Through the Valley: #1 Valley of Pits

Genesis 14:10-12 As it happened, the Valley of Siddim was filled with tar pits. And as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits, while the rest escaped into the mountains. The victorious invaders then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and headed for home, taking with them all the spoils of war and the food supplies. They also captured Lot—Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom—and carried off everything he owned.

Sometimes going through a valley can feel like it’s the pits!

One of the most encouraging stories in the Bible is that of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37 to 50. If you ever feel like there’s a huge gap between your dreams and your reality, if you ever feel unfairly treated, overlooked or forgotten…take a moment to read Joseph’s story:

  • Genesis 37a – Seventeen year-old Joseph is the favourite son of his father Jacob (remember the technicolour dream coat?), and has a dream one night where all of his brothers (who hate him!) and even his own parents were bowing down to him.
  • Genesis 37b – His brothers were so mad they threw him into a pit and sold him to slave-traders enroute to Egypt. They told their father Jacob that Joseph had been mauled and killed by a wild animal.
  • Genesis 39a – Joseph is bought as a slave by Potiphar, an Egyptian official and captain of Pharaoh’s guards. Joseph thrived in Potiphar’s house, eventually being put in charge of the whole household and “the Lord gave him success in everything he did” (Gen 39:3). Unfortunately he also caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife. She repeatedly tried to seduce him, and eventually accused him falsely of attempting to assault her when Joseph spurned her advances one last time.
  • Genesis 39b – Joseph was hauled off to prison, but even there “the Lord was with him and gave him success in whatever he did” (Gen 39:23).
  • Genesis 40 – Joseph accurately interprets the dreams of two fellow prisoners who were servants of Pharaoh. One of them (Pharaoh’s cupbearer) is released back into service just as Joseph predicted, but promptly forgets to put a good word in for him. Joseph languishes in prison for another two years!
  • Genesis 41 – Pharaoh has a troubling dream which none of his wise-men or sorcerors are able to interpret. Suddenly the cupbearer remembers Joseph the dream-teller. Joseph is brought before Pharaoh, rightly interprets the dream, suggests a plan of action, and is suddenly elevated to Prime Minister of the Egyptian kingdom.
  • Genesis 42-50 is the unfolding fulfilment of Joseph’s original dream. A famine forces his brothers to come to Egypt. As far as they know, their long-lost brother is probably dead, so when the Prime Minister calls for them to be brought to him they get a whole lot more than they bargained for – including an incredible demonstration of grace and kindness on the part of Joseph.
  • Joseph’s life was one big roller-coaster ride of emotions and experiences!

When Joseph first received his dream, all he saw was the mountaintops of greatness. He didn’t see the pits that would predicate the process of progress towards the promise.

Pit -> Potiphar -> Prison -> Palace -> Prime Minister

If you ever find yourself in the Valley of Pits, try thinking about it like this:

  • P.I.T. = Purpose in Transit (the slave traders actually got Joseph to wear his future needed him to be)
  • P.I.T. = Purpose in Training (serving Potiphar prepared him for serving in Pharaoh’s palace)
  • P.I.T. = Personal Integrity Testing (Potiphar’s wife could’ve robbed him of his destiny)
  • P.I.T = Personality In Testing (would prison make him or break him?)
  • P.I.T. = Passion In Testing (would he keep serving with the same spirit of excellence wherever he was?)
  • P.I.T. = Perseverance In Testing (how easy would it have been to lose hope when forgotten by the cupbearer for those extra two years? Yet God’s timing was painfully perfect!)

Sometimes we can find ourselves in a pit because of our own poor choices, a lack of wisdom or understanding, and even the actions of other people…BUT “He redeems my life from the pit” (Psalm 103:4).

God doesn’t plan bad things for us but He can redeem anything that happens. Nothing is wasted in God! Joseph famously told his brothers at the end of the story That which was intended for evil, God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph received his dream at 17, became Prime Minister at 30 (13 years later), was reunited with his family 9 years later, and his father died 17 years later. Joseph made this profound statement to his brothers at the age of 56…that’s 39 years after they threw him into a pit! Over all that time Joseph chose to become better, when he could so easily have become bitter.

Here’s four final thoughts for when you’re in a pit of some kind:

  1. Never quit in the pit!
  2. Never ask “Why?”…Ask “What?” Trying to figure out why can do your head in! Asking what you can learn, what you can change, sets you up to climb out of the Valley of Pits and up the next mountain-top ahead of you
  3. Never think you’ve gone too low for God. Psalm 139:7-8 “Where can I go to escape your presence? If I go up to Heaven, you are there. If I go down to the depths, you are there.” Psalm 3:4 “I cried out to the Lord and He answered me.”
  4. Remember pits can predicate the process of progress towards the promise! In other words, the pit can actually be part of getting you to where you need to be.
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