Certain themes pop up time and again in Scripture and are evidence of its one Author. Many themes have their origins in Genesis and culminate in Revelation. One quick example of this would be the theme of a garden, and the associated language of trees, plants, vineyards, and land. Keep your eyes open to this type of language and you are bound to yield hundreds of passages that pick up on the broad theme of garden.
A Favoured Son
We first encounter the theme of “going-down-into-a-pit” in the life of Joseph. Jacob had sent out his favoured son to check on his brothers who were out pasturing the sheep. The brothers use the opportunity to plot revenge on Joseph for his outlandish, yet truthful, dreams. They desire to kill Joseph, and it is only on account of Reuben’s quick-thinking kindness that Joseph is instead thrown into a pit. He is rescued out of the pit only to be sold into slavery, but at least his life was spared and in time his dreams would prove to be reality.
A Rightful Heir
We also happen upon the pit theme in the poetry of David. In the well-known fortieth psalm, David opens with these words:
I waited patiently for the LORD,
and he turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
It is beside the point whether David is writing of a literal event in which he was trapped in a pit, or is simply using poetic language to describe an act of the Lord’s deliverance. The point is that he is using the language of going down into a dark and muddy pit and it is the Lord who pulls him out of it.
A Rejected Prophet
We meet our theme once again in the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah. As a truth-telling prophet of God, Jeremiah was disliked and often oppressed by the people to which he ministered to, a people who preferred the hope and affirmation of false prophets to the raw repentance preached by Jeremiah. As a result, Jeremiah was thrown into a muddy cistern by the king’s officials. The hero of the story is Ebed-melech, a foreigner from the region of north-east Africa, who demonstrates the kind of sacrificial neighbour-love that Jeremiah’s own people had failed in. Using old rags and worn-out clothes as make-shift ropes, Ebed-melech and his men pulled God’s prophet from the pit and Jeremiah lived to prophesy another day.
A Bold Servant
Perhaps a more prominent example of our theme is found in the counter-culture boldness of Daniel. Like Jeremiah, Daniel decided it was better to follow the paths of God than the broad highway of the unbelieving world. Against kings orders, Daniel persisted in his practice of prayer to Yahweh and was thrown into a pit of lions as punishment. Interestingly, the lion pit, or den, was sealed with a stone, pointing forward to another similar story. Apparently, angels don’t do doors and one of God’s angels was able to dwell with Daniel, shutting the mouths of lions and preserving Daniel’s life.
A Poetic Resurrection
Mention could also be made of the prodigal prophet Jonah. He found himself in a type of pit when the sailors threw him overboard their sinking ship and Jonah was swallowed up by a great fish. After some time the dark belly of the fish, Jonah was spewed back onto shore where he at last carried out his prophetic task in the city of Nineveh.
A Wonderous Fulfillment
Upon careful reading of God’s Word, we discover that all these instances of someone going down in a pit and finding rescue are collectively pointing to the most important occasion of this theme. Jesus comes to earth as God’s favoured son. He is also a future king and a faithful prophet who displays counter-cultural boldness. Jesus also links himself directly to Jonah in Matthew 12 where he tells his audience that the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days just like Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days.
Furthermore, Jesus is rejected by his own people who refuse to accept his word from God. After his crucifixion, Jesus is placed in a type of pit, a tomb in the rock, which is sealed with a large stone. Angels make an appearance as Jesus resurrects and comes out of his pit to ultimately take his rightful place as king.
A Solid Hope
We have all been, or still are, in pits of one kind or another. The pit of sin is dark, deep, and deadly. Our rescue is made possible by the One who came down into the pit with us and is able to lift us out. If you are in Christ you can be confident that you will rise out of whatever pit you’re in, whether that is the slimy pit of an addiction, the difficult pit of sickness, or the deadly pit of the grave itself. And not only are you lifted out of the pit, but you are lifted up upon a Rock where you will dwell securely forever.