Genesis 39 ~ 20080518 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
5/18 Genesis 39-40 Joseph; Blessing through Hardship
We're looking at the beginning of the twelve tribes of Israel; and at Joseph; he was the favorite son of his father Jacob, his 10 brothers hated him and plotted to kill him, but instead opportunity knocked and they sold him as a slave. They sent his special robe dipped in goat's blood to their father so he would think that his favorite son was dead. then at the end of chapter 37 it says:
The scene then shifted back to Canaan for the next 20 years, looking at Judah, and his degenerate morals; he disconnected with his family, he married a pagan Canaanite girl, his first two boys were so evil that the Lord killed them, and he dealt unethically with his daughter-in-law. After his wife died, he was on a business trip with his drinking buddy Hirah the Adullamite. Judah hired a prostitute and got her pregnant, then three months later he hypocritically demanded the death penalty for his daughter-in-law who had gotten pregnant by prostitution. Judah and Tamar become trophies of God's grace - we have a God who does good to undeserving sinners like Judah and Tamar... and me.
Now the scene shifts back to see what has happened to Joseph down in Egypt.
Remember the promise of God to Abraham - I will be God to your offspring (Gen.17:8); and to Jacob 'i will be with you' (Gen.26:3, 24; 28:15; 31:3) . Now Joseph is in an unimaginable situation. God had indicated to him in dreams that he would rule over his family. His brothers hated him and wanted him dead, and he is 17 years old and hundreds of miles away from home being auctioned off as a slave. But the text says that YHWH was with him! everything circumstantially is as bad as it could possibly be, but we are told that God was with Joseph. God sometimes keeps his promises to us in very unusual and unexpected ways. God did not keep Joseph out of danger. Just like his father Jacob, God did not give him a peaceful happy trouble free life. Anybody have a bad week? ...did your family sell you as a slave? But it says YHWH was with him. And we see God's blessing in his life. He became successful. It was evident to his Egyptian master that God was blessing him. Everything that he was involved in became successful. His master made a financially wise decision and put him in charge of everything in his house. God had elevated Joseph to a position with great responsibility, but remember, he's still a slave. he is the property of another human being. He's away from home and family and he's lost his liberty. And the community he is in is racially prejudiced against him. He is given authority over all the finances and he is gaining great wealth and power for his master, but he's a Hebrew, so he's not allowed in the kitchen. He's dirty. Then we have an interesting footnote added about his physical physique. This is an unusual comment in the bible. My picture of Joseph is this pimply scrawny 17 year old with the fancy robe that gets picked on and thrown in a pit by his bigger older brothers. Maybe the journey to Egypt with the slave traders has toughened him up a bit, but it says he 'was handsome in form and appearance'. This sets us up for what happens next:
Then he calls it 'great wickedness'; but not great wickedness against his master Potiphar; not great wickedness against Potiphar's wife; not even great wickedness against his own body, as it says in 1 Corinthians that sexual sin is a sin against your own body;
But he says it would be great wickedness against God. We were told that God was with Joseph, and Joseph recognized that sin is primarily a sin against God. He's the one who said 'what God has joined let no man separate' and he's the one who says 'you shall not commit adultery'. Yes, it's a violation of Potiphar's trust; it's a violation of Potiphar's wife (even though she is a consenting adult); and yes, it's a violation of Joseph's own body; but the primary violation is against the God who created man and gave man sex as a gift to be enjoyed between a husband and wife in exclusive sacred covenant relationship. Joseph recognizes that although no-one might ever find out, he is accountable for his moral choices to the God who created him. He doesn't give up hope and justify sin because he's the victim of unfortunate circumstances. He has faith in God. God is in control of every circumstance. God has placed him in this position for some hidden good purpose, and he will remain faithful to his God. His master's wife is persistent. The invitation stands and is repeated often. Day by day the offer for sex is made. Invitation to compromise - we can just talk. Let's have coffee. Let's just spend some time together. We can just cuddle a little bit. It's okay, we won't go all the way. Joseph doesn't listen to her. He doesn't listen to her to lie beside her or to be with her.
+Look at Proverbs 5, 6, and 7+
Joseph is a slave in his master's house, but he has been set free by his relationship with God. God has written his law in his heart so that he would not sin (Jer.31:33). God has evidently given Joseph new stronger desires than sexual gratification. Joseph wants to please his Master, and he knows who his Master really is. This woman, although free, is a slave to her own passions and lusts. She resorts to force and violence. She grabs him and demands that he have sex with her. This time Joseph does not take time to reason with her why this is not a good idea. He runs! The bible tells us to stand our ground against the evil one. But when immorality and temptation comes knocking at your door, the bible says 'flee sexual immorality' (1Cor.6:18; 2Tim2:22). Joseph does exactly the right thing. He runs. God promises to provide a way of escape from every temptation (1Cor10:13) and the way out of sexual temptation is to remove yourself from the situation - fast! Joseph does the right thing, he honors God and he is rewarded for his faithfulness. Potiphar comes home and thanks him for his integrity, grants his freedom and sends him home to the promised land to be reunited with his father, reconciled with his brothers and live happily ever after. Let's close in prayer... wait, did some of you read ahead? that's not quite how it goes:
Joseph's clothes have already been used as deceitful evidence once before; his brothers used his bloody robe to convince his father that he was dead; now his master's wife uses his robe as evidence of attempted rape. Joseph refuses to compromise even a little bit. The contrast with his brother Judah in the previous chapter is stunning: Judah was the one propositioning the pagan woman; Joseph was propositioned by the pagan woman. Judah happened to see this woman once by the side of the road and he succumbed to temptation; Joseph had to face temptation day after day and he refused. Judah had a friend with him that knew what he was doing; Joseph was in a place where no-one would know. Judah was asked to pay and he agreed; Joseph was not asked to pay and he refused. Judah willingly leaves his personal items that later identify him as guilty; Joseph is forced to leave his personal items behind in order to escape, and they frame him falsely. Joseph does the right thing, he's a man of integrity, he flees temptation, and he's falsely accused and thrown in prison. There's even indication in the text that Potiphar may have been convinced of Joseph's innocence. It says that when he heard what his wife said, his anger was kindled. It doesn't say toward whom. And in Egypt, attempted rape was a capital offense. Why was Joseph not beheaded? I think Potiphar was frustrated with the situation his wife had placed him in. There was no way for him to save face and retain this profitable Hebrew servant in such a high position. It is not recorded that Joseph spoke a word in his own defense. Did he voluntarily allow himself to be falsely accused in order to preserve the dignity of his master? Did he refuse to be the witness that would separate Potiphar from his wicked wife? Joseph ends up in prison - maximum security.
How can it say this? YHWH was with Joseph?? His brothers wanted to murder him, but Reuben planned to come to his rescue; instead he was sold into slavery. He was sold to the captain of the guard and was promoted to a position of responsibility and authority and God seemed to be blessing, but then he went from slave to prisoner on false accusations. Just when there's a glimmer of hope, he's plunged into deeper darkness. And yet the Lord is with him. YHWH is showing him 'chesed' – steadfast love. As Job says, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Outward blessing is no sign of God's blessing; neither is hardship and suffering a sign of God's displeasure. God is showing Joseph steadfast love as he goes from favored position with his father to slave; from favored position with his master to prisoner. God is with Joseph. In prison, Joseph does not despair; he does not lose hope; he does not give up. He has faith in his sovereign God who is working all things according to the purpose of his will. The cup has gone from half-empty to three-quarters empty. But Joseph not only sees it as one quarter full, but he sees additional room for God to pour out his blessings. Joseph is now elevated to a position of authority in prison; but he still is a prisoner. I'm a victim of my circumstances! You don't know what I've been through! You don't know what my childhood was like! No, but I'm pretty sure that your siblings didn't plan your murder, sell you into slavery, you weren't falsely accused of sleeping with your master's wife and thrown into prison maximum security in a foreign country. Joseph has reason to pout. Instead he gets busy living for God right where he is. You can't control your circumstances; but with God's help, you can change the way you respond to circumstances. Grow where you're planted. Joseph bears fruit for God in a dungeon.