Devotional Week 17 Wednesday
“Behold, I am with you and will keep watch over you with care, (I’ll) take notice of you wherever you may go.”
Genesis 28: 15
“We should never see the stars if God did not sometimes take away the day.”
Today’s Study Text #1:
“And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots And (Elisha’s) servant said unto him, ‘Alas, my master! How shall we do?”
II Kings 6: 15
Today’s Study Text #2:
“And Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. And when they (his brothers) saw him far off, even before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him…’So come on now, let us kill him and throw his body into some pit’…and Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit or well that is out there in the wilderness’…when Joseph had come to his brethren, they stripped him of his distinctive long garment which he was wearing. Then they took him and cast him into the well-like pit which was empty – there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat their lunch.”
Genesis 37: 17-25
Today’s Study Text #3:
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain and chief executioner of the royal guard, and Egyptian, brought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. But the Lord was with Joseph, and he (though a slave) was a successful and prosperous man…And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to flourish and succeed in his hand.”
Genesis 19: 1-3
The God of Dothan – Part 3
“How Shall We Do?”
“A dark hour makes Jesus bright.”
Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Have I ever asked the question, “What am I going to do now?”
In what ways have I found God to be faithful to me in times when I couldn’t imagine how I would move forward in my life?
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars; the hotter the fire, the purer the gold.”
“Stars shine brightest in the darkest night. Torches are the better for beating. Grapes come not to the proof till they come to the press. Spices smell sweetest when pounded. Young trees root the faster for shaking. Vines are the better for bleeding. Gold looks the brighter for scouring; and juniper smells sweeter in the fire.”
I love this time of year for our small town is filled with juniper trees. Frequently as the temperatures drop, I’ll spot several bright red cardinals picking away at the berries that fill the juniper. In fact, just yesterday, after a rather brisk afternoon wind, I noticed that the ground in the front of our house was completely covered with a green mat of juniper berries. But my favorite thing right now, is the aroma that fills the cold night air as fireplaces are lit and filled with dried pieces of juniper wood. Believe me when I say that the smell is simply intoxicating.
But here’s the simple fact, this fantastic aroma is best released, only when the fire burns long and hot. It is then when the smoky smell turns to a pungent odor that just seems to penetrate the air with a savory scent that is unforgettable.
This is exactly what happens in your life and mine when we walk in God’s way, down through the valleys as well as up over the mountains, letting His hand guide us in “paths of righteousness.” For even in the toughest of times, God’s love can release a scent of wondrous kindness as we touch the lives of those we meet.
It is this thought that I would like to pervade our minds as we reflect on the three study texts for today. You might have thought at first glance that we were going to be reading extended sections of the Old Testament, because there’s so much for us to consider. But as we have found out in our study of God’s word together, not only is the context of a story critical, so is the way the Bible weaves together patterns as one story and one life is connected to another.
I want to begin with II Kings 6: 15, where we are told Elisha’s young helper got up early in the morning to undertake his tasks for the day, only to be met with a frightful reality – a host of armed men, along with chariots and horses, had surrounded the city of Dothan. I will freely admit, there’s nothing that gets under my skin quite as much as being met with some critical situation first thing in the morning before my feet have even hit the floor. A few weeks ago, at 7:30 A.m., we got a call from a local office requesting information that they had to have immediately. Now their emergency, I will add, didn’t seem very critical to me. But it did mean that for the next two hours, someone else’s emergency went to the top of my “To Do” list for the day.
Well, just put yourself in the place of Elisha’s assistant. He probably arose and got up thinking he would build a fire, go to the city well and get some water and then prepare something to eat for the household. This may be how he had planned his day. But to his utter dismay, he was informed or either saw for himself that this day was not likely to go as planned. With a host of men along with chariots and horses all around the city, he potentially thought to himself that a battle might be in the offing. What’s more, when he was met with the news that his master was the target of this Syrian show of force, he obviously made a quick trip back to the house where Elisha was residing to inform him of the threat to his life.
In a moment of sheer desperation, this young man cried out to Elisha, “How shall we do?” I appreciate the way Dale Ralph Davis describes the scene in his commentary on II Kings:
“Elisha’s aide didn’t expect such a shock as he stumbled out early that morning to pick up the “Dothan Dispatch” from the sidewalk – ‘An army surrounding the town, with horses and chariots.’ He bolted back through the screen door, crying, ‘Alas, my master! How can we manage?’”
In his commentary on this same passage, Matthew Henry observes that Elisha’s helper was in desperate consternation and went directly to his master, with the question, “What will we do. We are completely undone. It is no purpose for us to even think of fighting or flying. We must unavoidably fall into their hands.”
As I read these words, my thoughts turned to another young man, only seventeen years old, who found himself in Dothan, too. His situation, from all outward appearances was just as desperate as Elisha and his aide.
Joseph was sent on a mission of mercy by his father to check on the welfare of his brothers. With a motive of brotherly kindness in his heart, he had no idea in the world that he was walking into a deadly trap where his demise was not only being discussed, it was being planned. We can only surmise about the shock Joseph felt when the Bible says his brothers, “ripped off the fancy coat he was wearing, grabbed him, and threw him into a cistern. The cistern was dry, there wasn’t any water in it” (Genesis 37: 23, 24, N.I.V.).
I find it notable that twice the Bible points out that the well-like pit Joseph’s brothers dumped him into was dry, empty and without water. This got me to doing a little research about dry-wells or cisterns which are receptacles for rain-water. Current findings inform us that these dry-wells or dry cisterns are scattered throughout the land of Palestine. Often the reason they are not being used is that the limestone which surrounds the walls has begun to chip away leaving the walls loose. The type of well-like pit Joseph was most likely dropped into was, as historians described, shaped like a pear with a 2-3 foot opening and then a wider base between 15-20 feet deep. It is the dry bottom of this pit that Joseph hit with the force of his body weight. It’s difficult to conceive the pain he most likely endured. He may have potentially fractured a bone. But certainly we do know one thing, this act of evil broke his heart for when Joseph’s brothers found themselves in prison in Egypt, here is the way they described the scene in Dothan – a memory that haunted them for years: “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.’” (Genesis 42: 21, K.J.V.). To add to this picture of devastation, history also tells us that most of the dry cisterns were covered with a stone. The case may be that from deep within the earth, Joseph cried out. And his desperate pleas for help were loud enough that even a stone covering wasn’t able to muffle his sobs. And this took place, as Genesis 37: 25 tells us, while “they sat down to eat bread.” In his book about Joseph, God Sent A Man, author Carlyle Haynes paints this disturbing picture of the tragic scene: “In the (Biblical) narrative itself there is no word to inform us what Joseph’s thoughts were. Long afterward, however, there is a glimpse given us of the heartbreak he experienced. When his brothers were in Egypt seeking grain to sustain their families, their guilty consciences reminded them of their heartlessness to their brother…’He besought us!’ That is a revealing word. While they purposed putting him to death, he besought them. What a spectacle it brings up! This lad in the rough hands of men determined to take his life, with all his heart in his face and voice, he besought them. And then when they forced him to descend into that dark, dreary, and dank prison house of a pit, as perhaps a vision of his father flashed into his mind, and the prospect confronted him of perishing alone there in the darkness, the tears began to flow, and he besought them. And they would not hear.”
This was Joseph’s Dothan experience. Alone in a pit. Left to die without any rescue in sight. For Elisha’s young assistant, Dothan didn’t look any better. Surrounded by the might and power of the Syrian king, he also found that Dothan appeared, from all outward appearances, to be a place of death.
It could be that your situation in Dothan looks just as futile and as fatal.
I encourage you today with our third study text where we find these tremendously promising words, “But God was with Joseph.” I love the way Pastor and author R. T. Kendall, in his book God Meant It For Good, shares this insight regarding how life looks when we come upon a moment when we say, “How will I manage? How will I survive?” “There was something at work in Joseph’s life that was wonderful and positive, a gift God gave him. One of the keys to understanding Joseph is provided by Stephen in Acts 7: 9 – ‘And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him.’ If God is with us there is no impediment, no difficulty, no problem that can stand in the way of God making us a mighty instrument for our day.”
Then Pastor Kendall expands on this thought which I found to be one that reaches into your life and mine today: “God was with Joseph and he had a gift that would shape his own life and also the life of Israel. God gave him dreams. Now that may not sound very impressive. Whoever would have thought that a gift like that could mean so much? And God has given to you something that nobody else can do.”
Off in Dothan, down in a pit or surrounded by foreign armies, you may feel that you can’t manage – that you can’t survive another day. Hang on! God has a surprise so big for you. We must never forget that when God is with us, no matter how dark the pit, no matter how huge the host is that has come against us, the stars will shine their brightest, even when we fear we can’t manage the crisis we face in Dothan!
“Our troubles have always brought us blessings, and they always will. They are the dark chariots of bright grace.”
C. H. Spurgeon
“From the depths of my despair
I call to you, Lord.
Hear my cry, O Lord:
Listen to my call for help!”
In The Hour of My Distress
“In the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!
When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep;
Sweet spirit comfort me!
When God knows I’m tossed about,
Either with despair or doubt;
Yet before the glass be out,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!”
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Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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