There are so many great parts to the story of Joseph. There is his father’s love, the coat of many colors, Joseph being sold into slavery, the false accusation and time in prison, his interpretation of dreams, his promotion to second in command over all of Egypt, his reuniting with his father, and his forgiveness of his brothers.
So many great events and woven throughout all of them is this one important truth – ‘The LORD was with him.’ Over and over again this phrase is used to remind us that God will never leave us nor forsake us. It also reminds us that even if life sometimes doesn’t make sense, we can know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.(Romans 8:28)
The next episode in Joseph’s life can be outlined in three simple steps:
1) Joseph Being Sold as a Slave
2) Joseph Being Slandered as a Sinner
3) Joseph Being Shephered as a Saint
I. Joseph Sold as a Slave
We saw last week how Joseph was attacked by his angry brothers and sold into slavery. Their first thought was to kill him, yet the providential hand of God stopped them and instead led them to sell him for twenty pieces of silver.
A. Purchased by Potiphar
Genesis 39:1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
Once Joseph arrived in Egypt, he was put on the block and sold as a slave. Scripture says that he was bought by a man named Potiphar. Anyone could have bought Joseph, but the Lord led Potiphar to buy him. The Bible says – “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1) We read also from the book of Proverbs – “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4) I won’t begin to say that I understand how –
God, by His sovereign will, has chosen to give man a free will;
And man by his free will, chooses to fulfill the sovereign will of God
Yet scripture reveals to us, over and over again, that this is exactly what happens. It was no mistake that Joseph was taken down into Egypt. It was no accident that he was purchased by Potiphar.
Who was Potiphar? Scripture says that he was – an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian. Exactly what Potiphar did is unclear; nevertheless he was an officer in Pharaoh’s court. That’s significant and you will understand why as we continue along.
B. Promoted by Potiphar
Genesis 39:2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. 5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. 6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.
Potiphar quickly recognized that there was something different about this young Hebrew slave. No doubt Potiphar could see something different in Joseph’s countenance on the day that he bought him. Soon it was apparent that there was something different also in Joseph’s work.
Scripture says –Genesis 39:2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
Everything Joseph touched turned to gold. Whether it was in the house or in the field, Joseph’s involvement made a noticeable difference. God was with Joseph and Joseph yielded himself completely to the Lord’s will. John Phillips states in his commentary – “Joseph gave himself to the task of becoming the very best slave Potiphar ever had, and Potiphar noticed.” The result was that Joseph was promoted above all the others slaves and made overseer of Potiphar’s entire estate. God used Potiphar to elevate Joseph to a place of prominence in Egypt. That’s also significant so hold on to it as well.
II. Joseph Slandered as a Sinner
If the story ended at this point, one might be tempted to think – “being a slave isn’t so bad after all.” Yet unfortunately, that’s not where it ends.
A. Joseph’s Appearance
Genesis 39:6 …And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
Joseph was young, poised, and very attractive. As we saw last week, he inherited much of this from his mother, Rachel. Scripture says that she was also a very attractive person.
B. Joseph’s Attack
Genesis 39:7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. 8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
1. Joseph Reasoned
… how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Maybe Joseph meant – ‘I can’t do this because I remember the pit.’ Or, maybe he meant – ‘I won’t do this because I remember God’s presence with me while I was in the pit.’
2. Joseph Resisted
Genesis 39:10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
This wasn’t one moment of flirting at the water cooler. This was a continuous effort to seduce Joseph, using whatever means she could find.
3. Joseph Ran
Genesis 39:11 And it came to pass about this time that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. 12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
As I read this part of the story my mind goes to something Paul said to young Timothy –
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Joseph did all that he could to resist the sinful advances of Potiphar’s wife; yet she would not take no for an answer. She was a very strong will woman with a sinful spirit. We see that in the way she slanders her husband-
Genesis 39:13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, 14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: 15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. 16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.
C. Joseph’s Arrest
Genesis 39:17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: 18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. 19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
As I have stated before, it was a miracle that Potiphar didn’t kill Joseph on the spot. Many believe that Potiphar’s position was the he was either the chief of Pharaoh’s personal body guards or he was the chief of the executioners. Either way he was a man familiar with a sword. Yet the Lord was with Joseph and therefore the providential hand of God protected him and he was placed in prison.
That sounds a bit strange to say that the Lord was with Joseph, therefore he was put into prison.’ I say that not only because Potiphar spared his life, but also because Potiphar selected his lot. Carefully note again what scripture says –
Genesis 39:20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
The Bible says that Joseph was put into the part of the prison where the king’s prisoners were bound.
That could be a generic reference to anyone in prison in Egypt, or it could be a reference to those in prison who had had some kind of direct contact with Pharaoh. I believe the later is true because later in this same passage we will see that Joseph was put in charge of serving Pharaoh’s butler and baker. It appears that the providential hand of God caused Joseph to be put in a place where he would come into direct contact with those who were in contact with Pharaoh.
III. Joseph Shephered as a Saint
Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
That’s the third time in this chapter that the Bible tells us that the LORD was with Joseph. So often we think that the indication of God’s presence is our prosperity; yet the Bible reveals to us that sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes the midst of the storm is the center of God’s will. Consider this passage from the gospel of Matthew –
Matthew 14:22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. 24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
Did Jesus know that a storm was coming? Of course He did. He’s God. He knows everything. Why then did the Lord send His disciples into a storm? Consider the next verse –
Matthew 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
There’s a song that comes to my mind at this point. It was written and sung by Janet Paschal and it is entitled – “If I’d Had My Way.” In the chorus of that song she says –
But if I’d had my way
I’d might been wading through the river
When You wanted me to walk upon the sea
And if I’d had my say and all of my wants and whims and wishes
You knew how weak, how shallow I would be
If I’d had my way
The ‘fourth watch of the night’ is sometime between 3 am and 6 am. It was not until the disciples had come completely to the end of themselves that Jesus came to them, walking on the water.
Joseph was in the midst of a storm, yet the Lord was with him. The Lord was using this storm in Joseph’s life to purify and to perfect his faith. God was doing in Joseph’s life what He has to do in every saint’s life –
But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10
Whenever we experience difficulty in our lives, we are tempted to think that the Lord has abandoned us; yet the story of Joseph teaches us that this is not true. God will never leave nor forsake His children. Joseph was put into prison, but the Lord was with him. Dear friend, the Lord is with you as well.