I invite you to look at this pit. It looks pretty deep and what you can’t see is that there is no water in it. Now envision a 17-year-old teenager stuck in the waterless pit. His hands are bound. His ankles are tied together. His eyes are wet from tears. His voice is hoarse from crying out. His brothers, yes, his brothers sit down up above to eat and drink. As they eat, their 17-year-old brother is screaming at the top of his lungs, “Let me out!”
This sounds like something off a reality TV show or even straight out of a horror movie … but it’s actually found within the pages of the Bible. Joseph, a 17-year-old boy, is captured by his brothers while they were all sixty miles from home and their father Jacob’s watchful eye. “They stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a waterless pit” (Genesis 27:23-24). These are murderous verbs. Stripped. Took. Threw. They stripped him, took him, and threw him in a waterless pit. “Let Me Out!”
Joseph didn’t see any of this coming. Joseph didn’t see this coming at all. Joseph didn’t get out of bed that morning and say to himself, “Hey, I better pack some extra food and water and put on padded clothing because today I think my brothers are going to beat me up and throw me in a waterless pit.” No, the attack came as a complete surprise.
God has something to say about all this. Zechariah says, “I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit” (9:11). Prisoners … that is what diseases, financial hardships, anxiety, stress does. It makes us prisoners. Prisoners to fear, prisoners to dread, prisoners to solitude, prisoners within our own bodies and homes.
Do you see Zechariah’s connection to Joseph? By using the term “waterless pit,” the prophet points us to Joseph … Joseph in a pit. He’s frantic. He’s desperate, he’s screaming. He’s a prisoner. And yet, Joseph’s story is our story as well. Stripped. Took. Threw. “Let me out!!”
Who wants us to stay stuck in a waterless pit? Who wants us to stay stuck in hopeless despair? Who wants us to stay anxious and on edge? Who wants us ready to give up hope and faith in God? … You know his name. The ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan. Satan wants to lock us up and throw away the key forever. The liar wants us to accept that our permanent home now reads: WATERLESS PIT.
The great reformer Martin Luther knew about Satan’s strategy. He writes in his great Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” “The old evil foe now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; on earth is not his equal.” When you and I, when we believe in Satan’s lies, we find ourselves going deeper and farther and longer, until we are bound, tied, and restricted … in a waterless pit, screaming “Let me out!!”
Zechariah writes, “Return to your stronghold, prisoners of hope” (9:12). Did you catch that? We’re prisoners to the things of this world, but we aren’t “prisoners of despair.” We aren’t “prisoners of hopelessness.” We aren’t “prisoners of unending pain.” We are“prisoners of hope.”
Biblical hope isn’t “knock on wood.” Biblical hope isn’t, “Maybe we’ll catch a lucky break.” Biblical hope isn’t a vague belief that the future will somehow be better than the past. No, Biblical hope is confidence in God’s covenant blood.
Zechariah says, “Because of the blood of my covenant with you” (9:11). When we’re stuck in a waterless pit … someone from up there need to come and rescue us down here. That someone is God and God comes to us with covenant blood.
Exodus 24:8 is the only other place in the Old Testament where “covenant” and “blood” appear together. Moses describes it this way. “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you.” God rescues his people with covenant blood. Passover blood. Shed blood. Cleansing blood. Christ’s blood.
God isn’t the great Terminator, He isn’t the omnipotent, the all powerful Ogre. God isn’t the cosmic Ebenezer Scrooge. He isn’t the vengeful judge, nitpicky tax accountant, or a cop waiting to give us a ticket. God is our Savior! A Savior who rescues with covenant blood!
Covenant blood is what Jesus gives us in Holy Communion. “This is my blood of the covenant.” With these words, Jesus begins to leave a trail of blood. After that Last Supper in the Upper Room, Jesus leads his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Luke tells us that Jesus sweats great drops of blood. After his arrest, Jesus is bound and taken to Annas, one of the high priests. Jesus is slapped, spit upon, and then sent to Caiaphas. Then, blindfold, Jesus is struck in the face with fists and beaten by guards. The next morning Jesus is taken to Pilate who passes him off to Herod. Herod dresses Jesus in a purple robe. Back before Pilate, soldiers strip and scourge Jesus. The beat him within an inch of his life. Struck and spit upon again, Jesus walks the Via Delarosa, the Way of Suffering. Finally, Roman soldiers stretch Jesus out on two pieces of wood and hammered three iron spikes into his flesh. Blood splattered everywhere.
Just like Joseph … Stripped. Took. Threw.
Jesus’ friends ran away. His possessions were gambled away. His strength was ebbing away. Even his own Father had turned away. All Christ had left was blood … covenant blood.
And yet, Christ’s covenant blood … it sets us free. His covenant blood sets us free from the condemnation of our sin, it sets us free from the pain of our past, it sets us free from the worry about our future. No one, absolutely no one can take this freedom from us. No power on earth or hell can destroy it.
Besides this, there is more freedom to come! As we grow in our walk with Jesus, his covenant blood unlocks more and more prison doors. Finally, every believe will experience perfect freedom in the resurrection of the dead and in the life of the world to come.
God says through Zechariah, “Today I declare that I will restore to you double” (9:12). When? Tomorrow? Next year? One of these days? No … Today! And double, two-fold. God is generous. John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Paul writes in Romans 5:20, “where sin is increased, grace is increased even more.” The Apostle John writes in 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
We started tonight with Joseph … but whatever happened to him? Twenty years after his brothers threw him in the waterless pit, the roles were reversed. Joseph was in power and his brothers weren’t. The brothers came to Joseph in fear, assuming that he would settle the score and throw them into a waterless pit. But Joseph didn’t. Joseph didn’t do that! Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good!” These are the words spoken by someone free from the waterless pit. Free in every way. Free to live with God’s perspective. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good!”
How does all this happen? Covenant blood. There is power in the blood. In Jesus’ name, this is God’s gift to you! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.