Connections 08.09.2020: Caution: Pit Ahead

Genesis 37:12-28

An interesting convergence of events lands Joseph in a pit.

First, Joseph has dreams of grandeur. As you will see if you read the entire Joseph story, dreams play a large role in it. Joseph has dreams at the beginning. The symbolism of the dreams is so obvious that his parents and brothers know what they mean. Later, Joseph will interpret dreams whose meaning is not nearly so transparent. We are to understand that Joseph’s abilities to have his own dreams come true and to give the true meanings of other people’s dreams is a divine gift.

Second, Joseph is a contributor to and a victim of sibling rivalry. It’s one thing to have dreams that indicate that all of your family members will bow down to you, but it’s another thing entirely to tell those family members about your dreams. Joseph is one of many examples of a wise person who says and does unwise things. Joseph’s ten older brothers (only Benjamin was younger than Joseph) don’t take kindly to their kid brother’s dreams about having authority over them. Other factors contributed to the breakdown in the relationship between Joseph and his brothers, including his informing on his brothers to their father Jacob and Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph (37:2-4). But his dreams seem to be the main reason for the ill will his older brothers have toward him.

Third, Joseph is responsible and tenacious. His father tells him to go check on his brothers, who are away seeking pasture for the flocks—and he goes. When he can’t find them at first, he keeps trying until he does. It’s when he finally finds them, and his brothers see him approaching, that they hatch their plot to do away with the dreamer. Had Joseph been less determined, he would have given up and gone home. But he did the right thing, and in doing so he walked into trouble.

Fourth, God is somewhere—is behind, above, beneath, within—all of what is happening. The Joseph story is one that, although it is in the Bible, doesn’t depict a lot of obvious activity on God’s part. Since it is in the Bible, we can safely conclude that the presence and influence of God are assumed. This means that God works even in Joseph’s dreadful pit experience. As Joseph will tell his brothers at the end of the story, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…” (50:20a).

Finding ourselves in a pit probably isn’t the best time to reflect on how we got there. We can best reflect, evaluate, and understand in retrospect. But the Joseph story can help us be prepared for our times in the pit. We will benefit from staying aware of our circumstances, our strengths, our weaknesses, and our relationships. Making some adjustments based on our awareness may or may not keep us out of the pit. But constant awareness that leads to spiritual, mental, and emotional growth can give us a perspective that might help us deal better with a crisis. And even though we may or may not be able to perceive how God is working, we will do well to assume that God in fact is.

Discussion

  • Jacob had to know about the strained relationship between Joseph and his older brothers. Why would he send Joseph to check on them anyway?
  • When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they identified him as “this dreamer” as they plotted to get rid of him (v. 19). How can our dreams of grandeur get us into trouble?
  • What would have been some more constructive ways for the brothers to handle their issues with Joseph?
  • After the brothers throw Joseph in the pit, the next line in the story is “Then they sat down to eat…” (v. 25a). How does strike you? What might it tell us about the brothers?
  • What kinds of pits do we sometimes find ourselves in? What does the story of Joseph tell us about who may be responsible for our winding up in a pit? What are other possibilities that the story doesn’t consider?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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