GOD USES EVEN INJUSTICE AND CAPTIVITY TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES OF PROSPERING HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE TO ACCOMPLISH HIS KINGDOM OBJECTIVES
We are so addicted to comfortable circumstances – to a life of ease and luxury. We flinch at even the smallest experience of injustice and are sorely tempted to maintain a good attitude and to keep our hope focused on the Lord. Our text today presents one of the clearest models for resisting temptation and maintaining godly character. We see Joseph fleeing from the seductive demands of Potiphar’s wife.
But the story has a much wider focus than just that as we consider how God works through the most difficult and challenging types of injustice to accomplish his will and glorify His name. The key is our response to such trials and hardship. Joseph is set before us as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ who suffered the most at the hands of wicked men and yet committed Himself to the will of His Father.
I. (:1-6a) SURPRISING PROSPERITY IN EGYPT FROM THE HAND OF THE LORD
A. (:1) Sold Into Captivity
“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there.”
If anyone could be excused for indulging in self-pity, it would certainly be Joseph. His brothers had turned on him with the intention of killing him. It was a mercy that he escaped with his life and was only sold into slavery. Here he is down in Egypt with no connections and seemingly no hope of any type of meaningful life. He was nurtured in the covenant environment of privilege and expectation as he was reminded of God’s precious promises to his forefathers. Yet here he was abandoned and treated as nothing more than a piece of property that could be bought and sold.
Parunak: Potiphar.—He is given three titles here:
• “officer of Pharaoh” indicates a high-ranking court official. The term later was applied to eunuchs, but there is no evidence that it has this meaning here.
• “captain of the guard” literally means “chief of the executioners.” We will see that the royal prison was under his responsibility. He has power of life and death, and is thus an extremely powerful person.
• “an Egyptian” reminds us that he is not (as Joseph would become) a foreigner who had risen to power, but native-born nobility. (Adherents of a late exodus put Joseph in the time of the Hyksos, 1700-1550 BC, but Gen 15:13 and 1 Kings 6:1 put Joseph about 1900 BC; the Hyksos may be the other kings of Exod 1:8.)
B. (:2-4) Successful in Every Endeavor
1. (:2a) Prospered by God
“And the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.”
Constable: The clause “the Lord was with Joseph” occurs four times in this chapter (Genesis 39:2-3; Genesis 39:21; Genesis 39:23) and explains the reason for his success. The divine name “LORD,” Yahweh, appears seven times in this chapter ( Genesis 39:2-3 [twice], 5 [twice], 21 , and 23) but only one other time in the Jacob toledot ( Genesis 37:2 to Genesis 50:26): in Genesis 49:18.
Parunak: Significance of phrase: “and the Lord was with Joseph”
1.It often encourages God’s people in times of difficulty: “If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere.”
a. 26:24, Isaac after being chased from Gerar
b. 28:15, Jacob fleeing Esau
c. 39:2,21, Joseph in slavery and in prison
d. Jer 1:8, 19; 15:20, Jeremiah in the face of opposition to his prophecy
e. Jer 30:11; 46:28, the nation through chastisement
f. Isa 43:1-5, promise to Israel in times of trial.
2. It is ultimately messianic. Messiah’s name is “Immanu-el,” God with us. This name was initially given when Judah was threatened by a powerful military coalition of Syria and Israel, Isa 7. The Lord’s departing promise was, “Lo, I am with you always,” Matt. 28:20.
J. Ligon Duncan: Now ‘the Lord is with him’ is not a reference to God’s omnipresence, God being everywhere. That’s not the comfort that’s being brought to bear on Joseph. The comfort that is being brought to bear is God’s covenantal presence or what we might call God’s evangelical presence, His gospel presence, His favorable presence. That is, that God takes a special note of His people and draws near to them in time of need.
Application: What sense do you have that God is “with you” and will never leave you or forsake you?
2. (:2b-3) Praised by His Master
“And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.”
Parunak: Testimony of Joseph:
• recognized that his physical circumstances didn’t invalidate the Lord’s love and care for him;
• was willing to speak of the Lord to his master, and credit the Lord with his success
Consider the admirable work ethic of Joseph throughout this account.
Application: What is our testimony in the midst of difficult and challenging circumstances?
3. (:4) Promoted to Highest Position in Royal Household
“So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant;
and he made him overseer over his house,
and all that he owned he put in his charge.”
Dave Guzik: Joseph rose to the top, but it took a while to happen.
· Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:2).
· He was 30 when Pharaoh promoted him (Genesis 41:46).
· Joseph was in prison for two years before his promotion (Genesis 41:1).
· Therefore, Joseph was in Potiphar’s house for 11 years.
It took 11 years for the full measure of God’s blessing to be accomplished in Joseph’s life. 11 years seems like a long time. Many think if advancement is from God, it must come quickly. Sometimes this is the case, but not normally. Normally, God allows good things to develop slowly. Human children have the longest development time both in the womb and in childhood compared to animals. In the world of plants, it takes many years for an acorn to become an oak; a squash might grow almost overnight.
C. (:5-6a) Summary of Joseph’s Overflowing Prosperity and Significant Role
1. (:5) Joseph’s Overflowing Prosperity
“And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.”
2. (:6a) Joseph’s Significant Role
“So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.”
II. (:6b-10) SEDUCTIVE PLEASURES MUST BE RESISTED TO MAINTAIN GODLY CHARACTER
A. (:6b) Handsome Presentation
“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.”
B. (:7-9) Powerful Enticement
1. (:7) Open Invitation
“And it came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’”
2. (:8-9) Obedient Integrity
“But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?’”
J. Ligon Duncan: And Joseph’s response is classic in verses 8 and 9. He uses two arguments here that other people would probably use for an excuse to go ahead and engage in the affair. I want you to look at the arguments. First, in verse 8, he argues, look, my master trusts me so much that he doesn’t supervise me. And, in fact, he has promoted me over the whole household. He’s given me rapid promotion and he doesn’t watch after me. There have been a lot of people who would say, well nobody’s looking. The master’s not here. He trusts me so much he’s not in the house. That gives us the perfect opportunity. That’s not Joseph’s argumentation. It’s the exact opposite. His freedom from supervision and promotion is his argument against doing this thing.
Gaebelein: the words are emphatic in the original, “this! this wickedness! this great one!” adultery was reckoned a great sin among all nations, and this, had Joseph committed it, would have been greatly aggravated by the favours his master had conferred upon him; and not only a sin against himself, his soul and body, and against his master, but, above all, a sin against God, contrary to his holy nature, revealed will, and righteous law; all which prevailed upon Joseph to refuse the offer made him, which he could not comply with, in honour or with a good conscience.
C. (:10) Consistent Resistance
“And it came about as she spoke to Joseph day after day, that he did not listen to her to lie beside her, or be with her.”
Deffinbaugh: The temptation of Joseph took place over an extended period of time, then, and in a variety of forms. Joseph did not deal with temptation victoriously in one momentous occasion, but in the day-to-day events of life. More than this, the victory which Joseph won over sin on that last occasion was directly related to his previous decisions.
Application: How do our little decisions every day of our life prepare us for the more dramatic temptations that we will face? Do we take steps to avoid temptation or do we flirt with sin?
III. (:11-18) SCANDALOUS PLOTS FALSELY ATTACK THE CHARACTER OF THE GODLY
A. (:11-12) The Attack
1. (:11) Compromising Situation
“Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work,
and none of the men of the household was there inside.”
Application: Do we have the necessary discernment to recognize compromising situations?
2. (:12a) Salacious Proposition
“And she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’”
It would have been very easy for Joseph to succumb to this seduction and rationalize a sexual fling with Potiphar’s wife:
– If I resist, I will be in big trouble – which certainly proved to be the case
– I am not the one initiating the sin
– Nobody is around and nobody will ever know what took place
– It is flattering that such a prominent woman would solicit my attentions
3. (:12b) Desperate Escape
“And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.”
Outer garment stripped off and he fled essentially in his underwear
Constable: This story about Joseph reverses a well-known plot in the patriarchal narratives. Whereas before it was the beautiful wife … of the patriarch who was sought by the foreign ruler, now it was Joseph, the handsome patriarch … himself who was sought by the wife of the foreign ruler. Whereas in the earlier narratives it was either the Lord ( Genesis 12:17; Genesis 20:3) or the moral purity of the foreign ruler ( Genesis 26:10) that rescued the wife rather than the patriarch, here it was Joseph’s own moral courage that saved the day…. Whereas in the preceding narratives, the focus of the writer had been on God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises, in the story of Joseph his attention is turned to the human response.
B. (:13-15) The Accusation
“When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had fled outside, she called to the men of her household, and said to them, ‘See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. And it came about when he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled, and went outside.’”
C. (:16-18) The Argument
“So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with these words, ‘The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; and it happened as I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled outside.’”
IV. (:19-23) SURPRISING PROSPERITY IN PRISON FROM THE HAND OF THE LORD
A. (:19-20) Wrongfully Imprisoned
1. (:19) Falsely Accused
“Now it came about when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, ‘This is what your slave did to me,’ that his anger burned.”
2. (:20) Forcibly Jailed
“So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.”
B. (:21-22) Successful in Every Endeavor
1. (:21) Prospered by God
“But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.”
2. (:22) Promoted to Highest Position of Authority and Accountability
“And the chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.”
Parunak: This paragraph echoes the one with which the chapter began. In fact, the similarities draw our attention to a broader cycle that extends back to the beginning of ch. 37 and on to ch. 41. Each cycle marks Joseph’s promotion by the person in control, followed by his opposition by others and his subsequent humiliation. The movement from the humiliation of one episode to the promotion of the next is accompanied by a recognition of the Lord’s presence with him, not only from the narrator’s perspective, but in the eyes of the person promoting Joseph.
C. (:23) Summary of Joseph’s Overflowing Prosperity and Significant Role
“The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.”
Alan Carr: What I want you to see here is this: Joseph was in a bad situation, but he still lived a life that was blessed by the Lord. I am sure that his life was a life of endless drudgery and service, but he was faithful to his tasks. His character caused him to be faithful to his God and to his human master. As a result, God blessed his life and his work.
The great Baptist preacher John Bunyan was thrown into prison in 17th Century England for preaching the Gospel without a license. He spent twelve years in jail because he would not promise the court that he would not preach if he were released. He could have become discouraged by so long an imprisonment, but John Bunyan was a man of character and integrity.
While he was in jail he had a stool that had three legs. He removed one of the legs and carved it into a flute. He would use that flute to play Gospel songs. While in jail, Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, which is an allegory of the Christian life. It is the second largest selling book in history, only the Bible has sold more copies.
John Bunyan could have given up. Instead, he used his trials as a place to glorify his God. In turn, God blessed him!
By the way, the Lord is still looking for men and women of faith, character and integrity. He is still looking for people that He can use in these days to get glory and honor to His name!