destroy and throw each other into the pit. The American Revolution was a sojourn in a pit, but the Lord led George Washington to victory because of his humility and faith.

Lincoln’s nation, thrust into the pit of the Civil War, was led to humility and repentance. The nation emerged heroic. Every major crisis in our nation was followed by a time of humility. Even 9/11 was marked by thousands returning to God.

Right now, we are in the midst of an election cycle like none we have ever seen. It feels like we are in a pit with no escape. Our nation is struggling to figure out how we will emerge from this crisis. We have campaign promises on every side. Some of those promises will drag us from the pit right into proverbial Egypt.

Socialism has always been a one-way street to bondage. Other promises give us trade agreements and isolationism with other nations, while yet others promise the return of the Constitution. We don’t know who to believe. Promises have been made before and not kept. The Lord is the only clear answer. He said:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
—2 Chronicles 7:14  PD

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