May 21, 2017
Genesis 39:1-6

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Since it’s been a few weeks since we were first introduced to our man Joseph back in Genesis 37, I want to begin this morning by reminding you of five truths central to your understanding of the story of Joseph. For full disclosure doing this will limit the amount of time we’ll be able to spend in Genesis 39, but I believe establishing these five larger truths will prove to be helpful as we tackle the specifics of Joseph’s story!

First… God had a very important plan for Joseph’s life. As we’re going to see (*spoiler alert*), while Joseph’s life is filled with a series of unexpected twists and turns, he will ultimately rise from the pit to a position of incredible power in Egypt for a divine purpose.

Knowing via a prophetic dream given to Pharaoh that a severe famine was on the horizon, Joseph will be charged by the King with the specific task of preparing the nation. In actuality, not only will Joseph help navigate Egypt through this would be disaster, but his faithful stewardship actually places Egypt into a position with grain enough to spare. 

As such, Joseph’s new found role not only provides a way for his family to be saved from starvation, but his position in Egypt affords him both the authority and power to specifically act on his families behalf. In the end, and as context for everything that will happen in his life, God’s plan was to use Joseph to save his family!

Secondly… Joseph had been given a divine revelation from God. As a teenager God partially revealed to Joseph what His plan would in-tale through two specific dreams (both of which are recorded in Genesis 37). While it’s true these dreams were very light on specifics (especially as it pertained to how he’d be exalted), God had been clear to Joseph that he would ultimately find himself in a position of profound power and prominence.

And keep in mind there is no doubt these dreams and the implications of what Joseph viewed as God’s promises had a powerful impact on his life. Though you can debate the prudency of sharing such things with a group of brothers who already hated his guts, you can’t dismiss the fact Joseph was fully convinced these dreams were not only divine in nature but that God was revealing to him the future destiny of both himself and his family. 

Furthermore, as we see Joseph’s story unfold, don’t forget this incredible reality… The only revelation Joseph was personally given by God were these two dreams when he was a teenager. Throughout the remaining narrative you will never see the Lord speaking directly to Joseph as He had done with Abraham or his father Jacob. 

Never once will you find a record of Joseph hearing from the Lord through an audible voice, being given a vision, or for that matter receiving a divine appearance. Additionally, Joseph didn’t possess the written Scriptures or have the benefit of the indwelling Spirit of God.

Beyond this, most amazingly, we don’t even have a record of Joseph ever receiving another dream! Yes, part of his ministry will be interpreting the dreams of others (the Baker, Butler, and Pharaoh), but it seems as though Joseph only possessed the revelation of these two initial dreams coupled with the stories of how God had been faithful in the lives of his fathers.

There is no doubting the fact the nature of these dreams and the limited revelation they presented stirred Joseph’s heart in powerful ways. God’s Word filled his life with meaning - so much so that it would serve as an anchor to his soul when his life took unexpected turns. 

Joseph was able to endure both the pit and later his prison because he held fast to the promises of God’s Word. He was willing to trust God even when he had reason to doubt!

Thirdly… Joseph was continually loved by his Father. Aside from the fact Joseph was the favored son of his earthly father, you can’t dismiss the reality that of all of Jacob’s sons it was Joseph who God specifically chose and commissioned for such an important task. 

While I don’t want to get to far ahead of ourselves, the unique love God the Father possessed for Joseph will become all the more evident when you come to see Joseph as the first (and maybe most powerful) type of Jesus in all of the Old Testament Scriptures. Though important to keep in mind, I’ll develop this idea more fully in a later study!

Fourth… God’s sovereign will yielded incredible suffering in Joseph’s life. Obviously, this is a reality of Joseph’s story that isn’t palatable to our modern, seeker-friendly model of Christianity. And yet, because we are aided with the knowledge of how Joseph’s story ultimately ends, the providence of God and therefore the surety of His will behind every one of Joseph’s experiences (independent of human involvement) is undeniable. 

Once again I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but consider the story-arch:

The story of Joseph is such a powerful tale because it illustrates the truth that there is always a divine purpose behind every situation you might face. Absolutely no turn Joseph’s journey encountered diverted him from the path God had set before him! 

You see, like Joseph, it should be encouraging knowing that nothing you will ever face reaches you without first being filtered through God’s sovereign will, overarching providence, and ultimately His incredible love. Since “God is love” He can act with no other motivation!

I know it’s a difficult reality to concede, but it’s still a truth - Joseph suffered because God loved him! It was specifically because God had a larger plan He wanted to accomplish in and through his life that Joseph found himself facing so many difficult circumstances. 

C.H. Macintosh writes, “The most trivial and the most important, the most likely and the most unlikely circumstances are made to minister to the development of God’s purposes.”

I know that sounds counterintuitive - that you are suffering because God loves you, but it’s the truth! It’s simply a fact that while God’s grace always yields His blessings there are certain blessings that can only manifest through suffering. Grace may have led Joseph to the mountain top of power and prestige, but not before the journey intentionally took him through deep valleys of pain and despair. God was preparing Joseph for what lay ahead!

And if the story of Joseph fails to illustrate this point… If this is a reality simply to big for you to accept, I encourage you to look no further than Jesus! Consider… Did the cross represent the absence of God’s love or it’s greatest manifestation? Did God send Jesus to Calvary because He no longer loved Him or was the cross necessary for the accomplishment of His ultimate will and purpose for His Son’s life? 

And if this is the case with Jesus (the only begotten of the Father) how can any of us expect anything different? In Matthew 26:39 we read that “Jesus fell on His face, and prayed, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”

Beyond this… As we look at the life of Joseph over the coming weeks it will become evident that while the free-willed decisions of individuals yielded greater suffering and conflict in Joseph’s life, the sovereign hand of God was never deterred from His purposes. 

It’s amazing that God’s perfect will for Joseph was accomplished through the ill will of sinners towards Joseph. Though in no way could anyone ever excuse the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers or for that matter the immoral, sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, in His sovereignty God still used favoritism, hatred, slavery, false-accusations, slander, imprisonment, and forgetfulness to accomplish His will in and through Joseph!

To this point William M. Taylor observes, “Each party was seeking its own ends, and yet they were all contributing to bring about the purpose of God concerning Joseph… Oh the marvelous wisdom of that providence of God which thus, without doing violence to the will of any human being, lays all their actions under tribute for the furtherance of its design.” 

I’m fully aware such a topic often splits Christians into two camps. And while I have no interest in engaging in petty Bible College debates over a theology that really has no relevance to those outside the church - this I can say with absolute certainty… 

Man is free to make his own decisions and God is absolutely sovereign. Man can resist the will of God, but God’s will will be accomplished anyway! How the two work together I do not know, but I can say with confidence the two work together! The story of Joseph illustrates this reality in a way no other in Scripture does!

Finally… Joseph’s faithfulness to God and obedience not only fail to temper the severity of his present circumstances, but in actuality ended up being the very reason his suffering continued and often increased. I know that’s also a difficult reality!

Friend, if you think obeying God, living a Godly life, or possessing Godly character is going to make for an easier life then you’re sorely mistaken. As we’ll see exemplified over and over again in the story of Joseph (and for that matter the vast majority of all of the Biblical saints), doing the right thing will more often than not yield a more difficult life. 

And it’s in this undeniable reality that we discover something of profound significance… Obeying God is more about Godly character manifesting from your life in spite of your circumstances than it is a mechanism which seeks to improve one’s situation. If you are seeking to obey God hoping to be rewarded with earthly riches, perpetual health, and a blessed circumstance look no further than Joseph. God makes no such guarantees. 

Genesis 39:1, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.” 

Don’t forget Joseph is a teenager no more than 17 or 18 years old when he’s initially brought down to Egypt and sold into slavery. To make matters worse Joseph has never been away from home. Imagine the scene and situation he now finds himself facing. 

Joseph’s entire world has been utterly crushed. He’s still dealing with the shock of having his own brothers sell him into slavery… The rejection… The disbelief… He wonders how they sold it to Jacob. Maybe they’d changed their mind and were coming to rescue him?

In one sweeping moment Joseph has gone from being the favored son of his father to a common slave in Egypt. Joseph doesn’t know the culture. He doesn’t speak the language. 

After the week long journey, he now finds himself put up on the auction block to be sold yet again. He’s stripped naked, placed in front of the mob, poked and prodded. He’s humiliated.

Beyond all of this it would have been only human for Joseph to be experiencing a crisis of faith. Where was God in all of this? What about the dreams? What about the promise? How could this be part of God’s plan for his life? In spite of his prayers God remained silent.

Well… We’re told an “Egyptian” man by the name of “Potiphar” ends up with the winning bid purchasing Joseph “from the Ishmaelites” traders. As far as this man is concerned Moses simply tells us Potiphar was “an officer of Pharaoh” - the “captain of the guard.” 

This tells us that not only was Potiphar a man of influence working directly for Pharaoh, but the word we have translated as “captain” indicates he was likely the head of the police. The original word may even indicated Potiphar was the chief executioner in charge of the prison. 

Once again this phrase that Potiphar “bought Joseph” shouldn’t be overlooked. Joseph is not a freedman. He’s a slave purchased by Potiphar to serve at his wishes. Joseph is nothing more than a piece of property. He has no freedom and is subject to the whims of his master.

Genesis 39:2-4, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.” 

How amazing that while Joseph’s situation had no doubt taken a turn this young man would have never expected… And while he’d been separated from his father after experiencing such a personal rejection by his brothers… And though he found himself in a foreign land amongst an unfamiliar, pagan people… Joseph was not alone - “The Lord was with Joseph.”

What an amazing statement! Consider… What tangible evidence did Joseph have of the Lord being with him? It would be hard to reach such a conclusion if he were only looking at his circumstances. Nothing about his situation indicated the presence of God.

And yet, what this statement tells us is that Joseph had come to a point where he’d surrendered his present situation to the providence of God. While he didn’t know how these things fit into God’s plan because he was confident God’s Word would never return void Joseph had come to the point where he conceded a plan was afoot nonetheless.

And it was on account that he willingly adopted such a perspective that Joseph was then able to embrace life in his paradigm. What had been forced upon him Joseph willingly choose to make the best of! In response God honored his perspective by blessing Joseph.

We’re told as a result Joseph “was a successful man” so much so that “his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand.” In the end Potiphar decides to promote Joseph making him “oversee of his entire house.”

One of the things lost in the flow of our text is the number of years that have transpired. In Genesis 41:46 it’s revealed that Joseph was 30 years old when he finally rose to power in Egypt (he arrived at the age of 17 or 18) meaning he spends around 12 to 13 years living as both a slave in Potiphar’s home before later being relegated to the King’s Prison.

This is an important detail because it informs us that Joseph’s rise in Potiphar’s home didn’t happen overnight. It took years of faithful service for him to earn the trust of his master, and probably even longer for this pagan to concede the hand of God was on Joseph’s life. 

Never ever forget there are no shortcuts to faithfulness. Faithfulness, as a character trait and a reputation, must be earned over time by simply being faithful with literally whatever you find “in your hand.” Even Jesus taught the importance of first being faithful over little things before expecting the honor of being entrusted with greater responsibilities.

Genesis 39:5-6, “So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.”

As we seek to wrap up this first phase of Joseph’s life in Egypt there are a few points of application I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention… For starters, though your situation may be practically different than that of Joseph, the truth is that there are times you’ll find yourself held captive to a set of circumstances you didn’t create for yourself and don’t want to be in!

For example, if you were to relegate Joseph’s plight to it’s most base level, his trial was that he’d been taken from a place he didn’t want to leave, placed into a dynamic he didn’t want to be in, and was prohibited from doing anything to change his present set of circumstances.

Whether it be a financial downturn in the market, a family conflict, a challenging marriage, wayward children, a contentious neighbor, an unexpected health crisis, or the fact you now find yourself in a job of necessity and not one of your choosing - the truth is that these type of situations can feel like captivity… You’ve been given a master you’d never have chosen.

And it’s when facing such a situation that Joseph’s example can prove to be helpful. To begin with, has your plight caused you to doubt God’s goodness or forced you to instead fall back on the reality of His love and providence? Are you blaming God, throwing a pity party, or grown angry or have you rested in the knowledge that God “works all things for the good?”

Though you might feel alone and your prayers unanswered… As if God has forgotten about you, will you recognize “the Lord is still with you” - that His promises never fail? Friend, never forget Hebrews 13:6-7, “Jesus has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”

You see if you, like Joseph, can adjust your perspective, recognize God’s sovereignty, and accept that such a season is part of His larger plan for your life then you’ll be able to find meaning and purpose regardless of whatever it is your facing or whatever master you have to submit to. Since your circumstances are in His hands, like Joseph you must ask - what you will do with the things in yours? Will you be faithful regardless?

William M. Taylor, “Let us learn from Joseph that the first thing to do in a captivity is to acquiesce in it as the will of God… Fretting over that which we have been removed, or which has been taken away from us, will not make things better, but it will prevent us from improving those which remain… He who is constantly looking back and bewailing what he has lost, does only thereby unfit himself for improving in any way the discipline to which God has subjected him; whereas the man who bring his mind down to his lower lot, and deliberately examines how he can serve God best in that, is already on his way to better things… We must learn from Joseph to make the best of our remaining opportunities in our captivity… The one acts in faith, recognizing God’s hand in his affliction, the other acts in unbelief, seeing nothing but his own calamity, and that only increases his affliction.”

Understand, Joseph was able to submit and serve Potiphar because he understood his Master was still the Lord! And as a result God not only blessed Joseph, but Potiphar’s home! If you’ll choose to do the same God will honor that decision with the same result.

It’s fascinating to consider, but Joseph’s experience in Potiphar’s home illustrates the reality that God can bless your workplace for your sake. Because Joseph possessed the right perspective and focused on being faithful in his service, God bless His servant as a testimony. In his commentary on the life of Joseph John Phillips wrote these challenging words, “The man who knows God should be the best man on the job.”

Finally, there is one more application that stems directly from Joseph being a type of Jesus. While Joseph’s involvement in the home of Potiphar was forced upon him, Jesus’ involvement in yours was willing. He willingly came to serve you!

It’s interesting, but when Potiphar saw that God was blessing His home on account of the fact Joseph was blessed what did he do? Potiphar, not only allowed Joseph freedom to act, but wisely exalted his position in his home. Joseph was given the status of “overseer.” Moses even goes so far as to say Potiphar placed “all that he had he put under his authority.”

May I ask… Since Jesus was sent by God to serve, are you letting Him? Beyond this… Have you recognized the source of your blessing - that God is blessing your home because of Jesus? As such, like Potiphar, have you exalted Jesus’ standing? Have you made him the overseer of your home? Have you placed all the you have “under His authority?” As it is with grace, God blessed Potiphar because of Joseph and He’ll bless you because of Jesus!


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