Genesis – First, God
TRUTH: No matter what happens around us, no matter what we are unjustly accused of, no matter what false gossip has been said about us, God is with us if we have said yes to Him.
TRUTH: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
TRUTH: God is blesses those with relentless integrity for the work He invites us to be and do for his glory.
As we begin the story of God in Joseph, let us hold to these Biblical views of Truth. Let’s see what we learn about God and our relationship with Him.
Genesis 39, The Message
After Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, Potiphar an Egyptian, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the manager of his household, bought him from them.
2-6 As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did. He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian—all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.
6-7 Joseph was a strikingly handsome man. As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.”
8-9 He wouldn’t do it. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here—he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”
10 She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her.
11-15 On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house. When she realized that he had left his coat in her hand and run outside, she called to her house servants: “Look—this Hebrew shows up and before you know it he’s trying to seduce us. He tried to make love to me but I yelled as loud as I could. With all my yelling and screaming, he left his coat beside me here and ran outside.”
16-18 She kept his coat right there until his master came home. She told him the same story. She said, “The Hebrew slave, the one you brought to us, came after me and tried to use me for his plaything. When I yelled and screamed, he left his coat with me and ran outside.”
19-23 When his master heard his wife’s story, telling him, “These are the things your slave did to me,” he was furious. Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up. But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.
BACKGROUND – JOSEPH’S NEW HOME
The Egypt in which Joseph found himself was primarily a land of small villages inhabited by peasants who worked the land and raised grain and vegetables. Thanks to their system of irrigation, the annual flooding of the Nile River supplied ample water for both the crops and the cattle.
It was also a country shackled by religious superstition. The people recognized at least two thousand gods and goddesses, including Pharaoh himself, and the special emphasis was on preparing for the afterlife when the god Osiris would judge one’s deeds. In a very real sense, Egypt was a land devoted to death as much as to life.
The Egyptians were great builders, and the rulers conscripted both slaves and their own citizens for vast building projects. While the common people lived in mud brick houses, the important structures were constructed of stone. (Some of the pyramids contain stones that weigh as much as fifteen tons.) The government was a large bureaucracy, with many officials at various levels and thousands of scribes to keep the records.
Egyptian priests and wise men studied the heavens and the earth, developed a solar year calendar of 365 1/4 days, and became well known for their medicines. They also perfected the art of embalming. The Egyptians had horses and chariots, and they knew the art of war.
There were many Semitic slaves like Joseph in Egypt, but Joseph was very special because the Lord was with him (39:2-3). Because the Lord was with Joseph, he was a man of accomplishment, but what Joseph accomplished, we can accomplish if we trust in the Lord and seek to honor Him as he did.
BLESSED BY GOD
When Joseph was at home in Hebron, his brothers considered him to be a troublemaker, but in Egypt, he was a source of blessing because God was with him. God promised Abraham that his descendants would bring blessing to other nations (12:1-3), and Joseph fulfilled that promise in Egypt.
Joseph is a good example of a believer who trusted God and made the best of his difficult circumstances. Joseph would rather have been at home, but he made the best of his circumstances in Egypt, and God blessed him.
Joseph was well liked by the people in Potiphar’s house, and in pagan, idol-worshiping Egypt, Joseph was a testimony to the true and living God. He was an honest and faithful worker, and the people he lived and worked with got the message. God took note of Joseph’s character and conduct and made him a blessing, and unknown to Joseph, God planned to fulfill the dreams He had sent him.
WHAT GOD DID IN JOSEPH…
But his faithful service wasn’t only a blessing to the household, it was also a blessing to Joseph himself. Had he stayed home with his pampering father, Joseph might not have developed the kind of character that comes from hard work and obeying orders. God’s method for building us is to give us a job to do and people to obey. He tests us as servants before He promotes us to being rulers (Matt. 25:21). Before He allows us to exercise authority, we have to be under authority and learn to obey.
Joseph had suffered in a pit because of the hatred of his brothers, but now he would face an even greater danger because of the lust of an evil woman.
Potiphar’s wife treated Joseph in a humiliating way by inviting him into her bed. She may have reasoned, “After all, isn’t he a Jew and a slave at that? And doesn’t he work for my husband and therefore also work for me? Since my husband isn’t here, I’m in charge, and Joseph is my employee. It’s his job to take orders.” She treated Joseph like a thing, not like a person; and when her advances were rejected, she turned against him.
No matter how much people talk about “love” and defend sex outside of marriage, the experience is wrong, cheap, and demeaning. Fornication and adultery change a pure river into a sewer and transform free people into slaves and then animals (5:15-23; 7:21-23). What begins as “sweetness” soon turns into poison (5:1-14). Joseph wasn’t about to sacrifice either his purity or his integrity just to please his master’s wife.
It took a great deal of courage and determination for Joseph to fight this battle day after day, but he succeeded. He explained to her why he wouldn’t cooperate: (1) She was another man’s wife, and that man was his master; (2) he was trusted by his master and didn’t want to violate that trust; (3) even if nobody else found out about it, God would know it and be displeased. All she asked for was a moment of pleasure, but to Joseph, this was a great wickedness against God (Gen. 39:9).
Self-control is an important factor in building character and preparing us for leadership. For the second time in his life, Joseph lost a garment (Gen. 39:12; see also 37:23), but as the Puritan preacher said, “Joseph lost his coat but he kept his character.”
Once again, it was the Lord who made the difference. Whether Joseph was a steward in Potiphar’s house or an accused criminal in the prison, “the Lord was with Joseph” and gave him success.
Like Potiphar before him, the warden turned everything over to Joseph and watched the work prosper in his hands.
THE SCHOOL OF GOD
The prison would be a school where Joseph would learn to wait on the Lord until it was His time to vindicate him and fulfill his dreams. Joseph had time to think and pray and to ponder the meaning of the two dreams God had sent him. He would learn that God’s delays are not God’s denials.
God often removes our crutches so we’ll learn to walk by faith and trust Him alone. Two years later, God would use the cupbearer to help deliver Joseph from prison.
During those two years of waiting, Joseph clung to the dreams God had given him, just the way you and I would cling to His promises. God had promised that people would bow down to Joseph, and he believed God’s promise. He didn’t know how God would accomplish it or when it would happen, but he knew that God was faithful.
Do we really believe what we say we believe about God and his faithfulness to us?
God is with us right now as we read these words! Thank Him!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being with us always, in good times when life is going well and in the hard times when life is challenging. Thank you for the lessons we learn in the hard times. We are perplexed when the work gets tough, but we are not down for the count because of you in us working through us. Give us courage, wisdom, insight and understanding as you build your character in us. We are incredibly blessed by Your Holy Presence in us all because of Jesus who reconciled our relationship to You. Thank you, Lord. Lead us on…
In Jesus Name, Amen