IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Lord Was with Joseph

Date: Jan. 13, 2019

Author: Michael Mark

Genesis 39:1-23

Key Verse: Genesis 39:23

The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Good morning!  It is good to be with you!  It is good to be with each other!  Life is so much more enjoyable when you are able to spend it with someone.  We are such a small ministry here, but each of us make a big impact.  We can feel it if any one of us were missing.  But it’s great to be together, especially in this environment, worshipping the Lord together.  Welcome back, to many of you students.  You probably went home to enjoy some time being with friends and family back home. We missed you, but thank God for the time now we can enjoy your presence.  Together, we can do great things, we can help one another, and fellowship in love.  Our bonds are made stronger because there is someone with us all, who holds us all together – He is the Lord.  The Lord is with us all.  The Lord is with you.  Have you ever considered that?  Have you ever taken some time to think about what that means?  One way we can try to understand it, is how we are with one another. The Lord helps us, the Lord loves us, and the Lord enjoys being with us.  He walks with us and talks with us along life’s narrow way.  But his presence also transcends space and time.  Some of you may go back home when you are done with school, others to where the Lord may lead you, and though we might not be together in body, the Lord will always be with you.  We will consider this idea more, and what it means in our lives, as we return now to the story of Joseph.

Before the winter break we stopped at the beginning of the story of Joseph. His story didn’t begin so well. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, his own flesh and blood.  They initially thought about killing him.  Last week, we came back into Genesis with a brief interlude about the life of Judah.  It was a tragic tale of death, deception and prostitution.  It was a low point in the holy line of Abraham.  God was not mentioned in both of those chapters, except in the killing of wicked sons.  It seemed that God had abandoned this family, but God was working behind the scenes. He gave Joseph those dreams, foreshadowing His plans.  Judah’s Messianic line was divinely preserved despite his sins.  Though it seems that God’s promises could go up smoke by the failures of the human race, God proves time and time again he is able to sovereignly keep his promise.  God was setting things up so that he can keep his covenant promise to Abraham: to make him a blessing to the whole world.  Joseph played a key role in this plan, so now the focus of the story turns back to Joseph. 

Verse 1 in Ch. 39 repeats what was said in the last verse of Ch. 37.  The author of Genesis, Moses, resumes where we left off.  Joseph was taken captive by the Ishmaelite merchants and brought to Egypt, where he was sold as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of the guard.  Potiphar was one of Pharaoh’s officials, and he was perhaps the leader of the king’s personal bodyguard.  If this story were a chess game, God had advanced the pawn close to the knight, who was close to the king.  It was no coincidence that Joseph was sold to Potiphar; God brought him here to someday have direct access to Pharaoh.  The people of the world are like grasshoppers to God, no matter how powerful they are God overrules them.

Now that the scene has been set, the story continues.  Look at v.2, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.”  As stated earlier, Joseph would play a key role in God’s plan, and Moses tells us right at the beginning, how he is able to do that. The first thing we now come to know about Joseph is that the Lord was with him.  At this point Joseph may not have realized it.  He was 17 years old when he was betrayed by this brothers and sold as a slave.  Imagine what was going through his mind, as he was bound and forcefully taken away. He must have been sad, distraught, confused, angry.  “How could they do this to me?”  “What have they done to me?”  “God why?!!” “I’ll never forgive them!”

But this is how Moses showed that God was with him: he prospered, and even found favor in the eyes of Potiphar.  This might have been an unexpected turn of events for Joseph.  I don’t know how bitter he was, but it did not hinder him from prospering and doing good things at Potiphar’s house. Maybe it started with pulling some weeds, and he was good at it.  Then washing the clothes.  He had a knack for it.  Then feeding the servants.  His cooking was good.  Then ordering supplies, or food, then handling Potiphar’s finances and doing his taxes.  He had to even overcome the language barrier and understand their Egyptian culture. Joseph didn’t just do these well, but he prospered them.  So much so that it says in v.3 that his master saw that the Lord was with him.  I am not sure if Moses is saying that Potiphar actually believed God helped him, or that it was Moses’ own commentary, but Potiphar did notice some world class service.  Jesus taught his disciples on the sermon on the mount: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).”  Whatever you do, whether homework, or working, or serving, do it for the glory of God.

Look at v.5, “From the time he put him in charge of his household and all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.”  Joseph’s hard work and skill was overflowing so that even a non-believing household was immensely blessed – both in the house and in the field.  The blessing was everywhere, inside and out.  This was a glimpse and a taste into the promise of God – that the whole world would be blessed through Abraham’s descendant.  Potiphar left everything in Joseph’s care, and he didn’t concern himself with anything except the food he ate.  Wouldn’t that be great?  The only worry of the day was what’s for dinner?  But that was how much God blessed Potiphar’s house because of Joseph. Moses makes it clear that the fruit of it all came from God.  Joseph worked hard, but the Lord gave the increase.  He was promoted to manager of the whole household, under Potiphar.  Jesus taught, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much (Luke 16:10).”  Joseph was faithful to even the littlest task, and he was put in charge of greater things.

Joseph was not only blessed in wisdom and skill, but also blessed in physical appearance.  Look at v.6b-7, “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’”  There were only two others in the Bible given this description of being handsome: King David and Absalom.  Joseph was among them.  Maybe lifting all those bricks gave him some bodacious biceps and quality quads.  But this became somewhat of a snare.  His master’s wife, not immediately, but after some time, took notice of Joseph.  “Took notice” is a modest way to say it.  She looked at him with lust, and perhaps entertained it in her mind, to the point where her lips spewed out the wicked desires of her heart.  She openly proposes to cheat on her husband by demanding Joseph to sleep with her.

Look at v.8a, “But he refused.”  Such strength!  Such power! Such integrity!  He refused.  Think about how difficult it might have been for him.  He was young and good looking.  Sometimes the young and good looking find themselves facing more temptations.  He was either in his late teens or early twenties, a time when the desires of youth are at their strongest.  He was a slave boy, and she was the master’s wife. She might have had some charm. She was literally offering herself. She was also in a position of power. Joseph risked angering or displeasing her if he refused.  There was also the temptation that no one would ever find out, maybe she promised this. Joseph had a real uphill battle to deny this temptation.

Joseph found the strength to resist.  Look at v.8b – 9a, “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  No one is greater in this house than I am.”  His first defense was the trust of his master.  He would not betray his master.  Perhaps Potiphar had a good relationship with him.  He also had a great sense of responsibility, because his duties were great. If he did this, not only would he lose the trust of his master, but also everything he was responsible for would be taken from him.  If he cared for them, he could no longer.  Consider this when you are tempted to lust, even lust of the eyes and the heart, which is adultery.  Every transgression increases the risk of losing the trust of those who depend on you and causing those you care for to suffer.  Who is under your care: your wife, you husband, your children, your siblings, your Bible students? It has been proven that pornography wrecks marriages and damages the mind.  In these modern times we live in pornography is openly accepted, but that still does not make it moral and it will cause harm to the Christian soul, and actually to any soul that isn’t already calloused.

Joseph’s second defense is in v.9b, “My master has held nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.”  He convicts her of her covenant relationship with her husband, before God.  The laws of marriage were established before the Mosaic law, and are universal in every culture.  That covenant relationship is defined in Gen 2:24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Marriage is defined as the permanent union between one man and one woman so long as they live.  Joseph can have anything he wants under Potiphar’s house, except his wife, because she belongs to him.  Joseph understood this.

His third defense is in v.9c, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”  This is the strongest defense.  All sin is sin against God.  Joseph feared God.  Even if this was done in secret, even if Potiphar never finds out about it – God knows. Nothing is hidden from the Lord. But I think that not only does he fear God, but he loves God, and this can be our strongest defense too.  When we love God, we will hate sin.  Joseph called the adultery a wicked thing.  When we sin, or are tempted to sin, we must recognize it as a wicked thing.  Think about how truly sinful that sinful thing is.  Imagine now, the heartbreak you would feel if you found out someone you loved, someone very close to you, is doing illegal drugs or are too young, and doing drugs.  In your heart you feel grieved, sad and angry.  They think they are not harming anyone, but when they harm themselves they hurt you.  Our sins grieve God, and if we commit sins knowing this, we hurt Him.  God is patient, and forgiving, and will forgive 77 times 7 times to those who repent and ask.  This is not to abuse God’s grace, but for those genuinely sorry for their sin and desire to improve, it is hope.  Ps 97:10 says, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

Look at her response in v.10, “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.”  What a brazen and wicked woman!  Even after being told that she is a wife, still she chases after him. Joseph kept his distance. He kept himself far from temptation.  Not only did he refuse to go to bed with her, he refused to even be with her.  He probably, to the best he can, never tried to be alone with her because of her ways.  He had wisdom beyond his years.  It would be hundreds of years later, that the Proverbs would be written, probably by King Solomon, and the first few chapters warn strongly against adultery.  Proverbs 2:16-18 says, “Wisdom will save you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.  Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.”  Joseph was wise to avoid her, in contrast to his brother Judah, who we saw in the last chapter not only gave in to temptation but was the one soliciting a prostitute.

Proverbs 6:26 says, “For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.”  In the ESV, the same verse says “for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life.”  Woah.  That describes Potiphar’s wife.  She was on the hunt, and grew more daring.  Look at v.11, “One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside.”  Now this is pure speculation, but it almost seems like a trap was set.  Joseph walks into the house … “Hmmm, seems a bit emptier than usual…”  Again, I don’t know if this was set up by the wife, but I’ll continue with the story. Lurking in the shadows is the hunter, the adulterous wife – she sneaks up on Joseph and then pounces, grabbing his cloak – “Come to bed with me!” she says – but Joseph ran away, leaving his cloak in her hand.  Like a gazelle galloping away from the lion.

This was the greatest test of this temptation.  No one in the house, maybe he could be worn down from resisting so much. But no, he did the right thing. He ran away.  He fled from the temptation.  When the temptation gets strong, you better get out.  Paul writes exactly this in 2 Tim 2:11, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  When you are tempted, flee.  Flee where?  Maybe first, away from the place.  But second, flee to God.  Pursue him in love, and call on Him.  Go to him in prayer for strength to overcome or the desire to go away, the Lord gives strength to those who trust in him.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end for Joseph.  The wife’s inordinate affection turned into a furious rage. She called to her household servants, showing them the cloak, “Look, this Hebrew has been brought to us to make a sport of us!  He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed.  When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”  Her desire was to take revenge on Joseph and get him into trouble and cause him harm. She calls him “this Hebrew.”  They were known as Hebrews before they were called Israelites.  But “this Hebrew,” was also said in a disdainful way, almost racist, as if he were an enemy.  She accused him of attempted rape, a crime that could be punishable by death.  The irony is that while she accuses Joseph of violence, the cloak that she has in her hand shows that she was the violent one.

She first told this story to the servants, so they would look and see.  If they despised Joseph, because he was so good at what he did, this would be their chance to take it out on him.  She waited for her husband to come home, and then told the same story.  Potiphar heard the story, and he burned with anger.  Prov 6:34 says, “For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.  He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe however great it is.” Potiphar became angry, but he didn’t give Joseph a chance to defend himself.  Maybe he knew Joseph’s character, and his wife’s, so he didn’t have Joseph killed.  Or maybe he didn’t.  Joseph did not say a word, and it seems that he was put into prison indefinitely without any timeline or future trial.  We learn from Ps 105:18 that his feet were bruised with shackles, and his neck was put in irons.  What a fall, and again a cloak had to do with it.  His father’s colorful cloak provoked the jealousy of his brothers.  Now, this cloak, maybe it was a nice one from his master, provoked the jealousy of his master, and he was again imprisoned. What might be going through Joseph’s mind now.  “What happened God?”  “I thought things were getting better.”  “I didn’t do anything wrong.”  “Why am I in chains again?”

But God’s history has a funny way of repeating itself.  Look at v.20a-21, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”  Just as he received favor and kindness in the eyes of Potiphar, he received favor and kindness in the eyes of the prison warden.  Just like Potiphar, the warden put Joseph in charge of all of the inmates and activities of the prison.  And just like Potiphar, can we all please read v.23, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”  I can imagine this brought great comfort to Joseph, even though he was in prison.  He seemed to continue to work hard for the glory of God, and was continuing to learn that God was with him.

Verse 23 tells us the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did, but he was in prison.  How do we reconcile that?  It seems that the reward for doing things right and remaining pure and innocent was prison.  Well, this was a part of God’s plan, and Joseph trusted God even in this situation. It was a part of God’s plan to bless the world.  Joseph here becomes a shadow, a type and an image of the coming Messiah.  The Savior would humble himself, and take on the very nature of a servant.  He would face trials and temptations from the devil himself, and overcome them.  Then he would be put to death, even though he was innocent, and absorb the punishment for those he came for.  Notice again Joseph did not open his mouth when accused by Potiphar’s wife.  He did not get her in trouble, but paid the price.  Perhaps this might seem unjust, but it does remind us how Jesus went to the grave for sinners.  This is exactly how much God loves us.  This is exactly how much God wants to be with us.  He came to be with us, but the price for being with us was suffering and death because of our sin.  But because he went to the grave for us, our sins have been pardoned, and we have been released from the grave.  Maybe Potiphar’s wife shouldn’t go free; but neither should we, but Jesus graciously paid our price by his death on the cross.  Joseph got to share in the sufferings of the Lord for his people, and one day God would make him rise to glory.  It is because of Joseph that Jacob’s family will survive, and it is because of Joseph that Israel will thrive and grow into a full blown nation. This paved the way for the coming king, the Messiah – the Lord Jesus, who is Immanuel, God with us.

God made a way to be with us forever, and indeed, with us he is!  The mouth of Jesus himself says it is so.  He says “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16).”  He prayed to God the night before he was arrested and put to death, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24).”  And after he rose from the grave, just before his ascension, he told his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt 28:19-20).”  Serve the Lord with all your heart, and love him. Flee from sin and sexual immorality. And enjoy being with him, in prayer, reading his words, singing songs, in fellowship with others and in worship.  May the Lord be with you, and give you success in all that you do!

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Luke 4:1-13

Key Verse: 4:12

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