This week’s reading: Genesis 39:1-6
Having heard about the life of Judah and his wonderful transformation of heart, we now go back in time to return to the story of Joseph. We will learn what happened in Joseph’s life while Judah was developing into a more godly man, and we will find God was doing the same thing in this son of Israel too. We are in Genesis chapter 39, reading from verse 1 through 6. Only six simple verses yet, right here in the beginning of Joseph’s challenging journey, there is so much we can learn from his life. We will break it down verse by verse, but let us never forget the reason Joseph’s life is so inspirational. Listen to how God does not abandon Joseph.
“The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 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 Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.” (Gen 39:2-5) NIV
Genesis 39:1 Taken down to Egypt. After being abandoned by his brothers and sold into slavery, we pick up on Joseph’s journey as the Ismaelites take him away. Even here, I am sure Joseph does not forget the dreams God has given him, as his heart reaches desperately for God’s help. Being forced to leave family and home behind, Joseph must lean deeper into his Faith and trust God further. The truth is, God does have great plans for his life and will show Joseph what it costs to truly become a leader. God’s way and ours are very often so completely different, so Joseph must learn to endure some things before any dreams comes true. With God, the road to success often begins with what seems like complete failure. And so, instead of bringing Joseph’s dreams to fruition immediately, the first thing we are told is that Joseph was taken down to Egypt. I want us to understand the symbolism behind Egypt in the Bible. It is a place of sin and slavery to sin. It also refers to a place where people do not personally know the God of Abraham, and so, they live the lower, self-centered way because of their ignorance of the one true God. Too often they define morality for themselves and see no problem with living for the pleasures of this world. This inferior existence is one of wanting, seeking, promoting and celebrating the MMI mentality. Everyone being their own god and following their own way. Being in Egypt can lead to huge problems, and be filled with huge burdens, even for those who do acknowledge God. It is also a place where God does not want His people to live. This becomes clearer when God sends Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, and then continually reminds them along their journey to the Promised Land, that He is the God that brought them out of Egypt. God brings them out of a land where sinfulness is the way people live, because they do not know any better. And sadly, many do not want to know any other way. My Friends, this fallen world IS Egypt and God still desires to set His people free from its deadly influence. This is one of the many reasons why reading the Bible is vital for us. We can look at the lives of so many of the Saints that God did set free, even as they lived in their own Egypt. Even in the midst of this broken, corrupted world, like them, we can have success too. It is God’s desire to bring each one of us out of our own little corner of Egypt and set us free. Free from the sin that keeps us away from knowing our Creator intimately. Free from the bondage to sin that keeps us living the lower life. Free from trying to define right from wrong all on our own, including defining who we are. Our understanding is limited. God’s is Eternal. Why would we choose to live according to our short sightedness? One word: Pride. When our world is all about MMI, then we leave very little room for the ideas of others, most especially God’s. Sure we will believe things that promote our own preconceived notions. We will follow anything that will make our lives easy and comfortable and pleasurable. But God’s ways always take us out of our comfort zone. God’s ways always stretch our understanding and make us question what we thought we knew. And most amazingly, God’s ways lead us towards the freedom we have always desired. The freedom we thought this world could give us. Taken down to Egypt means Joseph’s cushy life was about to get hard. It means his concept of what life should look like was about to be challenged. And it also meant that he was about to be given a choice of how he would live in this very real world. Joseph desired success, as should we all. But how he would gain success is the question we must all come to terms with. What makes Joseph such an incredible Saint is how quickly he came to the answer of this vital question. Joseph does this, but how?
Genesis 39:2a True success. Let’s try to put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes. You are young and not very experienced with life. Out of all your siblings, Dad loves you best, and is quite vocal about this fact. And so, you might feel a little bit elevated over your brothers. You might even act like their foreman, as they go about doing the necessary work for your father. On the off occasion that you see something they are doing that is not right, you run to Dad and let him know. Innocently, you even think that your brothers don’t have a problem with your supervisory position. They need someone to keep them on track, right? And Dad trusts you, his beloved son, to do just that. Then Dad gives you a special robe which keeps you from the menial tasks your brothers should be doing. On top of all that, you have these dreams where God shows you, twice, that the whole family will bow down to you. Life is good. All is as it should be. What could possibly go wrong? But then something changes. “All of a sudden,” you are blind sided by what comes next. It seems a punishment that comes swift and heavy, but one you did nothing to incur. Your brothers seem really mad at you. So mad they want to kill you even. Your heart begins to beat harder than it has ever done in your life, as your own flesh and blood rip off your remarkable robe and throw you into a deep cistern. You continue to cry out to them for forgiveness, but they refuse to hear your pleas. Then they decide not to kill you, but to sell you into slavery instead. Slavery!?! How could they? But things are out of your hands. You are chained up, and down to Egypt you go. Life may not be as good as you thought. Yet you have seen the God of your father, Issac, provide for his needs. You have seen how God protected the whole family from the anger of your uncle, Esau. You have witnessed how God brought about all that success for your Dad. And what was it that your Dad did? He humbled himself. First towards God, then towards Esau. Humility was the answer about how to gain success. You remember clearly, as if it was yesterday, when your Dad bowed down to his brother, instead of insisting he would bow down to your Dad. Bowing down. You might have been a bit focused on your family bowing down to you, but you must first learn to bow down to God. I believe at that moment, when his brothers handed him off to the Ishmaelites after receiving their 20 shekels of silver, that all these memories came flooding into Joseph’s mind. And his heart? Well, his heart surrendered to God. I can almost hear the internal confession: “O Lord, the God of my father Isaac! I do not know what is happening here, but I trust that You do. I remember the dreams You have filled my heart with, dreams that I cannot deny came from You. Yet I have been wrong about how these will be fulfilled. I don’t understand, but You do. And so, I surrender my life to You, trusting that, just as You provided and protected my father, You will do the same for me now. Here I am. I am Your servant. Lead me and guide me in Your way for Your glory, My Lord and my God.” It seems right from the start that Joseph is humbled by his heart breaking situation. Immediately, his heart changes from MMI-centered thinking to God being at the center of all he is. We can call this his “Damascus Moment.” Think Saul/Paul here. (see Ac 9:1-9) One moment he was living his life his way, doing what he thought was right…then the very next, his life became an all-consuming passionate mission to know God and reveal God to those around him. Paul began walking the walk of Humility…and so does Joseph. Humility IS success. It is the only way to live the life we were always meant to live, loving God first then loving others as we love ourselves. (see Mk 12:30-31) I am always pointing us to what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments because they are the only way to live a truly successful life here, as we await our eternal freedom hereafter. To die to ourselves and live for Him who created us, who loves us, who will help us live the Abundant Life. To know God, know Him deeply and make Him known. That is success. (see Mt 16:24-25) Some of us will be transformed in an instant, like Joseph and Paul. But many of us will be led towards God and surrender over time. Whatever way, however long it takes, the point is Humility. Why? Because this is who God is. We see this clearly in Jesus, do we not? And one of the ways we display this Humility is in our Faith towards God when life takes a turn we do not see coming. Joseph does this but how?
Genesis 39:2b Stop running. Joseph is taken down to Egypt. Joseph has learned what true success really is. And now, Joseph has been bought by an Egyptian, and not just any Egyptian, Potiphar a government official, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. This godless man buys Joseph and Joseph goes to live in the house of his master. His master. Joseph is now the property of this Egyptian…at least on the outside. Within his heart, Joseph knows who is his Lord, who is the ruler of his life. And in Faith, he submits to God’s plan. Instead of trying to run away from Potiphar, to escape his captivity, Joseph humbly serves him. And God smiles on Joseph and blesses the work of his hands. I think Joseph is not surprised by this gift of Grace. And so Joseph simply does what he is tasked to do, to his greatest ability. All because he has firmly decided to trust God, no matter what the situation may look like. “I trust God, so I will do what I should do,” is his mentality. Is that ours too? Can we say the same or do we sometimes try to run from our trials when God is trying to do something much greater within us? Too often we just want God to take away any problems we might be facing. And that is fine. We should pray for God’s deliverance. Yet we must also seek growth. Instead of being focused on God getting rid of our troubles, we need to ask for God to grow us up while the situation continues. Yes, we should pray for God to take this cup away from us…but like Joseph…and of course, like Jesus…we must also pray, “But not my will, Yours be done.” (Lk 22:42) I mentioned some verses before about denying ourselves, picking up our cross and following Jesus. About wanting to save our lives here and possibly forfeiting our lives hereafter. (again see Mt 16:24-25) We must learn to apply such verses to our everyday circumstances. The words of Jesus are not just theory. The words of Jesus are not ideas that just sound nice, but do not have any implications on our daily lives. The words of Jesus are Life. Yes, when we find ourselves a slave to anything or anyone, we must pray for deliverance and be free of the situation if we can. (see 1Co 7:21) But, if for reasons that God knows, we are not set free from it? Then we must choose to learn from it. Joseph chooses to learn. I mentioned that Potiphar was a government man. Do you think that Joseph did not glean anything from him about how Egypt was run? This was all part of God preparing Joseph for what was to come. But had he tried to fight God’s Plan and escape on his own? His dreams might never have come true. Oh my Friends, if you are not familiar with his story, you may want to read ahead to see what happens to Joseph. But know that part of the point to his trials was Joseph’s humbled heart. It was the confidence to say, “If God has me in this situation, then I am going to do the best I can in it, to bless as many as I can, and learn as much as I can from everyone around me.” Joseph chose not to run, and perhaps we need to do the same. I have met too many Christians who are so intent on changing their current trial that they were missing so many blessings along the way. The truth is, God not only knows what is best for us here in this life, but also what is best for life hereafter. He is preparing us for this life, and in this life for the one to come. We continue to be so shortsighted. But when we stop running from God and trust Him in our current condition, He can do miraculous things. Let’s choose to live in the house of our Master, so that He may bless us and help us be a blessing. This is part of Humility. We must trust God knows what He is doing, in and around us. We must trust that Gods loves us way too much not to bring to fruition the dreams He has implanted in our heart. We must trust that, even when things do not look like they will lead to that fulfillment, God is still working it all together for our good. He does this for Joseph. No, not the way he may have envisioned it. God’s ways are mysterious to us because we only see a tiny part of the bigger picture He is developing. What his brothers thought would get rid of their problem, actually is what God uses to elevate Joseph into his rightful position. His brothers unwittingly put into play the events that would lead to the fulfillment of those very dreams they hated so much. They wanted to be rid of their problem, but God knew their hearts. He knew they all needed to be humbled, and so God sets about doing just that. This is a good thing, my Friends, because God loves us too much to leave us in our old selfish, Prideful state. True success only comes when we humble ourselves. True success only comes when our life revolves around God who is Love. True success is Joseph’s, even long before he reaches the pinnacle of his career. And it starts when he stops trying to run his own life and submits to God’s Will for him to be blessed and be a blessing. Joseph does this, but how?
Gen 39:3-6a Others see our success. Because Joseph trusts God, he works with all his heart and God grants him earthly success too. Potiphar could not help but notice the blessings over Joseph’s life. I am sure the way Joseph went about his tasks had a lot to do with it. The peace Joseph must have displayed, even though he was a slave, must have been a very distinctive feature about him. He also openly showed his faithfulness to work and work hard, seeking to be obedient in all things towards his earthly master, while honoring his real Master. Potiphar takes note and instinctively trusts Joseph with more. This is how Jesus puts it, “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.” (Lk 16:10) Joseph is humbly living his Faith out in the open. And what’s really lovely is that his actions reflect God’s righteousness as he is “trusted with very little.” Joseph was not looking for more. He was simply being honest and diligent where he was. Too often people might read the verse I just stated and focus their desire on the gaining of much more. But that is the wrong attitude. Our motive should not be on how much we have, nor what position we currently hold. Our heart should desire the one thing Joseph’s heart desired: to follow God, trusting Him with all things, and in all things, and simply being gratefully obedient. Joseph just wanted to do his best, not necessarily for his earthly master, but for his Heavenly one. Here is another verse Joseph lived out in the open, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”. (Col 3:23) When our heart attitude is displaying God’s righteousness, others will notice. And Potiphar does notice, and moreover, reaps the benefits. As an example of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, that He would bless those who bless him, we see that Potiphar shares in the goodness of God as well. (see Gen 12:2-3) Whatever is in Joseph’s care, prospers. This master quickly realizes the value in this Hebrew slave and lifts him up in position to be the manager of all his belongings. We do not know how long before Potiphar handed all his belongings over into Joseph’s care, but sooner or later, he did, and Joseph continued to be trustworthy with it all. Wherever we are, we should do the same for the employers we work for, or organizations we serve. To seek to be a blessing wherever God places us. This stems from being truly successful. In Humility, we should desire to serve because this honors God. Remember Jesus said, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28) Too many moan and complain about their occupation, or even vocation, and miss so many blessings, as well as opportunities to be a blessing. Like Joseph, we must desire to be honest, to be obedient, to be diligent, to be righteous. And all of this we do for God who is Righteousness, Gracious and Loving towards us. All this increases the peace in our lives. It gives us an air of joy. It displays sincere contentment. And hopefully, this draws others to the God we gratefully, faithfully, obediently and joyfully serve. We teach with our actions that we trust God, come what may. And that we will bloom wherever He plants us. This is certainly what Joseph continues to do, even as he continues to encounter great challenges. Joseph does this, but how?
Genesis 39:6b Who is Joseph serving? The answer to this question is how Joseph is able to do all the good he did. Once he surrendered his life to God as his God, not just as the God of his father, Joseph’s life was God’s. And his life was successful. And every part of Joseph reflected this true success. It is interesting to me that v6, ends with “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome,”. (Gen 39:6b) This should be a hint at the next challenge Joseph will face. Will he hold on to this growing Humility or will he fall into the way of Egypt? We will see as the next temptation of the evil one comes at Joseph in full force. Tests. They are meant to show us who we are in Christ. How much we have matured in His Guiding hands. Whether we will fall back into our old entitled mentality or remain humbly in God’s care, serving Him instead of serving ourselves. God or Self. Although it shows up in all sorts of forms, this is ultimately the only test we face. Ahhh, if we could all be like Joseph! I confess, I am not. Yet when I do choose Humility instead of Pride. When I do choose to stop running from my challenging situations and start running towards God. When I do allow my light to shine so others can see my true success. When I follow God and surrender my heart, submit my soul and act in grateful, faithful obedience towards Him…. Oh the peace! Oh the joy! Oh the real contentment! It is precious, my Friends and it makes the Abundant Life real and really powerful to me. Want that too? Then won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane