In Nehemiah 2:12-16, there is an interesting story. After arriving at the ruins of Jerusalem, Nehemiah desired to inspect the damage. At one point, he must have got off his sure-footed donkey, because of the rubble
“Then, I went on to the Fountain gate, and to the King’s Pool, but was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.” (Nehemiah 2:14 NKJV)
Nehemiah wanted to check out the damage to the walls himself. He needed eyes on the problem and did it secretly without others unduly influencing his survey.
He soon learned how bad it was.
Before you can enjoy the blessings and refreshments of the Fountain’s Pool, you must clear away the rubble.
This was an ancient problem, played out many times and in many ways.
The word in Hebrew for rubble means, ‘ashes, dust, earth, ground, mortar, rubbish.” The root word literally means ‘to be dust.’
Nehemiah understood that the issue was more than just a physical one, but it was also about people.
Sometimes, the path to our call begins at the rubbish pit, where we feel we are in the dust.
I want to turn to a more familiar passage on this subject from the prophet Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV)
This passage would of course be fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matthew 3:5-6), who Jesus would refer to as the greatest prophet.
Simply put, to move forward you have to deal with the rubble on the road and spiritual road work was John’s primary job. He was cleaning up the rubbish, and dealing with the pit to make a path for Jesus.
It seems Nehemiah and John had a lot in common.
What pit and what rubble from our lives prevents us from our path to God?
A year ago, my wife and I moved to a place on the edge of town, with a third of an acre and a great view of the mountains. It sounds idyllic, and it was, but most of our land was just overgrown with weeds and roses (complete with lethal barbs).
We devised a plan to cut a wide path so that we could access a large chunk of our land, which we could not physically get to. When we started this project, there was a fire ban in place due to the dry weather, so I could not burn the growing pile of branches, trees, weeds, and garbage.
I wonder what Nehemiah would have done with my growing pile of garbage or as Nehemiah called it rubbish.
Our solution was to fill the pit.
On the south end of our property is a large pond, created by a depression in the land.
We wanted to fill the shallow end of the pond, just to create some level lawn area.
At first, I was going to make a large pile in the pond and burn it in the winter.
I started praying while doing this hard labor, not only for strength, but for wisdom as well. This was all new to me. I even asked God to speak into my life, in regard to what I was doing, and I believed He did.
I believe God prompted me to mark out the area with wooden sticks in the mud and then to fill in the area with all the garbage, I could haul.
As I cleaned up my property and continued to build my path, I was also filling in the pit at the same time. It was a win-win.
As my labor progressed, I had a strong feeling that it was more than just physical work, there was also a spiritual element. I had asked God to show me more, and He did.
Somehow this simple tedious labor was beginning to have a deep spiritual overtone for me.
We can’t progress with building a path if we have no place to put our garbage.
And we see that in the life of Joseph, who encountered pits on his journey to fulfilling His destiny in God.
Joseph’s pit and path
Several years ago during the Christmas season, I felt God prompting me to study the life of Joseph, so I spent the following year, doing just that.
Joseph was a man whose great gifting was matched by his heart and character.
To realize his importance as a patriarch, one only has to compare how many chapters are dedicated to Joseph’s life, 13, with the number dedicated to his infamous grandfather, Abraham, which is 12.
Joseph grew up with a faithful servant’s heart, in the midst of one of the most dysfunctional families in the Bible.
God deposited big dreams in Joseph’s life, and his name means “may He (God) add.”
Before Joseph could experience the increase, he had to go through the pit, multiple times.
F. B. Meyer says of Joseph, “though stripped of his coat, he could not be stripped of his characters.” Our character is often forged in the fire, i.e. the pit.
Two times, Joseph literally found himself in the pit.
First by his own brothers who rejected his dreams and coat which represented his favored position in his father’s eyes. And then secondly, he was thrown into a dungeon by Potiphar, who was in charge of the Pharaoh’s personal security and had purchased Joseph at a slave market.
But Genesis 39:2 says, “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.”
Only sin separates us from our Heavenly Father and the path He has for us, and Joseph never gave up on God.
Many scholars believe that Joseph probably received his Egyptian education from serving both in Potiphar’s house and especially while in prison.
The pit became an essential part of fulfilling Joseph’s dreams. The pit was the path to his dreams. It is interesting to note that sometimes it is also our brothers, who put us in the place of trouble.
The pit may be vital to your path, but it is never easy.
In the previous verse, we looked at Joseph being called a ‘successful man.’ The Hebrew word here means to prosper. This sounds good, but it literally means ‘push forward’ or ‘break out.’
At times, we must, by grace, ‘push forward’ in spite of the injustice in order to pursue our dreams or God’s path for us.
God proved Joseph’s character in his dark times. He overcame by God’s grace. The bigger the dream and path, the bigger the process of our character.
Joseph understood this clearly as revealed in the names of his two sons. His firstborn son, Manasseh means ‘making to forget’ or as I would say, ‘get over it.’
His second son, Ephraim, means ‘double fruitful.’ You can’t get to the blessing until you get over the pit.
My pit and path
I want to share a personal ‘pit’ that I went through some time ago We all go through stuff, but it’s our attitude or heart that makes the difference between success or failure.
I was involved in a ministry where I greatly respected the leader over me. One day I had to choose between doing something that would please man, or please God. I chose God.
I am no hero or Joseph, but the rejection that followed was one of the darkest times of my life.
I tried with tears to pursue a resolution, but there would be no coming together.
I waited weeks for a response, but I was between God and a hard place.
My only way of coping was on our patio.
Late at night, I would end the day by spending time bitterly crying out to God on my face. I would pray for the leaders of the church, and pray for greater grace upon myself, and God did meet with me in that dark, dark pit.
One day, I was on our patio looking at our veggie garden a few feet away.
God impressed upon me the words, ‘Wayne no weeds, don’t let the weeds choke out your fruit and rob you of your blessing.’
I heard God say loud and clear, ‘Abide in my grace. I know you don’t understand, but do not give in to anger and bitterness. No weeds. No grudge garden.’
I think my tears testified to which I chose. When man closes a door, God opens another.
In the much beloved eighth chapter of the Book of Roman, the one we all need to read when we are in the pit, there is one verse I want to quote:
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NKJV)
The path our Savior freely walked was His substitutionary death (the pit), followed by His resurrection to redeem us from our sin (the path).
There is an old Randy Matthew’s song that I like, it’s called, “No Cross, No Crown’ or as I like to say, ‘No pit, No path.’
Keep your eyes on the prize.