(AND NO not two arm pits... :) )
Genesis 37:23 - 24
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they strip Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him;
24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
2 Sam 23:20
20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.
Pits are scary things. Steep walls, no way out. It is a suffocating trap that gives me cold sweats.
Pit walls remind me of some steeps embankments of crumbly sandstone that surround creeks in Southeastern Kentucky. If you fall over that ledge you are essentially trapped until you can find a lower part to climb up.
The two situations remind me of two different approaches to pits. Joseph was thrown down one by his brothers in an effort to get rid of him, although I can give Ruben a pass because he meant to rescue him. And then there is Benaiah, who jumped down into a pit that had a lion in it. Pretty brave stuff on his part. I can see the rippling muscles of a weathered warrior as he set out to slay that fierce animal.
Two pits…two situations…and I would argue, two attitudes.
We don’t really know what Joseph was thinking, but later in his life he lamented that he knew what his brothers meant for evil (casting him into the pit) God used for good, so he must have all sorts of uncontrollable thoughts racing around his head at the time as to what his fate would be. I can bet he called to them to let him out. I bet he cried, pled, even threatening them to be pulled out. I can see him feeling around that pitch black hole, hoping for an escape. He probably even dealt with some pretty overwhelming fear. Admittedly, that is me most times when I’m in the deepest part of a metaphorical pit.
Enter Benaiah. We don’t know much about why he jumped down in that pit to slay that lion, but he did. His heart probably pounded as he was mere inches from menacing claws that could rip him in half and teeth that could eat him in a couple of bites. Not to mention his fingers were probably frozen with cold as he gripped his spear. But he stood firm and killed that lion. It doesn’t say he was hurt, but I can almost imagine him climbing out with deep claw marks on arms.
Isn’t that us? Sometimes we are in pits of the unknown or pits with a ferocious lion. We can either be afraid or we can slay the lion. I want to say I’ll be brave, but I bet I’d be more like Joseph, afraid.
Even if we are afraid, there is an important note here. God worked through that pit. It took years for the apparent reason for it to come to light, but it did eventually materialize. But there was battle after battle, but the reason did come. When the reason showed for Joseph, he was so overwhelmed he wept uncontrollably. Ever have that feeling? When the reason is revealed as to why you suffered and was put into a pit? It’s a beautiful moment where relief is so profound you are reduced to raw emotion.
God, I pray I learn to trust you more in the pit. Whether or not I’m being carried off to a figurative Egypt or facing a hungry lion on a snowy day. Help me to see you working in all things and through all things. Help me to trust no matter how afraid I get. Amen.